Friday, 30 September 2016

The Graduate: Jye

Name: Jye

Age: 21

Where and what did you study?
BSc Economics at UCL

What made you decide to go to university and study Economics?
I found Economics A Level really interesting and wanted to explore it further. I also felt that I didn’t know enough about the world to start a career straight after college, and so going to University would give me some additional time to find out what I wanted to do as well as meet new people.

What are you doing now?
I work for MW Eaglewood as a middle office graduate. The firm specialises in direct lending and P2P investment strategies as part of the Marshall Wace Hedgefund group. 

Have you always been interested in working in the financial sector?
Not at all! A lot of people in the industry have wanted to be an investment banker since they were a baby but, to tell you the truth, I didn’t even know what an investment bank was until my second year of uni! I’m actually really interested in Politics, and it was the importance of the financial services industry to economic growth and poverty reduction that really sparked my interest in the profession. 

What's been important in helping you get to where you are today?
There's definitely not a 'secret recipe' to securing a graduate job. My experience of university has been very different to lots of my friends in the industry. I personally had no contacts in the industry, and so I made a deliberate effort to go to as many society talks, presentations and training sessions as possible in order to network and find out about different areas within finance. I became the Social Events Officer for the Economist Society in my first year of uni, and then went on to become Director of Social Events at Enactus UCL (a social enterprise society). I’ve also had a variety of part time jobs since the age of 13: everything from working in a sweet shop, to being a club rep for two summer seasons in Bulgaria! These were all things that I spoke about in my interviews for a Summer Internship and, whilst I was rejected from 15 firms, I eventually secured a place at J.P Morgan. At J.P Morgan I made an effort to go for coffee with as many people from different divisions as possible, which led me to discovering more about hedgefunds and, ultimately, starting a career at one! I was also extremely lucky to have friends and family who were more than happy to go for a beer after each internship and graduate job rejection email, and encourage me to continue putting in as much effort as possible to secure a role.

What's your average working day like?
I get into work at around 7.30am to check my emails and eat some breakfast before the rest of the team get in at around 8am. I then spend my first few hours responding to any emails that require attention, and undertaking daily tasks that I’m responsible for. There's usually a meeting or a call that takes place in the morning, so I often attend these before heading to lunch. After lunch I work on any projects that I’m responsible for, and often meet someone in the firm for a coffee catch up. There's a real culture of innovation at the firm, and so I usually also take some time in the afternoon to look at current processes or materials, and see how they can be improved. I leave the office most days between 6.30 and 7.30pm, though this depends on how much work I have on.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years time?
I would love to be out on roadshows promoting the company and selling new investment funds with some form of managerial responsibility. I'm not 100% sure of the exact details yet because the industry is set to continue growing, and so it's unlikely that the current job exists.  

What advice would you give to recent graduates, and current students?
Do things that interest you, don’t just do things because everyone else does! My best grades at uni were the modules that I enjoyed, not the so-called 'easy modules' that everyone took based on other peoples' experience. Similarly the roles and projects that I have been praised for have been those that interest me. Also, interviewers and recruiters are really good at knowing if you’re interested in something or not, and that's something they will use to make their decision on whether to hire you or not! It’s also fine to be passionate about things other than your job: no-one wants to work with someone with no personality! Finally, if you don’t ask you don’t get! I remember at one society event, the CEO of Coutts bank did a presentation. At the end of it, I approached him and asked him if I could meet with him for a coffee to discuss private banking, to which he said yes, and resulted in him inviting me into the office for one of the most interesting and inspiring conversations I’ve ever had with anyone!

Jye, the economics graduate.


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Graduate: Beth

Name: Beth

Age: 22

What did you study, and where?

Public Relations and Digital Communications Management at MMU.

Why did you decide to go to university?
I won't lie, it was a last resort. When I was 13, I was headhunted for a Great British rowing scheme to get tall people into rowing (I'm 6ft). From age 13 - 17, this was my life alongside school. 6am starts, out on the river, and evenings in the gym, with school sandwiched inbetween. It was very intense, and training camps and competitions took away most of my weekends. When I was in the sixth form, it all became too much for me. My training partners were slightly older, and were improving as they could focus on rowing full time; my school friends were getting better grades as they weren't rowing in any every spare second they had. I had to make a decision and, for personal reasons, I chose education.

I always thought that rowing would be my future, my career. So, now, faced with the prospect of university, I was a little dazed. I'd never imagined myself at university because I hated sixth form so much. One of my brothers encouraged me to apply and then deal with the decision of whether or not to go on results day. So, I did - and, when I got accepted, I just kind of took the why the hell not? approach. What else was I going to do?

