Hello and welcome to Episode 8 of #LittleChats, a subsidiary of Little Pav where I chat with fellow graduates and twenty-somethings all about their experiences during and beyond their studies to highlight the many avenues students and young people can pursue and, equally, that it’s okay to not have your life figured out in your twenties! Hereafter, I chat with the lovely Jess, a 23-year-old BSc Psychology graduate from the University of Sheffield and MA Arts Policy and Management student at Birkbeck University of London! Alongside her studies, Jess works in a management and social media role in hospitality and has recently launched her own platform called Creative Graduate which we’ll come to a little later. If Jess isn’t studying or working, she’s probably singing – often without realising – either Lady Gaga or a spontaneous singsong about her workday; she believes being on furlough has been a welcome break for her colleagues (though I’m sure that’s not true)! With that, let’s hear about Jess’ experiences as a student, graduate and twenty-something…
Hey, Jess! Thank you so much for chatting with me; I can’t wait to hear about your journey as a student and graduate. Firstly, what did you study at bachelor’s level and why?
Thank you for having me! I studied Psychology BSc at the University of Sheffield and graduated in 2018. I always found Psychology really interesting and, after I decided not to pursue drama and theatre post-A level, it seemed my next obvious option. I actually wasn’t supposed to go to Sheffield – I just missed out on my offer at the University of Birmingham, and I decided against my insurance choice of Chester. I then essentially chose Sheffield at random, which was probably the best spur-of-the-moment decision I ever made! I can’t imagine my life without the fantastic experiences I had there and the friends I made.
You’re now studying for a master’s degree in quite a different subject, right? Why did you decide to pursue postgraduate study?
My master’s definitely seems worlds away from my undergraduate degree, but Psychology actually offered me a lot of transferable skills which have come in really useful, so I don’t regret it. I knew I didn’t want to pursue a career in Psychology by the end of my second year; my plan was to leave uni and get a job in theatre, another arts industry or a charity organisation. This was very much easier said than done, and I was continually told I didn’t have enough experience even though I was positive I could do the job well! My lack of formal experience (in similar roles) was really holding me back, and the highly competitive nature of these jobs meant my transferable skills just weren’t enough for them. Despite this, after a year of searching, I finally secured a salaried job in a London events agency but, just before I was due to start, the pandemic hit. I lost the job offer and was placed on furlough from my hospitality job. At this point, I felt hopeless about my future, as well as the future of the arts industry. After a lot of reflection during the first lockdown, I did some research into postgraduate study and found the Arts Policy and Management course at Birkbeck University of London which has the option of placement within the course, which really solidified my decision. I thought that going back to study and incorporating a placement would put me in great stead to get a role in the industry when it recovers. I can safely say I made a great decision; I’m really enjoying the course and the people I’ve met through it!
That’s great to hear!
You mentioned the pandemic which you’ve also been studying for your master’s during. What’s the biggest challenge this has raised for you as a student, and do you think it’ll pose further challenges for you as a graduate?
Remote study has been full of a lot of ups and downs. I can’t fault Birkbeck’s handling of the situation and being on furlough has given me luxurious amounts of time to complete my work which has been lovely. However, the course is very discussion-based, and it can definitely get wearing when you spend half a session checking that everyone can see or hear each other. I do feel lucky that I’m not someone who’s paying for accommodation that I can’t use, but I would have liked to access some more resources that I’m paying my fees for. I also feel like I’m missing out on the experience; I’ve never even been to my university, which feels strange to say. I’m looking forward to hopefully having some in-person teaching next year, and to being able to visit the library! The biggest challenge I think has been motivation; I was always someone who chose to work in a cafe or library because I struggle to focus at home, but I’ve gotten more used to it and try to motivate myself as much as I can – taking lots of short breaks is key! As a graduate, I’m really concerned about the arts and cultural industries because they’ve been largely neglected by the government since the start of the pandemic, and lack of funding is a historic problem for this sector. I know there will be a lot of people who have been unable to work in these industries so this, in combination with the lack of funding, is likely to create a surplus of candidates for every role. Therefore, I think it’s really important that people support the arts and cultural industries as much as they can when things can reopen and continue to pressure the government to recognise that these industries are a backbone of UK society.
As a theatre fanatic, I couldn’t agree more!
You recently embarked on a new adventure by launching your own platform called Creative Graduate! Tell us about Creative Graduate and how it came to be.
Creative Graduate in its current form started in January 2021, but I had the idea for the account over a year ago; it was just something I’d never gotten started with. I’ve always been a fan of student and graduate blogs and accounts such as Gals Who Graduate and Pretty Little Marketer and knew that I was really keen to share my own advice and experiences. My thinking behind the account was that I hadn’t seen many targeted at people in the creative industries and I thought, during this time in particular, it could be a really good thing to have a support network. Creative Graduate provides advice, tips, weekly Q&As with creative grads, blog posts and a job board for roles in the industry. The community has grown to over 700 followers on Instagram in just over a month which has blown me away! I’m very grateful to have everyone’s support and very pleased that CG is helping people. It’s something I’m really proud of and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the future; I already have some plans and ideas in the pipeline.
You should be proud!
Finally, if you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?
To my first-year self: stop comparing yourself to other people and do what makes you happy. All experience helps carve your future, and all of this experience is useful in one way or another. (Oh, and do some more work!)
Absolutely! Thank you for your time, Jess, and good luck with everything!
What a great chat! From Jess, we can learn several lessons: firstly, that – no matter the subject – your degree offers an array of skills that are invaluable to any industry; also, that the arts and cultural industries are integral to society (everyone loves to go to the cinema, the theatre or a concert outside of lockdown!); and last but not least, that hard work and perseverance pays off! For graduates, the job hunt is not only testing but also extremely competitive – especially in the current climate – so, like Jess, why not consider postgraduate study or create your own platform based on your niche to enhance your experience? Nevertheless, remember that you are not alone; as Jess mentions, the Gals Who Graduate, Pretty Little Marketer and now Creative Graduate platforms are great for us students, graduates and twentysomethings for advice, resources and even just to find others to talk to in similar situations. You can find Jess on Instagram @creativegraduate!
Did you enjoy Jess’ story? Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from fellow graduates and twenty-somethings like Jess on #LittleChats!