Never stop learning
I graduated from Newcastle University with a 2:1 History BA in the summer of 2012, but it’s probably fair to say I came out of higher education with a first in naivety and had little idea how difficult securing graduate employment would be. After six months of rejections and getting nowhere, I was beginning to accept that getting a job close to home wasn’t going to happen. This is where my dad stepped in.
As a business owner of over thirty years and graduate employer himself, he told me I needed to make myself more employable. Gain more skills. Expand my horizons. Be a bit more creative, a bit more entrepreneurial. So, together, we made a plan.
I learned how to make a WordPress website, started a blog and submitted articles to magazines and other websites. I started to understand the differences between print and digital content, and did a lot of wider reading. Trust me, it’s amazing how many doors can be opened from having read similar material to a would-be employer (Thank you Messrs Godin and Gladwell).
It’s great having an academic background but you need to realise that even when you’re finished higher education, you can’t afford to stop learning. This is especially true in the digital world where things are constantly changing and being reinvented. Consider someone you highly regard in your industry, I bet he or she will constantly be teaching themselves new skills. It’s how the best people adapt, improve and maintain a competitive edge.
Don’t sell yourself short
I spent a lot of time liaising with Newcastle University’s careers service at the turn of 2013. This was absolutely pivotal in me landing my first role in digital content and marketing.
It sounds obvious when looking back now but in an opening CV statement I’d always refer to copywriting and proofreading abilities but I’d never even think to include my other skills and passions. I remember talking to my advisor, Fiona, who pointed out that I’d made no mentions of oral communication or confidence. I’d never considered that being able to talk to people was in fact a skill, so ironically that conversation gave me the confidence to add that point to applications!
I’d recommend that graduates treat finding and applying for roles as a job in itself. Get up before 9 every day, set your daily tasks or goals and manage your time accordingly. Really consider all of your abilities and don’t be afraid to say you have them! Similarly, when you are in a role you’ve got to remember you’re there for a reason. Don’t doubt yourself, have the confidence to find your voice and take a lead on things.
Think about the big picture and vision as much as day to day processes
From late 2014 until the end of last year I worked as the editor of a digital news publication. In the early days we did a lot of hard work to forge an identity and increase our website’s credibility.
Looking back we had a lot of ambition for where we wanted to take the publication and the only way to progress was to introduce a strategy tailored to the bigger picture. As busy as we were in the day to day humdrum, we were undeterred in exploring what we could do to get more bang for our buck in the long run.
Our Northern Powerhouse series was a particular success, we managed to interview and collect data from sector-leading names across the region which ultimately built a portfolio that we presented to government. Meeting with cabinet ministers and conducting interviews at the Home Office around our findings wouldn’t have happened if hadn’t been prepared to execute a strategy outside of the day to day norm.
Collaboration is key
One of the best editorials I’ve done in the last few years was centred around collaboration in the North East digital community. I spent a couple of months talking to over 100 individuals to highlight business successes supported by collaborative working.
I’ve always felt that we talk a big game about collaborating in the North East and the need to do it. Sometimes, unfortunately, little action can follow initial intent. So I set out to highlight real examples and measure the outcomes. When you see what real collaboration looks like and the impact it can have on SMEs it really can extinguish any doubts or cynicism you might have.
This was a study that probably left the most impact on me as an individual. After heeding advice and being hugely inspired by the participants, I now mentor myself at Newcastle University and the North East UTC. I also really enjoy my role as an enterprise advisor to Gosforth Academy, through the North East LEP, where we work to make students more aware of enterprise opportunities in the region.
Just do it
I have heard time and time again from people I respect in the region. We all have great ideas but having the conviction to carry them out is often what sets people apart. Sometimes you can talk through your ideas and all of a sudden, you fall into the trap of delays, doubts and deviation.
If you believe in something, then do it. There’ll always be the odd worry and there may even be people who tell you that you can’t do something. But, in my opinion, it’s better to try and fail than to never try at all.