Alumni Reflections: Jonathan Sinclair
MA, Economics; Class of 2019
Saints Tennis and Economics student, Jonathan Sinclair, looks back with fond appreciation of his unique St Andrews student experience which was completely enriched with some memorable sporting moments. With some important advice for those currently enjoying their time in the bubble, not to underestimate the value their experience in a sports club can have on their recruitment potential or career path.
Thanks Jonathan for highlighting how Saints Tennis gave you the #SaintsSportFactor.
After visiting St Andrews during the summer prior to my last year of school, it was evident that it ticked all my boxes: excellent academics, a prestigious history and first-class sporting facilities, all set within a beautiful town. Being Scottish, free tuition was an added bonus too!
Tennis has always been my sport of choice. I started playing aged four, and grew up watching the likes of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and local lad Andy Murray on TV. Although tennis is at times a fairly individualistic sport, I have always enjoyed it most in a team environment, where you play a mixture of singles and doubles against an opposing side.
Joining St Andrews, the tennis club not only offered me the chance to strut my stuff on court against universities from all over Scotland, but friendships made on court could also be strengthened by the social side of the club – namely Wednesday night socials, which were a huge part of my university experience. I met my girlfriend and several of my best friends there, so I have a lot to be thankful for. That is in large part down to the work of former Director of Tennis, Mike Aitken, who created a fantastic atmosphere in his 11 years with the club. Mike retired at the end of last year, and we wish him all the best for the future.
I became much more involved in the running of the club in my final two years, finishing my time at St Andrews as a student coach and one of two event reps on the committee. Our landmark accomplishment was the inaugural Tennis Ball which took place in April 2019. Sadly the 2020 and 2021 iterations have been cancelled because of Covid-19, but fingers crossed for 2022! It brought together around 80 students, alumni and even some of our tennis coaches to Hotel du Vin for a night of good food, speeches and some questionable ceilidh dancing while raising money for The Eve Appeal.
Come the end of May after exams had finished, 22 of us jetted off to a beachside town an hour north-west of Barcelona in sunny Spain. Tour had previously been a hallmark of the club’s calendar, but after a brief hiatus, I was keen to stamp my mark and give everyone a trip they would remember. Organising this was immense fun. I am someone who cares about every last detail, and so it was a real treat to see it all come together smoothly despite lady luck’s last-ditch attempt to curtail the whole thing. Upon receiving a phone call the morning of our flight from the villa’s landlord telling me that our villa had been vandalised and was now unfit for us to stay in, I immediately assumed the worst, but miraculously we ended up getting an upgrade to the only other property available. I like to think you make your own luck! Even the best-made plans can fly out the window in a second, so it’s always good to have a back-up.
Putting myself forward for an events position seemed fairly arbitrary at the time. I knew I wanted to be on the tennis committee and I was interested in staging events, but I would have laughed you out of the room if you had told me that it would directly lead to my first job after university. I was approached on LinkedIn by a graduate recruiter who had discovered from my profile that I was an events rep at university, and thought I might be interested in applying to a graduate scheme for a research and events company in Oxford.
Although I was coincidentally more interested in the research side of Fast Track, which has created a network of the UK’s top-performing private companies through its rankings in The Sunday Times, I was keen to hit the ground running when I was initially placed in the events team in August 2019. I quickly took on responsibility, managing two events in my two-month rotation for the directors of some of the most profitable companies in the UK, with speakers Tom Joule, founder of Joules, and Keith Black from Regatta. Again, I was a thrust into a world that I didn’t know and one I didn’t see coming, but I took confidence from the events I had organised at university. Upon finishing my time with the events team, I moved into research and have since earned a promotion to deputy research manager.
In my eyes, the soft skills that I developed in the tennis club have been just as instrumental to my career as what I learned during my Economics degree. Problem solving, idea generation, project management, working within and leading a team are all massively important in any job; all competencies that can be improved through a committee role for any club or group. Especially in this current climate, employers will look favourably on those who have embraced the challenges of the pandemic and adapted their clubs in response to these difficult circumstances. That being said, I have the utmost of sympathies for those who have had their plans blown up due to this crisis. It’s not always easy being on a committee during the best of the times, so I can only imagine how tough it has been for current committees trying to make the best out of a bad situation.
To those currently in clubs, I implore you not to sit back and take the running of your chosen sport for granted. Whether it’s president or event rep, there’s likely to be a position out there for you. If you don’t have that amount of time to spare, why not try some volunteering, attending a session you wouldn’t usually go to, or even just introducing a new face to your club? Rather than seeing it as a chore, view it as a fun opportunity to give something back while potentially adding some experience to your CV. It can open doors – just try to keep an open mind!