Clara Hawkshaw

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Non-profit - Other
Job title: Awards (Grants) Capacity Building Manager
Subject of study: International Relations
Year of graduation: 2009
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

Save the Children International

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

After I left Exeter I struggled to get a job in an NGO and after 4 unpaid part-time internships and too many job applications to count I started my first paid job as a Personal Assistant in an investment bank which opened doors to move as a PA first into a social housing association and then into the humanitarian sector. Since joining Save the Children in 2013 I have worked in many different countries including Sierra Leone for the Ebola Response in 2014-2015. I am currently coordinating capacity building activities for our grant management teams in the Country Offices around the world.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I always wanted to work in a humanitarian organisation which is why I studied BA International Relations at Exeter. The best thing about my job is working with our teams in the Country Offices and Field Offices and knowing that my contribution is working towards implementing life saving programmes to children who need it most.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

The campus atmosphere and joining the rowing team. It’s such a small place that it felt like your own town or really, really big family!

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

Because it was near Cornwall and I loved the location!

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

I started my career as a PA which taught me to be very organised – this is important as there are a lot of competing priorities in the sector and often there aren’t enough staff to deal with them all. Empathy and passion which I have learnt in my volunteering and field experiences keeps my spirit high in the face of adversity. Likewise, you need a lot of resilience – both in applying for jobs in the beginning but also for the long working days and travel which come with the job. Project management is very important but it is more than studying for a project management qualification – you need a level of general creativity in how to make things work efficiently and effectively with limited resources.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

International Development is a very competitive sector and there is no blueprint for how to get in to it! If you ask any humanitarian worker they will all say they had a different route to their current job. You may be told that you need a Masters degree and that you need to do unpaid internships. If you are in a position to do both of these things then you’ll be able to get in quicker but there are definitely other ways to get in so try not to feel discouraged. There are now lots of ways that you can study for a masters part time whilst working which is how I got my MSc in Development Studies.

What are your plans for the future?

To continue to work in the humanitarian sector. I am looking to leave the Head Office life and move back overseas to a humanitarian emergency where I can really use the remote management and project management skills which I have perfected in London to build up the capacity of the teams who are implementing our programmes.


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Nadia Tomsa

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