Hi everyone! It's really nice to be back and to be able to share what I've been up to since graduation. This blog will concentrate on my new working life and how Kingston helped get me there. Hope it's useful and interesting...
First here's a little background information: I have just started a 'Higher Education Graduate Trainee' scheme called Ambitious Futures - so yes my job title is very long! This involves me carrying out three five month placements in two institutions. My first placement is back where it all began- Kingston! At the moment, I'm working on a number of different projects for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Penrhyn Road. It's all very exciting and new and I am learning a lot about what goes on behind the scenes at a university - trust me, it's more than you think! It's also really lovely to be back here as I loved uni and Kingston itself. The familiar environment was definitely helpful those first couple of weeks when I was settling in.
So how did Kingston help me get my graduate job I hear you ask?
Summer Boot camp session
After I finished my exams in May, I attended a summer graduate 'boot camp'. This was a one day course that covered everything you need to perfect for the graduate job market: CVs, cover letters & interview skills. I also had the chance to practise what I had learnt in mock interviews and presentations. The feedback I got was both encouraging and really useful for when it came to the real thing. It was actually a really fun day too and I got to meet new people who were in the same position as me. It was great to be able to share stories (and horror stories) about the graduate job search so far- highly recommend!
CV and LinkedIn workshops
There were always regular workshops at Kingston Hill for CVs and cover letters. I used the service a quite a few times to check the layout and grammar of my CV. The tips I got were only minor, but in today's competitive market, this could make all the difference.
KU Law Society
Having the chance to be a committee member of a society really improved my 'soft skills' of team work, effective communication, problem solving and planning. Above all it was a lot of fun and really made me feel part of the Law School and University community.
Last but not least is the amazing Ambassador Scheme! It was actually one of my previous managers that suggested I apply for my current job. She also really helped me with my application- for which I will be eternally grateful :) The scheme gave me the confidence to work and deal with a variety of people and improved my public speaking skills no end. In fact, the information I learnt throughout my time as an Ambassador still helps me now and I'm able to answer a lot of questions in my current job that I wouldn't have been able to without my previous experience.
To end, I'd like to say that although the job market is scary and extremely daunting there is help at hand. All you have to do is search for opportunities and make the most of the options given to you.
After my final Degree Show, and once my contract on my lovely house in Kingston had run out, I made the sad decision to come back to Lincolnshire. I remember the sunny day on which I left, driving through Richmond and watching people sitting and socialising on the grass. A tear in my eye, I felt so upset to leave the amazing time that I had at Kingston, not to mention the wonderful people I lived with; friends for life.
Ok, so I'm sounding rather fragile right about now... but in all seriousness, I moved back home with the hope of it being a temporary placement- all the time wanting to be back in London! Obviously being a poor ex-student, I decided that being at home for the time being would allow me to save, and also I could work as a lifeguard and swimming teacher whilst applying for work back in London. I didn't want to stay in London and get even poorer without a promise of employment (granted there are pros and cons to either choice).
In my head it all seemed rather simple. Move back home over summer, work at the pool, save, apply for jobs, get a job and move back to London in September or early October. But it really wasn't that simple! I'm not going to lie, it is hard in terms of jobs out there (especially in the arts), in that they ARE out there; it's just EVERYONE is applying to them, as well as you! Without wanting to sound too egotistical, I'd class myself as someone who has always been very hard working, having many interests and undertaking many pursuits, all of which have helped to build up my job prospects.
I must say though, I think my time as a Student Ambassador particularly helped in my applications. For example, it offered me countless examples of when I had communicated with all different types of people, from disengaged school students to prospective university students and parents. It also enabled me to carry out marketing design work for the university, which left me with a small profile of published promotional material adhering to a live brief, as well as some knowledge of what it is like undertaking this kind of work. Having worked in the KUSA office quite regularly, my experience as a Student Ambassador also left me with the opportunity to evidence areas in which I had undertaken admin responsibilities, as well as previously acting as one of the student editors of the ‘ASK US' website.
Moreover, on my course I was always encouraged to go out, talk to people and seek experience and advice from fellow artists, curators and practitioners. In my second year I took it upon myself to undertake a voluntary internship at a gallery called ‘Standpoint Gallery', near Old Street. In order to do this I literally emailed a list of galleries and asked if there would be an opportunity to volunteer, setting up three interviews. All three galleries offered me a position, but in the end I went with Standpoint.
I felt it was a good idea to gain experience whilst still studying- complimenting my degree and the thoughts I was having. Furthermore, I thought it would be a good idea to do it whilst I had the opportunity of easily getting to a potential central London location, as well as having the benefit of a student loan and income via my Student Ambassador and swimming part time work.
This experience at the gallery allowed me to build up various relationships with artists, gallery directors and curators, as well as leading to occasional paid weekend work and research; whilst all the time actively learning about the ways various gallery spaces are run. (There are lots of different types- commercial and studio-led which I never would have known, had I not had the experience.)
The galleries I met with were impressed that I was interning whilst studying as I remember them saying that they had many people working and volunteering for them, who were often more qualified than them themselves- sometimes with an MA. I am really glad I chose to do it when I did and I truly believe that it was worthwhile, as it has opened up more opportunities for me, as well as enabling me to suss out what kind of gallery space I'd like to work in. (I know friends now who have graduated but have no work experience in the arts sector and are thus having to intern for free. It's a bit of a problem in the arts, but I won't go on for too long, otherwise I'll open up a whole can of worms!).
