November 16, 2012 - Comments Off on Struggling to decide what to do? Be creative!
Struggling to decide what to do? Be creative!
Yesterday I took a trip out of the office to go to a careers speed dating event at Leeds Met University. The very lovely Jenny Kean approached me to take part in the event because of my mashed up journalism/PR/marketing background and the idea was I’d share with soon-to-be graduates tips to help them snag a job.
Remembering what a scary place the world was when I graduated from my MA in Magazine Journalism in the economically precarious year of 2008 I was only too pleased to go along. My brief was to speak to the students about using their degree in ways they may not have previously pondered. Oh, and there was mention of a buffet lunch.
At the event I was given my own table, name card and name badge and I took along my beautiful Bloom business cards to add an extra touch of professionalism. This was a smart move because I think the buffet lunch sandwich I dropped on my jacket could have otherwise thrown my audience. Final year students from the marketing, PR and journalism courses then moved round in groups from table to table, posing questions to other local media and marketing types and me.
I thought the speed dating event was a great idea – it let students ask questions that they might not feel comfortable asking employers directly and let me release my inner positivity. And, having recruited my own copywriting team in the past I felt I had some genuine answers about what employers were looking for. It was nice to be able to reassure graduates that there are plenty of opportunities out there that their skillset may qualify them for and that the world of digital marketing in particular is a growing and developing one.
However, speaking afterwards to a few of the other creative folks in attendance we definitely felt well and truly dated! Forget the usual date questions spoken about in a recent blog post – user experience and the website that someone would love – Careers Speed Dating was much more of a fast fire experience and it was my career and advice that were up for appraisal.
I was really impressed with some of the questions I was asked by the students and tried to the best of my ability to give tips that would give them one step up the ladder, tips I really wish I’d been given when I was starting out. For the benefit of other recent or soon-to-be grads I’ve decided to put together my top five creative jobseeking commandments. So, this will be the first of a series of posts, because as I learnt yesterday, there really are far too many questions to be answered in one fell swoop.
1) Be creative gaining experience
A lot of the graduates I spoke to expressed panic that they didn’t really know what they wanted to do. Truth be told, even if you do know what you want to do you might not be able to get there straight away, so showing a little flair by trying out lots of things via work experience can put you in good stead for employment.
During and even after my undergraduate and MA I did work placements in PR and journalism because I was interested in both fields. To me, marketing, PR and journalism are fields that are built around people, ideas and communications and I found it difficult to limit myself to one single path. I came to marketing via journalism and it’s something that I hadn’t considered at university, but it’s presented me with plenty of opportunities to work with people and to communicate and generate ideas and it’s also a field that continues to offer me the opportunity to learn.
So, once you’ve decided to try out new and interesting things that stretch your creativity, your next jobs it to use that creativity to find those all-important placements. Your university might be able to help you with this and you’ll also find the likes of journalism.co.uk and gorkana highlighting some internships, but it also pays to create your own opportunities. Just because a publication, agency or brand doesn’t advertise a placement doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be scope for you to go in and work shadow or even to pitch them an article to publish. Many publications and businesses have had to cut organised work experience schemes due to finances in recent years, but they may well make an exception for someone they are particularly impressed with. And, when it comes to gaining experience, smaller workplaces – magazines, agencies, brands, PR firms, will often spend more time with you, teach you more and give you more work to do, which looks good on your CV.
Compile a hit list of places you’d like to gain experience and pitch yourself to them. Creative people like creative (but practical) approaches, so send over your CV but make sure you spend time creating a unique cover letter, which shows them the benefit of having you in and matches you up with what their company are doing. Giving them a feel for your personality will help them to imagine you fitting into the team. Of course, there are some exceptions where places like to stick to formal processes, but in a world where ideas win prizes and graduates are all looking at the same jobs boards, taking a creative approach will help you gain the experience you need to stand out.