If you’re a student, then chances are you are terrified/disheartened/confused about your post-university life. No matter how much you love your degree, or how certain of your employability, there’s an inevitable moment of doubt in every student’s life where they think, “Really though, what do I do next?” Needless to say, as a current BA(Hons) Fashion and Dress History 3rd year, I was clamouring for reassurance that I’d be ok after university, as most in my position surely feel. For this very reason, the History of Art and Design school arranged alumni to come back and discuss their journeys since they left UoB. The 3 speakers, Rosamund Picton, Rosie Rogers and Kathleen Lawther, work in totally different fields though all graduated from History of Art and Design courses. Alongside their experiences, they kindly shared insights and advice to those soon to be pursuing a career.
First speaker, Picton, came to her job rather serendipitously. After graduating in 2012 and 6 months of searching she happened upon a job advertisement shared on a friend’s Facebook for a Hove-based brand communication company, Space Doctors. Despite no previous experience or expertise in the challenging field, the acute analysis and semiotic approach to culture drew greatly upon the skills learnt during her degree. Some of her suggestions were to be open to start-ups and digital agencies, particularly for creative jobs, to potentially become an integral part of a small team in a rapidly growing field. Picton also noted the importance of variety in your stimuli. Read everything from trashy magazines to academic journals. Attend talks by interesting people, and talk to them afterwards. Watch films. Watch tv. Do original writing and find your own individual voice. (Also check out the Semionaut award for a $1000 prize and potential job opportunities!) Be aware of what’s happening around you. Employers now are looking beyond the linear education history, they want to know what you as an individual can provide and how you will develop their company.
Rogers spoke at the next session. Graduating in 2010, she began her career through a successful application through the BBC Blast work experience programme which led to 4 years working at the company, starting as a web assistant while gaining experience in various other areas. Now she works for All Together Now, part of The & Partnership, a company which helps brands communicate in creative ways with their audience. Mentioning how social media can be instrumental in creating opportunities, Rogers also outlined a few tips for after graduation. These include to embrace new hobbies, to enhance your personal brand (plus keep you sane!); to not dwell on what grade you got but to understand the value of things learnt in your seminars and projects; to not be afraid to move home for a while; and that travelling or further study can be great, but not if it’s to delay facing up to a job. Her advice was that the perfect job is not just around the corner, and if things do take time then use your initiative to develop yourself with new skills, such as coding or writing, and make yourself a candidate to push companies forward.
Finally, 2008 graduate Kathleen Lawther spoke about working in the museum sector. Currently the curator at Littlehampton Museum, Lawther discussed the variety of roles she worked along her journey to curator and tips on how to break into the competitive field. After graduation, she took on temp work for a bank before temping with the local council. It was through this temp work that she had assignments at Brighton Pavilion, which led to a contract with them. She enjoyed the field though wanted to expand her opportunities while proving to employers her commitment to the field and so took on a 2 year part-time distance MA in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester alongside work. Lawther then spent a year as collections storage and movement assistant at the National Maritime Museum before taking on the role of curator at Littlehampton museum. She discussed how to create your own opportunities and not to be discouraged by competition, just to ensure through research and self-development that you show yourself to be the best candidate you can be for a specific role. As the museum sector is changing and is opening to younger people with new ideas, now is the time to start your own projects and maybe approach museums with potential exhibitions or events that you can help to run.
It was reassuring to hear from such successful graduates on where to go with a niche degree, and all three offered solid advice. What I really took away was realistic optimism- that a fulfilling career is achievable, but by no means without hard work to get there.
Now, back to work on actually graduating…
If you are interested in any of the speakers, contact them via Twitter.
By Sarah-Mary Geissler