So, I know that you did a placement year as part of your degree. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I had been working one day a week at a digital marketing agency during my second year, and continued here full time for my sandwich year as their Content and Outreach Executive. This involved creating unique, engaging pieces of content: from blog posts, outreach articles, website copy, press releases, and copy for SEO purposes such as meta descriptions, to outreach campaigns to improve visibility and reach for clients. It taught me more in one year than my degree taught me in three. It was real hands on experience that gave me a true insight into the day-to-day working of the industry. It also helped my approach to work, and working in an agency. I must say that employers are far more impressed and/or intrigued by my experience on my placement year than my First Class Honours degree!

What are you doing now? Was it always your plan?
I finished uni in May, and jumped straight into work at an Inbound Marketing Agency in Manchester. This wasn't my plan.

I'd been playing with two options:
1. Move home, get a waitressing job and save money to go travelling
2. Jump on a plane to South America and travel until I had no money left (around 8 months)

My friend, and now housemate, had a few interviews with more lined up. She accepted an offer from an agency, and cancelled an interview she had later that afternoon - but put my name forward instead. I was invited to an interview a couple of days later, and accepted the job offer straight away. It was miles away from my original plan, but I got such an amazing vibe from the people and the agency as a whole. I'm a big believer in fate, and that everything happens for a reason and, as this was such a weird set up, I had to go with it. So now I am a Content/Inbound Marketing Executive working on a range of B2B clients.

Have you always wanted to work in marketing?
No. I always wanted to do something with animals. I'm a dog mum, a bunny mum and a gecko aunt, and I LOVE THEM ALL. But I'm happy I found marketing. It's a great way for me to channel my creative side and, as a Content Executive, I get to write a lot - which I love!

Tell us about your travel plans! Why are you so keen to travel?
I'm quite an inquisitive person and get bored sooooo easily, and travelling has always appealed to me. I'd been saving all through uni to move to Indonesia and work in Orangutan sanctuaries, but in my final year I fell in love with the idea of South America, and that's what I'm working towards. I'd like to stay in my current position for at least two years, save up some money, build up my CV, expand my knowledge and skills, and make my mark. Then, pack my bags and trek through South America until my purse is empty. I'm hoping to be able to do freelance work whilst I'm out there. That's the great thing about this industry, you don't have to stay in one place. I was in Australia last year and met a digital market who travelled for months on end whilst still doing amazing freelance work. All he needed was his backpack and his laptop! That's the dream right there.

What advice would you give to current students, or recent graduates looking to get into marketing?
I don't regret going to uni, but I don't think it's a necessity. I learnt the most during my placement year, and most of the skills and knowledge I utilise in my day-to-day job were learnt here rather than at uni. Just do what's right for you! I definitely recommend getting in touch with an agency, and trying to get some experience before you jump into anything feet first!

Beth, the PR and communications graduate.
Marketing Executive.  

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Graduate: Chris

Name: Chris

Age: 23

Where and what did you study?
BSc Geography at the University of Sheffield.

What made you decide that university was the right option for you?
I always knew I wanted to go to university; it was always going to happen, but I was never quite sure on what to study. Throughout school and sixth form, I found I had a love of the outdoors and travel, constantly looking for every opportunity to get outside, get climbing and get exploring. So it kind of made sense that Geography was the degree for me. It was the experiences at sixth form however that really made my decision on what to study at university. I was lucky enough to travel to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, meeting local people and experiencing Moroccan traditions, as well as investigating flash flooding and fold mountains. I found I was fascinated by the environment, and it was during that trip I realised that this was the degree for me. 

What do you do now?
I have just started my NQT year as a Secondary School Geography Teacher at The Vale Academy in North Lincolnshire. I completed my training straight out of university on a School Direct program with Sheffield Hallam University. 

Why teaching? Was it always your plan?
Teaching was never really my first choice of career. I had always been interested in teaching however, with experience as a swimming teacher and Duke of Edinburgh Award instructor. But, I really wanted to go into the Royal Air Force as a pilot! Unfortunately this couldn't happen so I decided to go into teaching, and what a excellent decision that was. Really, it was my Geography teachers at school who influenced my decision to become a teacher; they were always so passionate and enthusiastic, a real inspiration. They made my lessons fun and relevant, and I thought that I, too, would like to do the same. In what career could I go outside, talk about and share my passion for the world and the outdoors other than teaching? Whilst at university my work with the Royal Geographical Society also helped me realise that I was going to become a teacher one day! By working as a Geography Ambassador, I travelled the country running workshops for students about why Geography is important and relevant. In this role I quickly came to realise that this was something I could do every day. 

