My career has certainly been atypical. I graduated from a PhD at Warwick University in 2000, and, although my degree set me on a course towards teaching, I ended up joining a national newspaper as a journalist instead.
Journalism was a great job to have in my 20s – I started at the bottom as a casual writer, was eventually taken on formally as a staff writer, then worked my way up through the ranks to Deputy Arts Editor and then Editor. This was a classic “foot in the door” situation; I stayed for ten years altogether and learnt a huge amount about every aspect of the business, from writing and editing to managing budgets and staff. It was a great company to work for and I was lucky to have the scope to advance my career without having to move. Although it was a national newspaper I was able to work out of the Birmingham office, close to home, and enjoy the life of the city as part of my job.
That all changed in 2009. By around the middle of 2008, it was clear that journalism was undergoing huge changes, which were partly due to the impact of digital technologies on the industry, but also the result of steadily falling advertising revenue. The newspaper I worked on announced around 30 redundancies across the regional arm of its operation and my job was amongst them.
It took me a while to work out which direction to take next. I freelanced for a while, working as an arts editor for a newspaper that ultimately folded (I learnt some important lessons learnt about being tough over missed payments!) I realised that I didn’t like freelancing and preferred working in an office with structured hours. I also missed academia. I began to think that I could use the combination of my degree and my journalism experience in a Higher Education context. Not long afterwards I got a job at my own university, Warwick, working on an online publication called Knowledge Centre, aimed at alumni.
A few years down the line I decided to move close to home and got a job in Digital Marketing at Aston. This allowed me to build up a set of technical skills to compliment my print skills. From there I moved into alumni communications, where I work today. My current role (Alumni Communications Officer) draws on both my digital experience at Warwick and Aston (managing social media and web pages) but also uses my print journalism experience (editing our alumni magazine, Aston in Touch).
Here are some of the things I have learnt along the way:
- You might not get your dream job right away, but get a foot in the door and see if you like the industry first
- People don’t tend to do one job for life but have ‘portfolio’ careers where they will re-invent themselves many times over – stay open to different types of work experience which will help you to be flexible on the job market
- A degree gives you so much more than just narrow experience to enable you to do a pre-determined job. Don’t feel you have to go down a certain path because of your degree, but think broadly in terms of transferable skills and what you enjoy doing
- Do everything you can to build up a resilient attitude; there will be disappointments along the way but don’t let people dent your confidence or persuade you to give up on your goals.
Dr Annette Rubery