We caught up with Lucy Downer, Final Year English BA Undergraduate, about her experiences of having a mentor with the Bristol Mentors programme.
Starting out as a third-year student I felt incredibly daunted by the prospect of life post-graduation. Being part of the Bristol Mentors programme this year has given me invaluable experience within an industry I am considering entering after graduation. (more…)
Last week, more than 15 industry experts – most of whom are Bristol alumni – came in to give talks, workshops and present case studies about all things media and creative. Film, TV, radio, publishing, the art world and the importance of having great ideas were all covered – for a list of speakers and their organisations, see our in-depth summary on mycareer.
Aside from things you’d expect to hear from creative professionals (expect a varied workload, the importance of getting your foot in the door, be innovative, don’t forget ab
out small to medium enterprises and how there’s no one definitive career path), there were a number of themes which youmight not have expected. This blog post will explore those and hopefully give you the opportunity to stand out in these competitive industries.
Watch, listen, read Not just the people, shows or books you’re interested in or would like to work for – go bigger, immerse yourself! Watch TED talks (recommended by Laura from Speed Communications, highlighting the one on Airbnb), watch shorts and first feature films (tip from Kate O’Hara, Creative England), go to art fairs (Adriana, IESA) and think carefully about audiences (Rob from BBC History magazine had students in his workshop working out who their perfect reader was).
There are no excuses!
Many of our speakers said this exact phrase, multiple times and they’re right. With the amount of free technology, apps and programmes available, there’s no reason not to make your own content, building a portfolio of your work to take to interview or when shadowing somebody. Make your
own demo (that was a top tip from Paris Troy, Heart radio), get some videos online (Will Wilkin, Lead Creative and producer for BBC radio) and practise responding to briefs (Gavin from Perfect Storm).
The funniest comedians and presenters have actually spent a very long time preparing their content. So, not only should you be preparing for applications, interviews and meeting industry experts, you should be developing it as a skill. Paris Troy was the guest speaker who spoke most about this and to do so, said you should make sure your organisation, time management and planning s kills are
up to scratch. Finally, a number of speakers including Will Wilkin, BBC Talent Managers Gaynor, Sas and Helen, and Julian Burrett also said be prepared to keep trying, be prepared to develop resilience and be prepared to do anything!
Tell a story
It’s not just about creating ideas – although the ability to do so helps – it’s about standing out and standing up for who you are (Paris Troy and Laura from Speed Communications). When Will Wilkin was talking about the need to tell a story, especially in applications, he said that you should literally tell a story (see his LinkedIn profile for a
n example) and that everyday life is suitable content. Other tips included create an emotional connection (Gavin from Perfect Storm, Laura from Speed Communications) and don’t be generic (Paris). Alongside this, Julian Burrett said it’s good to be open to creativity from others too.
On one hand, you should be an expert in what you do (Julian Burrett) but on the other hand, you need to be versatile (Will Wilkin). You might be generating ideas for multiple platforms (a magazine with an accompanying app, writing cricket news but cutting film about a match too) but you might also be working in a specialist area within the sector. For example, Laura talked about how Speed cover three main divisions: business and corporate, sports and wellbeing, consumer and lifestyle. Similarly, Adriana from the IESA described how the art world, sitting within the creative industries, has sub-sectors which include the dealers, contemporary art, art fairs, insurance and law, investment and client services.
This is just an overview of the key themes but if you want more, check out our in-depth summary on mycareer. There’s a list of speakers on there too, as well as lots of information about the different areas of the media industry and creative sector.
For all those aspiring to work in the Fashion Industry or to go into Journalism, Kate Blythe from Matches Fashion has kindly taken part in an interview which will be a very useful read!
Why did you decide to work in the fashion industry, and how did it start?
I always wanted to be a fashion journalist from the age of 10 or 11. I collected American and British Vogue magazines for years and fell in love with the beautiful images and inspirational features. From that age onwards I had my heart set on a fashion journalism career and so I focused on English literature and Language as my speciality. I took English, Psychology and History A Levels and then I went to Leeds University to study an English degree. Before university, however, I set up work experience at my local paper and then went to IPC to intern at various magazines such as 19 magazine and Just 17. As a post-graduate, I went to Time Out magazine in London where I worked for 6 months as a freelance writer, and from there I went to ELLE magazine where I worked for 4 years as fashion features writer before moving into the digital world after that.
What does a typical day for you look like at Matchesfashion.com?
I start work around 8.30am and have 30 minutes before the team arrive to get through my emails and answer any queries. I sign off, approve and commission all content across mens and womens digital and print titles so my day is a constant stream of questions from my team and proofs to sign off. I also oversee all video content, along with marketing emails, social media and all fashion. I can be approving a fashion rail full of clothes for a cover shoot one minute, then sitting in the executive team meetings discussing forward planning the next. It’s non-stop and very varied, which is why I love my job! I leave work at 6pm to get home to my three children before bedtime which is also when the US markets are up and so I then deal with talent agents regarding celebrity cover stories and shoots.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
The highlight of my career has been building a world class team here at Matchesfashion.com and rebranding all of the website and content in a short space of time. It has been an exciting 18 months and the best is yet to come.
What do you enjoy the most about working in fashion?