What's a day in the life of a teacher like? What happens behind the scenes?
A teacher's day is a very busy one! Its not a 9-5 job like most people think - it's a challenge and it is hard work. My day begins at 7am when I get into school and, first, make a strong coffee to get me going. Then it's onto preparing lessons for the day, printing resources, marking books and awaiting the hundreds of students! It's then onto duty, standing at the gate ensuring students have their planners, and that their uniform is on correctly. This is all before the start of the day! Next is lessons, usually five hours per day. As a form tutor, I also have extra responsibilities: making sure my students are not getting detentions, checking homework and also helping with pastoral issues. At lunchtime there is not time for lunch - it's straight into revision sessions or running lunchtime clubs or activities. Sometimes you may even have students in detention with you during lunch if they decided they didn't fancy completing your rivers homework! The day continues with more lessons and more engaging activities. 

The wonderful thing is that as a teacher you are free to teach how you like, adding in experiments, field trips and team building activities. You can be as creative and imaginative as you like! Teaching isn't just standing at the front of the class: you have to adapt your teaching so that all your students understand, making sure your brighter students are challenged and don't become bored, whilst ensuring that the less able are capable of completing the work. It makes every lesson different and challenging! When the bell goes at the end of the day, it's onto meetings or training. This is a really important part of the day as we need to ensure that all the students are meeting their targets and that we are up to date on teaching methods. Teaching is such an interesting and challenging job and your role is far more than just a 'teacher'; you're a social worker, a manager and, most importantly, a role model. It is a real pleasure to work with young people who certainly make the day interesting!  

If you weren't a teacher, what would you be instead?
If I wasn't a teacher, I would have loved to have been a pilot, either commercial or military. I have always loved flying, and what a great way to see the world! This career would have also have made use of my Geography degree, by looking at and analysing the weather to ensure a safe flight. 

What advice would you give to current students and/or recent graduates?
The most important advice I received whilst choosing university and, later,  choosing a career would probably look like this...

  • Research the university and course in detail. Go and visit and make sure the course covers what your interested in! 
  • Work Experience: do as much of this as possible! It will really help you to make sure that it is the right career for you.
  • Take every opportunity you can, visit as many places, join as many societies as possible. It was by doing this that I became involved with the RGS and got to work with some amazing and influential people. 
  • HAVE FUN. University really is the best time of your life! Work hard play hard! 

Chris, the geography graduate.
Secondary school teacher.
For more info or advice, follow Chris at @ValeGeography

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The Graduate: Lara

Name: Lara

Age: 21

Where and what did you study?
BA Journalism at University of Roehampton

Why did you decide to go to university, and why Journalism?
I went to a very academic sixth form which pushed the idea of going to university. With hindsight, I didn’t explore other options as I didn’t feel as if there were any. When it came to applying for UCAS, I initially chose to read English Literature. However, I was inspired to change to journalism after completing some work experience at my local radio station. I simply fell in love with the excitement and fast paced nature of the news room. My first day on placement there really sticks out for me, as it was the day that Margaret Thatcher died.  The presenters threw me in at the deep end and sent me into my local high street to get vox pops of people’s reactions. Yet by the end of the week, I was researching about a kitchen fire at KFC, so that just gives you an indication of how different everyday was. Though I doubt that broadcast radio will be my future career path, this placement helped me to decide on my degree choice and gave me my first insight into the media industry.

Do you think your degree will be instrumental in helping you forge a career?
I think that my qualification will be a helping hand throughout my career. However, work placements and networking are equally as important in the media industry. Get as much work experience as you can – take advantage of those long university holidays! It may feel like your lecturers are just saying it, but in this industry it is all about who you know. Build your work ethic now and you will thank yourself come graduation. 

Clubs and societies can also demonstrate that you are a well-rounded prospective journalist with lots of interests. Societies look good on paper but don’t forget the basics. If you really want to go into the profession, make sure you’ve done some work on your university magazine or newspaper - editors will expect this from journo graduates.

What work experience have you done, and what do you think you learnt from it?
As I said earlier, my first ever work experience was at a radio station in Norfolk. From then, I have gone on to do work experience at a local newspaper, as well as my university magazine and radio station. During the last year of my degree, I worked really hard to gain work experience with some industry worthy names in a bid to make myself more employable. After what felt like hundreds of rejections, I ended up doing placements at Sainsbury's Magazine and Square Mile Magazine. Helping out on these publications allowed me to fine tune my editorial skills and gave me a real insight into how magazines run day-to-day. With the help of my university, I also managed to bag some work experience a Redwood - Inspiring Content. Redwood looks after the online content and marketing for a number of big names including Barclay's and Boots Beautiful You. I helped out on both of these accounts, and the experience allowed me to enhance my sub-editing, social media and general admin skills. Going into the workplace definitely prepares you for life after university and teaches you practical skills which are often overlooked in lectures. 

