‘My career progression has been amazing, thanks to my OU degree’

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After deciding to hang up his boots and leave professional football behind, former professional goalkeeper James, 28, found himself chasing new goals off the pitch. Now Financial Controller for a hospitality chain, James shares how Open University (OU) study fast-tracked his career and helped him develop the skills he needed to get-ahead in business.

At 21 years old and struggling with a lack of fulfilment from the sport he’d grown up playing, James had a tough choice to make.

James in orange football kit looking atthe camera

James when he played for Enfield Town F.C.

“I just wasn’t enjoying football like I used to, and I wanted more freedom to enjoy other things,” James remembers. “Professional sport is intense, and it overlaps into every area of your life. I had to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t want that anymore, but at the same time, I had huge fear of the unknown.”

From the pitch to the office

With future career prospects on his mind, James followed up on advice he’d received at his football club and contacted the OU.

“I started to think I’d done things the hard way,” says James. “I had three modest A-levels and no real work experience – I was feeling pretty unemployable until I discovered the OU.”

James enrolled on his first Business Management (Accounting) module and never looked back. That year, he retired from professional football and bagged his first office job. Working full-time as an accounts clerk, James progressed through his degree and chalked up a few promotions at the same time.

“OU study has been pivotal to my career development, I would never be where I am without it,” James reflects. “Don’t get me wrong, there were tough times. Working full-time while studying is never going to be easy and you’ve got to make a few sacrifices. But if you’re willing to put in the work, the OU will support you to achieve.”

Standing out from the crowd

James holding his scroll wearing graduation gown and mortar, smiling at the camera.

James celebrating his graduation.

Since graduating, James has qualified as a chartered accountant and become Financial Controller for a chain of cocktail bars across multiple locations. James shares how his OU experience gave him the edge over other candidates.

“When you work in finance, it’s all well and good knowing the numbers, but as you move up the ranks you need to understand the intricacies of the organisation as a whole,” James explains. “The business element of my course elevated my skills beyond just finance. I’m able to see the bigger picture and understand different business models, leadership styles and so much more.”

Regardless of the subject matter, James believes that OU students have an advantage when it comes to competing in the job market.

“If a CV came across my desk from someone with an OU degree, it would stand out straight away,” James says. “Graduating from the OU is a sign of self-motivation, which for me, is a trait that demonstrates ambition and dedication. You know immediately that they’re serious about what they want to achieve.”

Advice to others

Passionate about encouraging others to reach their potential, James shares why he thinks OU study is a smart choice for employability.

“It’s a big commitment and a real leap of faith, but the payback is incredible – I can’t speak highly enough of the OU and what I’ve got back from my studies.”

I honed skills that help me in business to this day – I’ve always been self-motivated, but OU study took me to the next level. I learned how to adapt the way I communicate for different audiences and get my message across clearly.”

“Even though it’s distance learning, I formed great relationships – the tutors were fantastic, and their feedback helped me improve. I met fellow students from all walks of life, and we learned from each other’s experiences.”

“My career progression in just a few years has been amazing – OU study equipped me for a successful career, I’d recommend it to anyone.”

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