I love all aspects of fashion – from the incredible talent of the designers behind the collection, to the beautiful product that is created to the editorial stories we pull together from the collections we stock. It is fast moving, exciting and inspiring.
What made you choose English as your degree, and what was your best experience whilst at Uni?
I have always been passionate about writing and would love writing essays at school and sixth form college. There is something about story telling that is very exciting to me and so there was really no other degree that I would have considered, other than fashion journalism. University was wonderful and I loved meeting great friends, learning new skills and knowing that I was preparing myself for a future in journalism. I couldn’t wait to get started!
Do you have any advice for students on how to stay creative and keep coming up with new ideas?
Read as much as possible – the news, websites, blogs, fashion commentary, magazines. Arm yourself with information and never think that you know it all. I am learning new skills every day and that triggers ideas in my mind for new ideas. Never plagiarise, always be original and stick to your passions rather than follow the pack. Then you will have the potential to be hugely successful!
Do you have any motivational words for students aspiring to make it in this very competitive industry?
Take on as much work experience as possible and when you are in a company doing a placement or internship, throw yourself into the role and make yourself indispensable. That is what I did and two months later I was offered a full time job. Never say no, always say yes to whatever task is given to you and your positive attitude and can-do nature will go a long way in impressing the right people.
What key skills do you need to get into fashion?
Great personal taste, passion for the subject you are working on and digital knowledge. Nowhere is purely print these days, so digital skills are a necessity for being a future fashion leader.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice whilst you were a student, what would it be?
I used to have to read a whole pile of books every week yet I never allowed myself enough time to really enjoy them. I would have told my younger self to enjoy the time I had and to absorb the literature I was reading, rather than racing through it all. I never have any time these days to read a good book, so that was my perfect opportunity.
Sara, a 2005 English graduate from UCL, has spent the past year working as a freelance foreign correspondent in Cairo, Egypt.Below she tells us more about this and answers questions to help Bristol students and graduates considering a similar career.
After leaving university, I first completed a six month internship at the press office at UNICEF, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, where I helped to organise events and campaigns and worked to boost media coverage of the organisation’s work. After gaining work experience at The Sunday Times, I became a trainee at the paper and later gained a job on the world news desk where I worked as a reporter and researcher for four years.
In my current job, I am based in Cairo where I write news and feature articles for several UK newspapers and magazines. It has been an amazing experience to live abroad, learn more about Egyptian culture and follow the aftermath of the Arab Spring here, particularly witnessing the country’s first democratic elections and all the changes that has brought with it. Being a freelancer has given me the chance to work for many different organisations and develop new skills, such as getting into radio broadcasting. It also allows me more freedom to work on stories that I am interested in.
How did you get your job?
I realised that in order to progress within my chosen career I was going to have to take a risky move and quit a stable desk job in London to brave going it alone. I arrived in Cairo with very few Egyptian contacts or resources, it was a scary but invigorating experience and within a matter of weeks (to my relief!) I gained a fairly substantial amount of work.
How did your degree help?
Having a degree helped improve my writing style and my ability to analyse and use information I gained to form a coherent argument – both essential skills for my current job. I also feel I benefited from having read widely during the course of my literature degree both in terms of the greater overall cultural and historical awareness this has given me as well as learning about different styles of writing. I think that no one can really become a good writer without reading widely.
Did your time working for a newspaper help you to set yourself up as a freelance correspondent?
I think having worked at The Sunday Times before coming to Egypt helped me a great deal by ensuring I had a deep understanding of what news stories would be likely to interest the British press. I also built up relationships with journalists and foreign correspondents at the paper as well as freelancers that we used living abroad and I was lucky enough to be able to ask their advice about starting out and for tips on who to contact about freelance work opportunities at different publications.
Are language skills essential for foreign correspondents?
People often assume that language skills are a must if you want to be a foreign correspondent, but that’s far from true. Many people become successful overseas reporters without ever speaking much of the local language – the key is to find a proficient translator. I do speak Arabic as well as some intermediate Spanish and French and there’s no doubt this has helped immensely, particularly during my time in Cairo, if only in terms of cutting down on the cost of a translator but that means often working alone and often being accompanied by a local who is familiar with the area and regional customs can be a great advantage.
What advice would you give anyone else wanting to get into foreign journalism?
As getting into journalism is so competitive you need to make sure you get lots of work experience to prove your dedication to the profession. During a work placement pay close attention to the types of topics that interest that particular media outlet so that you can pitch ideas that will impress them. If you are thinking of going abroad, choose somewhere newsworthy, where there is likely to be a lot going on, investigate where most papers have staff correspondents and where they might be able to use a freelancer. It also helps to choose somewhere where the cost of living is low. Before choosing to go freelance, I set up meetings with editors at several newspapers and magazines to discuss what kind of stories they would be interested in taking from me. It also helps if they can put a face to a name when you call in from thousands of miles away!
Any work experience tips?
Many journalism work experience opportunities are advertised on websites such as journalism.co.uk and GorkanaJobs.com. It is also worth contacting newspapers and magazines directly by writing to the managing editor or editor of a particular section including details of why you’d be interested in working for that section. If you do not hear back, do follow up with a phone call, newspaper offices can often be somewhat erratic. While daily newspapers are often oversubscribed, Sunday newspapers and regional publications are sometimes less busy.