What are you doing at the moment?
Since my last essay hand in, I have been enjoying a much needed break which included a spontaneous city break to Prague. I have moved back in with my family, for some thinking time, whilst I search for my first ‘real’ job. I am so grateful for the space as it has allowed me to do some soul searching, socialising and reading. I have also been doing the odd bit of freelance writing, in the hope that the extra experience will help me become a better writer and help me on my way to reaching my career goals.

What is your dream job, and how obtainable do you think it is?
I wouldn’t say that I have worked out what my dream job is yet. However, I would love my first job to be in the publishing industry. I am currently applying for editorial assistant positions but I am interested in any opportunities within journalism, social media, marketing or publishing. 

What advice would you give to other budding journalists?
I have touched on this already, but I cannot stress enough the importance of work experience.  Despite doing a number of internships myself, the importance of networking has been the biggest eye opener for me post-university. Try to establish some professional networks before you head out into the highly competitive world of journalism. With this comes the obvious advice; practice your craft and read/watch news. Follow both sides of any story so you can strive towards objectivity.

If you weren't involved in journalism, what would you do instead?
Honestly, I have no idea! In the past, I have considered teaching English as a foreign language, but I suppose we will have to watch this space…

Lara, the journalism graduate.
Freelance writer and aspiring journalist.

Friday, 16 September 2016

The Graduate: Lily

Name: Lily

Age: 22

Where and what did you study?
Keele University, Geography.

What made you decide to go to university?
I initially decided to go to university because it was the social norm at the secondary school I attended. If you didn't go to university you were the odd one out. Everyone was filling out applications in regards to the schools deadlines and so I just accepted that this was the thing to do. Despite this, the school pushed the benefits of attending university so by the time I was ready to leave I knew that I was going to get a degree in order to get a good job in the future, to gain life experience and to make memories. 

What are you doing at the moment?
I'm currently living on a bus on a farm on the East Coast of Australia, picking blueberries for 6 dollars a bucket in attempt to get my second year visa. 

Why did you decide to travel after university? Was it always the plan?
Travelling was never part of the plan. If someone told me that a year after I finished university I would be living in Australia, I would have laughed in their face! Whilst everyone was in their final year stressing about exams, simultaneously desperate to find post-grad jobs, I was thinking surely there's more to life than working a 9 to 5 job, living for the weekend. I'm 21 for god's sake, why do I need to do this now? I've gone straight from GCSEs to A levels to uni, do I really need to go straight into a job right now? So whilst I was having my classic dissertation cry in the library I thought why the hell not!? I can finish uni, graduate, work my flexible summer job which allows me to earn lots of money fast whilst enjoying my last summer of freedom, and then shoot off in November. The more I thought of it the more I thought it was a great idea! 

What have been the best and worst things about your travelling experience so far?
The best things:
1. The people. The best thing about travelling is, no doubt, the people that I've met along the way. One thing travelling has taught me is that you can be in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and never have felt so lonely. I've been in some absolute quite frankly shit holes yet I've had the best time because of the company. It's weird to think that not even a year ago I hadn't met my best friends that will be my best friends to life. Although I've only met them within the last 9 months or so, I can no longer imagine my life without them! 
2. Not having a planMy whole life I've had a plan. Whether it be long term: go to school, go to uni, get a job, move out, buy a car etc. Or short term: wake up, have a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, go to work. I've always had a plan. If I don't have a plan I tend to panic. I'm out of my comfort zone. As I landed in Australia I didn't have a plan. I didn't have a clue what I was doing. And that was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. Travelling has taught me that if you have a plan you can miss out on the best experiences! I went with the flow, took everything in my stride and just embraced and accepted everything that came my way and I've have had the best time! When I go home I don't have a plan. Normally that would scare me, but this time I'm coming back excited! 

The worst things:
There are lots of 'worst things' about travelling that nobody really prepares you for. I've been sick, I've had the shits in a dorm with 10 other people, I've stank and I've been in hospital. I've been unbelievably stressed because I've ran out of money, and flights have been delayed. I've had things lost and things stolen. I've cried myself to sleep, I've never felt so lonely in my whole entire life, and I've wanted to just jump on a flight and go straight home. But none of these 'worst things' matter. All of these 'worst things' are nothing compared to the 'best things'. I'd go through all these 'worst things' 10 times worse for the 'best things'. When I look back at the trip the 'worst things' won't ever slip into my mind. They simply don't matter.

