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Those of you that have read my last blog post will already know of the invested interest I have in the education of SEO. This is one of the many reasons why, when I heard about the New Year, New Challenges event held every year at Solent University, I jumped at the chance to get involved with it.
I say ‘heard about it’; I’d actually had the pleasure of attending the show from the other side of the mirror as a student last year. As inspirational as it was informative, the three days collected together some of the brightest talent from a range of media-based industries to talk about the highs and lows of getting a career after university. From talks on breaking into the market and personal development to CV workshops, there was obviously loads of information and advice on offer.
The segment I participated in was a chance for the students to pose questions to some successful Solent Alumni, and it took place on the last day of the event. Although I knew the past two days would be a tough act to follow, I was excited to get my chance at igniting a fire under the wings of a fresh batch of young minds.
Coming in on a blustery Friday afternoon, it was great to be greeted by a familiar setting and familiar faces. A lunch spread was generously laid out for us, and the returning Alumni set about getting to know one another and catching up with old lecturers. The event was hosted (and I assume organised) by Caroline Barfoot, a Senior Lecturer at Solent, and whilst I was the only one attending from my year of my course, most of the other alumni were all from previous years of the Advertising course. Six of us in total, it seems the course had opened up a different path for each of us, as we had all pursued very different careers, from overseeing recruitment to creative design.
The event took place in Solent Conference Centre, in a well-equipped lecture theatre with roughly 40 students in attendance. As the Alumni took their places on stage in front everyone, it suddenly dawned on me that I was soon going to actually have to say something, on stage, to the mass off people in front of me. I certainly don’t envy those who do it regularly, although I must say once everyone I got settled in, those ‘pre-show’ jitters gladly floated away and the Q&A became much more like a group discussion on the do’s and don’ts of finding a job.
After obligatory introductions were out of the way and Caroline had proposed some ice-breaking warm up questions (Q: what are the major differences from Uni to work? A:The stresses of actual deadlines), the students started getting properly involved and many were curious to discover what skill they should know coming out of university, and what skills had stuck with us since we left. Creative and lateral thinking really took the award on this one, as nearly all the Alumni and I agreed that learning creative problem solving techniques early on had helped as much in finding and gaining a job, as it had in completing tasks every day at work. I especially use the techniques learnt to generate new ideas and to develop content strategies.
A few interesting questions of note included, but really were not limited to, “what are the highlights of the business you work for?” (I get paid to attend events like this one, I get to write about exciting and interesting topics every day and I’m constantly learning new skills) and “what happens if you make a mistake?” (Everyone does it once, just learn from it and never do it again).
Eventually we got onto the ever popular topic of social media, as many were worried about the content within their profiles. This quickly turned into a discussion on making your Facebook profile private and completing your LinkedIn profile properly. Despite many students having LinkedIn profiles, most admitted to not really knowing how or why they use it and what exactly they can use it for. We then discussed the importance of using your online accounts professionally, whilst still coming across with personality, as the students were unsure whether to use their twitter handle when contacting potential employers.
After the Q&A we got a chance to network over coffee and biscuits and I got the chance to talk to some students one-to-one. Conversation varied from the insane difficulty of getting on graduate schemes to the use of publicity stunts to get jobs, and from developing your skillset to the importance of getting experience (however you can) at University.
One point I really tried to drive home is that you learn so many skills whilst at University, so don’t be afraid to apply those to your job hunting process. If you’re a graphic designer then create a beautifully designed job application, if you’re in advertising, then don’t be sheepish about it, advertise yourself and let possible employers know why they should have you. Relevance was one of the key themes I drew from this (as I hope the students did as well), in that if you want to make yourself known then it’s so important to make yourself relevant, and if what you say and do is relevant, share it with others.
All in all I had a fantastic day, and would highly recommended students to attend and Alumni to come back and answer a few questions next year.
Image Rights: Caroline Barfoot, Solent University