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Olympic Rower wows students at first ever REPtalks

On 22nd May, RUSU held their first REPtalks event in 3sixty. To celebrate student successes, attendees were rewarded with talks from Olympic Rower Stewart Innes and Conflict Resolution Specialist Jeffrey Wotherspoon as well as enjoying a workshop on leadership and emotional intelligence which left students feeling ‘inspired’ and ‘motivated’.

Approximately 40 students attended the Representation Employability Project (REPtalks) on Wednesday 22nd May to hear from Stewart and Jeffrey as they shared stories from their careers to provide guidance and inspiration for students. The event also offered interactive elements with a buffet lunch and a chance to talk individually with the speakers followed by a workshop led by Jeffrey to help equip students for their future careers and pick up life tools along the way.

From illness and injury to finishing 4th at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Stewart Innes has been through a lot in his rowing career. Speaking openly about his journey at the REPtalks event, he drew on his experiences and explained the steps he had taken to achieve his goals. The students heard his top tips to success including trusting in the process; not thinking too far ahead and taking every opportunity you can. He also explained how he was able to overcome the challenges he encountered which mirrored ideas later mentioned by Jeffrey including taking control of your own life and everyone being on their own individual journeys.

Although more familiar talking one-to-one with high risk offenders in prison than a room full of students, Jeffrey Wotherspoon captivated the audience with his talk centred around perspectives, character building and adaptability. He was quick to highlight the importance of these themes and how picking up these skills now can influence your career later in life. Focusing on creating positive relationships with others, Jeffrey spoke about overcoming challenges and the importance of being able to understand the perspectives of others, despite differing journeys or experiences. This was supported by anecdotes from his career which were scattered through his talk, mainly about his work in prison, and how he has helped offenders introduce good habits to their lives whilst also removing the bad.

After lunch, Jeffrey led a session about emotional intelligence and leadership. Students were encouraged to think of leaders in their own lives and how they had influenced and shaped the students into who they are today. Through this, the students realised that anybody could be a leader as any individual can possess leadership qualities, one of which being emotional intelligence (which is twice as important as IQ for job success)! He concluded the session by talking about the Learning Journey, stressing that although everything takes time, you eventually reach your goal as “it’s just like learning to ride a bike!”

The audience felt they had learnt a lot from both speakers, whether they were a Rep or not, as they spoke about fundamental characteristics that help shape you as an individual and help you to face any barriers you may come across. Students left the event empowered and enthused to think about their futures and where their time at Reading could lead, with the take-away message being that it may not always be easy, but your future is up to you, so seize every opportunity you can.