What have been your biggest influences?
My degree and university was an influence on my decision to go away. Having a Geography degree definitely encouraged me to go travelling, and the stress of university was also a factor. My attending university also gave me the life experience I needed to prepare myself for this trip. I came out of uni a completely different person to the person I was when I started, and I can't imagine doing the trip straight out of school. My family was another influence on my decision to get away. My dad had never been travelling and my younger sister has never expressed an interest. But when I went to my mum things were different. I thought my family would shut the idea down straight away, but they supported my decision. My mum did the same thing when she was my age and so agreed that if I was completely sure that this is what I wanted to do then I should go ahead! 

What are your plans, if any, for the future?
So my broad plan is to go home at Christmas, get a job, get experience using my degree and eventually come back to Australia. When, where and doing what however I have no idea and I'm excited! Everything happens for a reason and whatever happens happens! 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to travel after university?
Just do it! You have nothing to lose! When are you going to get this chance again? If you hate it the worst thing that happens is that you come back. When I left I thought that would be one of the older ones. I thought it would be loads of 18 year olds getting smashed on their gap year, and boy have I been proved wrong! I've met so many people from so many different backgrounds, university or not, aged 18 to 84 - so you always have time to get away!! My parents keep telling me I need to 'grow up' but there's no time for that! Life's too short! You just don't want to be spending the rest of your life saying what if?

Lily, the geography graduate.
Travelling and exploring.


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Graduate: Joanna

Name: Joanna

Age: 21

Where and what did you study?
Royal Holloway, University of London - BSc(Hons) Physical Geography.

Why did you decide to go to university?
University was always something I had wanted to experience from quite a young age. I am not from a university family and so my first thoughts about it were that I wanted to challenge myself to be able to get in. As I went through school though I was introduced to alternatives, apprenticeships etc, but these didn’t appeal to me. I have always been better at academic subjects than more vocational ones, and I have always felt that a career in business, accounting etc definitely were not for me! I was excited to meet new people, learn from experts in the areas I was interested in and of course, I was (and still am) hopeful that a degree would help me find a career I enjoyed. My A Levels were hard but I have always loved learning so going to university wasn’t something I doubted as the right path for me at 18. 

Why did you choose to study Geography?
Geography is a unique subject about the world we live in and encompasses everything from science to the arts and philosophy, which, whilst I definitely didn’t appreciate the spectrum quite so much when it came to choosing my degree, it is something that makes me feel lucky to have chosen the subject now. I swayed between English and Geography before deciding what I wanted to apply for. I liked both subjects a lot in school, I seemed to be quite good at them and as I didn’t know what I wanted to do ‘when I grew up’, a subject that could lead to a whole variety of potential careers was appealing. It was a field trip to Iceland in Year 12 that cemented my choice. If you ever get a chance to visit, the country is one of the most beautiful I have visited and it left me knowing that I wanted to spend university learning about the planet we live on, the issues it is facing and what we can do to try and protect it. I applied initially for BSc Geography, because whilst I have always preferred the ‘physical’ side because of the science I wanted the option of seeing what human geography could offer me at university. It turns out I found myself loving the physical options even more and so I changed my degree course at the start of my third year to reflect my module options. 

You graduated this summer. What are you doing now? 
I am staying on at RHUL to study for my MSc in Quaternary Science in the Geography department. I am not ready to leave education just yet and my degree has only opened up more areas I want the opportunity to learn more about, so for now continuing my education is the right choice for me.

What influences have been important in your decision to continue studying?
Taking part in volunteering, extra-curricular and work experience has really helped me decide what I want to do, and is helping me get there. I have done a lot of volunteering through my undergraduate degree, from being on the university’s Community Action Team and setting up projects, an Ambassador at the RGS and, most recently. a Learning Volunteer at the Natural History Museum. The experiences perhaps haven’t helped in terms of me staying on for my masters but they have allowed me to grow in confidence and helped me think about what I might want to do as a career path because of the things I have enjoyed. I have learnt that I like to be outside so an office job perhaps isn’t for me long term, and I love talking to people about the things I am passionate about. I have visited schools to talk about geography which are always great fun but I don’t think teaching would be for me. Having come to university with no idea what I wanted to do at all, my experiences have really helped me get one step closer to figuring out what that ‘dream job’ might just be, whilst helping me to network with people who might be able to help me get there. I am now seriously considering pursuing a career in research looking at how past climatic change can help us understand and manage the impact of present and future change; alternatively I think I would really enjoy working in some form of Outreach Learning/Education. 

