When I graduated I found work as a receptionist in a small tech subsidiary of a big financial data
provider. Five and half years and several restructurings later, with no more training than I picked up as I went along, an economics A Level and the clear-thinking
and excellent communication skills I'd picked up at Essex, I was promoted to Director of Operations, Principal in Europe. After helping organise (yet) another sale of the assets to
a new parent company I eventually made myself redundant two years later to pursue other dreams.
I'm now the Director of my own company, specialising in one-off, bespoke media projects, ranging from photography to film-making, copywriting and film-finance. Our aim is to pursue
projects we like for their value as measured not simply in money terms but primarily for their artistic value. Three years in and we're nearing break-even and have gradually built a
portfolio of work.
How have you used your degree in your career?
Every time I open my mouth to speak, use my mind actively or imaginatively, every time I engage in a debate or make a judgement, I use my degree. Thankfully my degree gave me skills
I treasure way beyond functional facts – every pitch for business, film-script, job application or music video I work on is a story, and art history is the most wonderful way to dive
into the actual contents of thousands of years of stories that humanity has told itself about itself. The skills of discernment, judgement, distinguishing one argument from another,
imagination, creation and discovering connections in otherwise diverse subjects, these are the stuff of everyday life for me – thank heavens I didn't do a business degree!
In fact, I even usefully referred to Aristotle's Poetics in a pitch meeting just the other day, a core text I remember from the first year!
What do find most interesting and rewarding about what you do now?
I get to choose what I do and when, which is lucky as I can exhaust an idea quickly and need to move to another. I love that I can create what I want to see in an image. Last month I
set up a shoot to recreate a Caravaggio photographically and in so doing not only make a lovely picture, but also understand what he was doing with lighting and drama – both essential
in the picture-making business. I enjoy the fact I know only a few people who would call that 'work'...
What tips would you give to new students on getting the most out of University?
Worry less about money and more about what you're swapping it for. Money is fuel to burn in exchange for priceless memories, for friendships you make that last your whole life
and if you're doing the right course, for the highest privilege of all – to read the words and consider the creations of the best of humanity and spend time in the company of experts
to help light them for you.
I feel sorry for my friends who chose a law degree, or some other subjects they thought would be good 'job-training' – I seem to be one of the few people I know who loved their
degree and had it inspire me to further discovery, rather than so many who had their love crushed under a mountain of banality. Follow what your heart says in the business of
love, and then study what you love – it's the only way to flourish as a human.
What tips would you give to recent graduates who are looking for work?
Whatever job you go for, and if you don't know what you want to do (I had no idea!) then just go for anything that interests you even marginally – and anything else too, as we all
like surprises! Prepare thoughtfully. Do your homework. Turn up early.
If you say you're going to do something, do it and try to find anything about it – no matter how small - to enjoy or to dignify it: it will then make it easier to be enthusiastic
about it. By doing these few things you will instantly distinguish yourself ahead of the less fortunate ones that fill every part of working life, the ones I hear complaining
about their work instead of figuring out how to make things better.
If you go on to get in the habit of being the first to step forward for extra responsibility, of considering the goals of others before speaking or negotiating, and then helping
them achieve that goal instead of (or even better, as well as) your own, you'll be promoted in no time. Once that happens you can start paying off that pesky loan you took out,
and you'll have the rest of your life to relish the best memories and friendships your life could have given you.
My final thoughts? Be brave and the world will make room for you, especially if you work with the best, most positive people you can find (and if you can work out how to encourage
people to be better and more positive, you're made for life).