But yeah, I had various interviews- one at the Royal Academy, one at South London Gallery, one at Kingston, and finally one in my home of Lincolnshire. It got to November and I must admit, I really was feeling frustrated about things- I felt like I had regressed by working full-time at the pool (even though I needed the money) and I wanted everything to happen straight away, all at once, now! I wanted to be in London, like NOW! But then I went for this job in Lincolnshire as I really liked the sound of it; thinking I'd never get it as I didn't have enough experience- but then I did get it!
So now I've been in this job for 3 months, I have learnt so much and I love it! I am a Project Worker for a Paul Hamlyn funded project called ‘Lincolnshire One Venues Young People's Programme'. Our remit is to engage 12-25 year old into the arts and local arts venues as participants, audience members and decision makers. (www.lincolnshireonevenues.com- let's give it a plug!) Ten arts venues across Lincolnshire are involved in the project and I predominantly work with 5 of them. The venues are multi-disciplinary, specialising in theatre, music and visual arts. There are various ongoing groups of young people that meet at some of the venues weekly, putting on various events from Open Mics, to live gigs, to Arts Festivals incorporating various workshops, to exhibitions and visual arts events. Furthermore, the project commissions groups to produce new work.
For example, I recently worked with a group of artists called The Collaborators, who ran a series of art workshops by which we invited young people, who are supported by an organisation for young homeless people, to participate and create work. The work they produced was stimulated by words to their favourite song or book, or something similar, which was then broken down and summarised into two words. The group explored this using various techniques such as drawing, writing in sand, using glow sticks, photography, filming, stop frame animation and making music. The work then culminated into a film that was projected onto the side of a market building in the centre of Lincoln. Watch a clip here.
I really got a lot out of this particular commission as I saw its numbers in participants rise from just 1 to 6 by the end of day four and, as we were working with vulnerable people, this really was something to be pleased about. Furthermore, I felt that it married my interests in the potential for art and creativity; along with the experience I gained in working with lots of different people whilst as a Student Ambassador at Kingston. Granted, it's not London, and that is the one thing I am really missing- especially some of my best friends. But, I do say to myself, if I wanted to move, I could, and London will always be there- it's not going to magically disappear! For now, I feel like I have uncovered a fantastic opportunity that I'd be silly to miss out upon. I guess here, I am a big(gish) fish in a small pond and I am meeting people all the time who have had years of experience in the arts sector, who are all able to offer me various pieces of advice and opportunities.
Furthermore, I have also continued to volunteer at a gallery in Nottingham called the Bohunk Institute, when I can. This space has offered me lots of opportunity- I am even curating one of their shows in July! Furthermore, I am still practising (when I get a chance) as a Fine Artist and some Kingston graduate friends of mine (and me) are putting on a show at Bohunk in May! (http://www.bohunkinstitute.co.uk/mmntm another plug!)
Before I eventually move away again one day, I also really want to do a local community arts event. This will involve projecting old slides onto a derelict building in my local village- creating a local event by which we include people studying Lincolnshire dialect and other endeavours. The Collaborators artist group and my Manager are going to help me with the Heritage Lottery Funding bid I have to do, so everything is go, go, go at the moment!
So... who knows where I'll be in the future?! London's still in my bloodstream, and... did I mention that I want to live in Italy for a bit one day... haha! One step at a time...
Thanks, and keep doing what you love!
Well, what have I done since I graduated?
Let's see, I finished my undergraduate degree in Music in 2009. Since then, I spent two years running the Kingston University Students' Union and then I went off to perform at a number of venues around Europe. I've done Geneva, Prague, toured the south of Sardegna, where I met Tarak Ben Ammar (managed Michael Jackson's HIStory, still have his card!) and played in Le Louvre in Paris (to date one of my proudest moments!) Afterwards I went on to study for my Masters in Music Performance, which I graduated from in January of this year. I currently work at the university's International Office, and will be here until the end of July, when I plan to return to the music.
What I specifically love and continue to love about Kingston is that it develops you as a person. More than simply providing you with the academic knowledge, which is of course needed. Rather, in being employed as a Student Ambassador, I got to develop skills I already had and gained new ones. So speaking to people at open days from different walks of life and telling them about Kingston, adapting my communication methods when speaking to students or parents, assisted greatly when I moved to work on the board of governors at the University. Adapting communication methods when speaking to members of the board and then changing again when dealing with students in the library or the canteen and adapting yet again, when speaking to members of the wider Kingston community.
As an undergraduate at Kingston, I wanted to join a Gospel choir, the university didn't have one. So I was encouraged to create one, if that's what I wanted. In my second year, I created a Gospel choir, which I led for two years. I learnt so much about musicality and managing people from that experience alone. Part of my music degree was a module called ‘Arts Management' which was a module designed around what musicians will face in the real world, i.e we won't always make our money from performing, rather sometimes we will manage music events or artists. We organised and ran all of the lunch time concerts that were performed at the music school throughout the course of that academic year. That bit of real-world experience was invaluable.
It's strange to say that my degree was only a small part of what I got out of Kingston. Studying in an area like Kingston meant I had lots of venues to perform in. Doing this week in and week out in various venues in the area helped to improve my performance style and build my confidence. It's been a great training ground. I came here to find my feet as a solo performer. I've done exactly that, and then some. I've far surpassed what my main aims for university were. I came here to do two very clear and simple things:
- Improve as a singer
- Become a more confident performer.
- Improved dramatically as a singer
- Become a very confident performer. (And not just as a musician)
- Gained further experience in management (inc managing senior staff)
- Helped to run a company.
- Selected and interviewed candidates for senior posts.
- Sat on a board for the board for the Kingston race Equality Commission
The list goes on...
What comes next for me? I'm partially uncertain, but I honestly cannot wait! In more ways than one, I am indeed made In Kingston. And I am immensely proud.
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