What advice would you give to someone interested in postgraduate study? 
It’s a big investment so you need to be sure that you want to study more; what it is you want to study, and think about it how it might help your next step. I think it can be an easy option for new graduates to choose a masters because the idea of the ‘real world’ is a bit frightening. If you’re considering a masters just for this reason perhaps embracing the ‘real world’ first is a good option: there’s a lot of money and work involved in postgrad study after all.  For me, my biggest worry is finances. The new government loan is helpful but it doesn’t cover all my costs, especially living near London. Plus, tuition fees at postgraduate level can vary A LOT, and they aren’t taken care of by student finance with money you never see like being an undergraduate. It’s slightly scary to think about how much money I will be spending on next year, so you need to forward plan before applying and work out whether you can afford it. Realistically you cannot live on £7 a week, so where could you get a bit of extra money? That said, don’t let that be the reason to stop you going for it! There’s plenty options as a postgraduate: it is common for people to take a year or two out to earn money, to study part time so you can work and learn, to continue weekend jobs alongside your studies (like me!), plus there is often a lot more available in terms of scholarships and alumni discounts if you stay at your first university. 

What does the future hold?
I’m really excited to start my masters – it’s going to be an intense but enjoyable year! The summer break was well needed after finishing my degree but I am itching to get back to the library and into the swing of things again. I think it has really confirmed to me that continuing with my education is the right next step now. After that? I’m considering doing a PhD, but I’m likely to take some time out before pursuing that. I would love to do some travelling (money permitting!) and get some work experience in science education. I’m really keen to use some of the knowledge of my degree in whatever career I end up pursuing but I’m not too worried about the future at the moment. I have an idea where I would like to go and for now I just want to carry on learning!

Joanna, the geography graduate.
Postgraduate student.


Friday, 9 September 2016

The Graduate: Corey

Name: Corey

Age: 21

Where and what did you study?
Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, studying undergraduate Violin performance course, BMus(Hons).

When did you decide that you wanted to be a musician? 
I think I realised that music was a big part of my life when I was about 12 or 13. I had to choose between becoming a swimmer and starting to train full time or music as I couldn't dedicate enough time to both. It was always going to be an easy decision for me as music is what I've always loved (and also involves marginally less physical exertion!) I started playing piano at age 4 and violin at 6. I came across a string quartet in a church at 3 years old on a walk with my mum, and asked her then if I could start playing violin but no one would take me on until I was a little older!

Why did you decide to go to music college? Is your degree important in your career?
I decided to go to music college rather than uni because I want to be a performer, and I truly believe there is nothing more valuable than being in an environment where everyone wants to achieve the same thing and is at such a high standard. There are so many opportunities at music college to play in different orchestras and ensembles, as well as one-to-one tutoring with some of the world’s greatest players. You are surrounded by musicians more talented than you which obviously pushes you to do better. Another hugely important thing is the contacts you make during your time at music college. The world of music is so small and you will inevitably meet and play with people again. Most of the work I get now is because of recommendations and contacts. I always think ‘you can be the best player in the world, but if you don't know anyone that wants to hire you then you still won't be working’. At music college there is more time to dedicate to solo practice, improving your technique, musicality and developing skills that make you able to play in different scenarios such as orchestras, chamber music, session work and musicals. I chose to study at the Royal Northern because of their pop course, and I knew that we, on the classical course, would have the chance to collaborate with those students. This would improve my session skills, essential to life post-musical college as a freelance musician. I am most happy when playing musicals and doing sessions in studios with more modern music. Its just more my style and personality!

What's been instrumental (excuse the pun) in helping you become a freelance musician? 
The key thing is practice. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a professional musician and that is true. However, the hard thing about this career is that you're never done: you’ve never learnt everything there is to learn, you can't be ‘perfect’. So, even after uni and into the professional world, where people think ‘surely you can play the violin now you don't need to practice any more’, we still have to dedicate the time to learning new music and keeping up our skills so that they don't slip in standard. Juggling a career in music: travelling to gigs, playing, staying away from home a lot, and actually coming back to your roots and practising the basics to keep yourself fresh and your standards high, is what I've found most difficult so far in my professional career. Teachers and tutors have been hugely important to me. I had the same teacher from 6-15 years old and, after that, I've been lucky enough to work with some world renowned players who they have inspired me and improved my playing no end. My favourite quote of a recent teacher, after I had a little panic because she said I should learn a concerto that I've always avoided because of its difficulty is this: ‘you have the ability and talent to play this piece, the only person stopping you is you’, and she was right. We have to be so self motivated as musicians to sit in a room on our own for 4-6 hours a day, practising the same things, slowly and methodically until there is no chance we can get them wrong.

