Features Muse

Where are they now?: Talking Careers with Nouse Alumni

Elizabeth Walsh talks to past editors of Nouse about their careers, experience of work and advice for current third years

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Image Credit: Magnetme

As the start of a new academic year approaches, so too does the dread surrounding the end of university for third years and what the end really means in terms of next steps. Some people may have it all figured out, having known exactly what they wanted to do their whole lives. As someone who doesn't fall into this camp I can confirm the jealousy is real. I’ve always known what I enjoy doing, but haven't ever had a specific career path in mind. Having said this, one thing I’ve found to spark inspiration recently is talking to others about their career journey and the steps they took to get where they are. With this in mind, I thought who better to speak to about their careers so far than a handful of Nouse’s very own alumni who’ve graduated in the last few years.

They’ve been in our position quite literally as York students and so former Editor Joseph Silke, Muse Editor Andrew Young, Deputy Muse Editor Saskia Starrit, and News Editor Niamh Carroll were the ideal people to ask. Having studied a range of degree subjects from English Literature to Politics they’re well equipped to provide unique perspectives relevant to a range of students. Joseph currently works as a Communications Manager for the Think Tank Bright Blue in London and Saskia is an Account Manager for a PR firm in Manchester. More directly related to  journalism and media is Niamh’s role as a reporter and Andrew’s current role is an Editorial one based within a card making magazine.

The first thing I was interested to know when speaking to them was whether their current role was one they imagined themselves in while studying. Niamh said no as although she works as a journalist, something she always thought about, she now works for a trade publication that reports on the media and advertising industries. This wasn’t something she was even really aware of while at uni. She went on to explain that being a journalist always felt like a ‘pipe’ dream with big companies like the BBC seeming hugely competitive. Niamh told me that ‘I still get a bit of a buzz when I see my work email signature that says “reporter”’ even though it's not a role she imagined being in at uni.’

Saskia explained that when she first started university she wanted to be a Historian but this soon changed. Having known that she wanted a role that involved writing or within the media, Saskia realised by third year that she didn’t want to be a journalist and so looked more into communications and public relations. This led to her current job as an Account Manager working for consumer brands. Talking more about how this measures up to what she imagined, Saskia added: ‘It’s definitely on the right path to my eventual goal of working within the charity sector, however I didn’t imagine my job would involve working with such a range of brands or going on somewhat scary pitches!’

Delving further into the present, I asked whether the alumni’s careers up to this point have unfolded how they expected. Joseph explained that although it's still early on, like many people he didn't expect a pandemic and that has without doubt affected things. However, looking at the positives he said ‘ The pandemic has completely transformed the policy landscape, but major crises often result in a greater demand for new ideas, which has made it a fascinating time to get involved.’ In a similar vein, Andrew explained how the pandemic impacted his travel plans meaning he worked within hospitality for longer than anticipated. He also had the opportunity to teach for a while before landing his ideal role in the magazine industry, something he said he ‘enjoys immensely.’

Explaining more about this role, he described what a typical day looks like. Andrew currently works at AceVille publications on a title called Papercrafter. One thing he especially likes about the job is working within a small team that is involved with much of the magazine production process. Andrew explained that ‘every four weeks we have a press week, much like at Nouse. In these weeks there's a lot of sub-editing and checking.’ On a more daily basis his role is varied and can involve writing copy for magazines, editing the instructions of designers, scheduling social media posts and emailing brand publicists and book publishers to secure content and images for giveaways and book pages.

Working within another creative industry, Niamh also told me more about the day-to-day tasks involved in reporting. As in many jobs, she starts off by going through emails. As part of her job, she speaks to people in America and so this often involves checking emails sent throughout the night. Mornings will often consist of a meeting with the Editor to discuss the day's content followed by finishing off stories or covering news. Afternoons can involve internal team meetings, interviews for articles and looking at the latest news for ideas.

In terms of the advice she would give to current third years, Niamh said ‘ I would advise third years not to do what I did, which was essentially ignore the idea of uni ending because it was too scary,’ adding that we shouldn’t see post-uni as some kind of scary abyss. She then said when applying for roles don’t be afraid to take risks. When looking for roles ‘don’t decide you're not qualified enough because you don’t meet all the criteria.’ Joseph had some equally good advice, explaining: ‘Take every opportunity you can to network and get experience, as even the smallest advantage could be what helps you get a foot in the door of the career you want.’ He also talked about not getting disheartened if things take longer than you expect and how you shouldn't compare yourself to others around you. Everyone’s journeys can look different.

With the journey into the world of work comes the inevitable transition from university life. I was curious to know how they found this jump. Saskia explained that her involvement in Nouse and Nightline best prepared her for the transition: ‘I was part of Nouse’s senior team in my final year, doing solid 12 hour shifts during prod week while also studying. It taught me how to multitask, focus under pressure, meet deadlines and work with different people- which are all crucial parts of my job.’ She feels these skills helped her stand out to her employer. Andrew agreed that his time in Nouse massively prepared him for work, noting that: ‘The experience of working with Adobe products, working in a team and tirelessly reading copy are all things I learnt at Nouse, and all things I do in my job today.’

Expanding more upon how she found the transition to work, Saskia admitted that it is difficult: ‘gone are the days of nights out until 3am on a Tuesday or a day in bed, just because I want one. Nouse definitely set me up for what a 9-5 job and collaborative working environment could look like, but it’s very strange to have an ‘adult’ job, even 2 years into it.’ However, there are also huge benefits including rewarding work that can provide instant gratification where a degree couldn’t.’

A key theme that has emerged is the importance of extra curricular activities as they can put you in good stead to stand out to employers. Some of the skills gained in societies can even come in handy in the workplace as Joseph found. When describing the best aspects of his current role he said that he’s enjoyed being involved in finding solutions to the most pressing problems in society. Additionally, he has really valued the creative side. ‘There have been lots of opportunities to be creative, whether it’s writing articles or doing design work, all of which have been great for using the skills that I learned while in Nouse.’

Hindsight is a wonderful thing we can all benefit from, and so I finished by asking whether the alumni would have done anything differently if they could go back. Andrew said that although he doesn't regret much, if he could he would have branched out more while at Nouse by writing for main paper as well  as he believes this would have put him in the running for more jobs post-university. Saskia talked about how she felt she didn’t have enough time to prepare for her career and apply to grad schemes while at university , which she found to be a scary prospect. When she did find a few months to look for jobs, she regretted not having had a head start. However, she noted that it ‘all worked out with time and I am now grateful that I prioritised my extra-curricular activities as this has been of immeasurable importance to building my confidence and preparing my skill set for work.’ The key seems to be thinking ahead but also not underestimating the importance of extra curricular activities alongside your degree.

Whether you have it all figured out, in which case you’re doing well, or not so much, there is no right or wrong way to approach your career. While beginning to plan ahead is always good, it naturally takes some people longer than others and even if you don’t land your dream role straight out of university there is always time to get there. With enough self determination and drive there's not much you can’t achieve when you put your mind to it.

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