As I've already said, contacts are a big part of getting work as a musician. A lot of jobs don't audition - West End pit bands for instance - it's mostly just who you know and who thinks you're a good player. Of course the big orchestras audition, and that's where experience and practice come in, but in the world I’m circling at the moment, it is a lot about contacts. My mum always says ‘you’re only as good as your last gig’ and I think about that every time I play. There's always the potential that someone is there watching you, considering hiring you, so you have to be on top of your game all the time, both musically and socially. Finally, my biggest influence has been my family. Whilst none of them are pro musicians, they have always understood the job and supported me but never pushed me. It was always going to be my decision if I wanted to be a musician and still my mum says that if I ever felt I wanted to change career that she wouldn't be disappointed or upset because I've spent all this time learning a skill and enjoying it and that’s all she wants for me. The greatest thing they've given me is self belief. There has not been a minute where their belief in my ability has faltered, even when I've doubted my own talents. I definitely wouldn't be where I am today without their support and never-ending positivity.

What's a day in the life of a musician like? 
It depends on whether you are freelance or contract, but for me it is very varied and that's what I love about being freelance. This week I have two days to practice at the beginning of the week; I'll be home, sticking to a practice schedule and working on the repertoire for the gigs later in the week. Weds, Thurs and Fri I'm playing in London with The Little Orchestra, a freelance orchestra who perform classical concerts in quirky London venues in a very relaxed style with sofas, drinks and food. It’s a really nice way for people to enjoy classical music without the sometimes off-putting pomposity of a full on classical concert. It’s a very small group and a short concert of about 80mins ( We will be rehearsing for that during the day for 6 hours  and then we have two concerts over two evenings. On Saturday I'm headed to Manchester. I’ll be up early and then in Manchester for a sound check at 5. I'm playing a big party with a function band called UTC; I also do a lot of weddings for them, as well as a Jewish party band called AURA. So that will be 11pm-2.30am Saturday into Sunday and then home on Sunday to spend my birthday afternoon at home! The week after that I'm headed to Liverpool to extra with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra so it's all go, pretty full on but I wouldn't have it any other way!

What advice would you give to anyone trying to break into the creative industries? 
My best advice and, by that, I mean the most important advice I have is to not be scared of doing anything. Creative industries have an awful stigma that it is impossible to earn money solely from arts alone, and this is just a massive misconception. I've been out of music college for a year and have been living solely off what I make through playing music. If you want the work, have the ability to play the music and put in the time and effort to find it, you will get hired. Never be scared to try, I didn't think I'd get into music college but I did, and it's completely changed my playing and given me the chance to try and make it in this industry. If you don't achieve the first time, which we often don't in auditions and so on, then brush it off, practice harder and come back better. Have a thick skin, don't let other people's perceptions of this career put you off giving it a go. I still have this conversation probably on a weekly basis with someone:
So Corey what do you do?
I'm a musician, I play the violin
Oh amazing, that's so interesting…..and what do you do for your real job?
It will never fail to amaze me at how many people think it's impossible to earn a living from music. 

My second piece of advice is to chase the work. Get into people's heads, if they think ‘I need a violinist’ you need to be the name they pull from the back of their mind. Write to them, ask to come and watch them play, ask if you can sit in the orchestra pits, let them know you’re there and willing to play. I’ve done a lot of this especially as I studied in Manchester and I've had to move most of my work southwards to London and no one has the foggiest clue who I am amongst the sea of other talented young players! Its starting to pay off though and I'm getting work by word of mouth in London and I can honestly say it's such a great feeling when you can actually see things moving forward and coming together! My last piece of advice is to take every opportunity. When you're starting out, you really have to just say yes; nothing is below you. You'll get a lot of people asking you to work for free for the experience and I know this doesn't just apply to musicians. My advice is to use your judgement and decipher whether they're spinning you a lie to get free players or whether it really is worth it for you. Earlier this year I did a run of a new production for free as a favour to a friend but also because I knew that I would meet a lot of contacts in London, and that I would enjoy playing and get some good exposure. Sure enough I've had paid work off the back of that show! There will come a time when you're getting asked to do a lot of work and you will perhaps have to start turning down the worst option and when that happens it's fantastic! But before then you really need to expose yourself to as much as you can and as many people as you can because there's nothing more valuable than experience.  

What's your plan for the future? 
I'm hoping to go into the West End. It’s a tricky business to break into because there is so little funding for large orchestras in the pit. As a result, there is usually only one violin on a show - so not very many jobs. I hope to break into it by depping first, sitting in for the contracted player if they are away, and then hopefully at some point I will secure my own show. In the meantime, I want to audition as an extra for some of the London orchestras, as Liverpool is quite far away! At the moment I'm not keen on being full time in an orchestra as I enjoy the variety of the freelance lifestyle. I'm also part of the newly formed London Musical Theatre Orchestra an amazing new orchestra created by my friend Freddie Tapner, which specialises in musical theatre performances. Our first professional concert is State Fair at Cadogan Hall on November 6th, it is an orchestra full of West End pros so promises to be an amazing evening! Check out for more info. So I'm hoping that this orchestra will take off and that I might be involved for a long time to come!

Corey, the music graduate.
Professional Musician.

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Graduate

You've finished university. You're no longer a student. You're a graduate, an adult. What are you going to do next?

I embarked on my university journey a fresh-faced teenager, excited for another three years of learning - hardcore learning - and expected to graduate knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and what the next step was. Today I graduate, tomorrow I get the keys for my first grown up flat with my grown up boyfriend, and in three weeks I start my first proper job. A job where I have to turn up every day, and wear a suit, and start paying back my student loan. It sounds kind of like I've got it all sorted which, in some ways, I have; but it doesn't feel like it, because I still don't really know what it is that I want - now, or in the future. 

And therein lies the problem. University is too readily presented and perceived as a means to a job: the kind of job that wouldn't be obtainable without a degree, a dream job, a graduate job. But is that really true, and what does that really mean? Your university experience is your own, your degree is your own, and your ambitions are your own. You are a graduate, but that is not all you are. You went to university, maybe, to get a job; or maybe to study something you loved; or maybe to experience something and somewhere new; or maybe because it was a better alternative than actually getting a job. And, as much as we all like to pretend it does, it doesn't end there. 

Just because you are a graduate, that does not entitle you to the ideal job, or future prospects. You have a degree, but so does everyone else, and you have a 2:1, but you're not the only one. You've still got to go out and get it. The idea that it's virtually impossible for graduates to get 'graduate jobs' receives a huge amount of media attention, but it isn't necessarily true. For a start, what determines a graduate job? Secondly, what determines a graduate? Anyone with a degree in any discipline? Does that make us all qualified to go and jump on a banking grad scheme, or wander into TeachFirst? No. It's the realistic, rounded, resourceful, hard working, interested, well-connected and experienced graduates who are rising to the top, in whatever field they choose. The ones who have used their own initiative, spent their time at university getting work experience (whether it's relevant to your potential job or not), volunteering, travelling, being involved in societies and clubs and teams are the ones that are going places. Simply being a graduate is not always enough; but being a sensible and determined one, often is. 

So who says that being a graduate is just about getting a job? I, for one, had ambitious gap year plans, beginning with a post-exam month in South Africa. However, different and exciting opportunities presented themselves, and gap years require finances that I don't have, and things are taking a different course. However, if travel is right for you, and it's what you're passionate about and desperately want to do post-uni, then go and do it. If you're not ready to leave academia yet, and if being a graduate would only be improved by being a postgraduate, then go and do it. If you need a bit of me time, to chill, to think, to recuperate, to explore different avenues, and work out what you're doing and where you're going, take it. When I finished university, one of my lecturers told us all to take at least three months off, to sleep, to have time to ourselves, and to go and do something that didn't involve the library. It was excellent advice, temporarily removing the guilt and fear of post-exam freedom, and justifying the free time we all needed and deserved. 

When I look around me, at all the successful, interesting graduates I know, doing their things and rocking them, I realise how powerful and diverse and nondescript the graduate experience is. Some of us have known what they want to do since they were ten, and have spent years developing the means, the contacts, and the skills to achieve it. Some have worked it out along the way, discovering new ideas, paths and ways of life. Some are making it up as they go along, seeing what's happening and where it's going, and making decisions based on what feels right to them. Everyone's path is different, and I'm excited to introduce to you a variety of lovely, talented and ambitious graduates, all doing their own post-university thing, in their own way, and owning it. 

The Graduate blog series will see interviews with a range of graduates, talking about what they're up to and why; how they got there; and some words of advice. Not all graduates are the same, and being a graduate isn't always easy - but I hope you can take some inspiration from real life grads, telling it how it is, and demolishing the media myths. 

image source: Huffington Post 
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