Published: 1 April 2015

Careers Cabaret: “It’s a competitive world”

School of the Arts student, Lauren Whittingham, reports on from the 2015 Careers Cabaret:

If you are a third year English student and you find yourself terrified by the prospect of graduation or if you know what you want post-university, and either haven’t a clue how to get there or want a bit more information on your chosen path, then the English Careers Cabaret is an important event to have in your calendar.

There was a general consensus among the many English-graduate professionals who spoke at the 2015 cabaret event – work experience is key! No longer are the days when getting a degree meant instant job success; now we are dealing with a completely new and competitive job market.

Applicants educated to degree level have increased and more secondary and further education institutions are encouraging young people to seek employment or apprenticeships. This means that employers are looking for that little bit extra; that ‘something’ that makes a candidate with a degree stand out amongst 300 other candidates who have applied for the same job, with exactly the same degree.

This was the case for all of the speakers at the English Careers Cabaret, who volunteered or took on an internship as students. The situation is not about to change, Jonathan Branney, Digital Publishing Executive for Liverpool University Press, says: “It’s all about demonstrating that you have an interest in the area of work and that you are committed enough to work without pay, or with little pay, for a while.”

One of the headline speakers of the Cabaret was Laura Barton, top author and former reporter for The Guardian newspaper. One of the main reasons she got into her prestigious career was not the student journalism prizes she won in Oxford, but the invaluable experience she gained volunteering for papers and magazines.

She went on to explain to students that you have to demonstrate your passion for the organisation you are applying to: “If you get a placement, it’s important to make yourself memorable for the right reasons,” she said. “Be really hard working and humble and they will remember you well.”

However, Laura did also point out that women in particular have to push harder for the top jobs in journalism: “You really do still have to ‘fight your corner’ as a woman in journalism; it is too easy to be pushed into the stereotypical role of female columnist.”

The event also featured Anthony Harwood, a literary agent, who posed the question: “what does a literary agent do in a 21st century world where there is the internet?” The answer, he says: “It looks different but it’s still the same – selling books, asking and answering the question ‘how do you sell books?'”

His career, as he says, is being hired by an author, being completely on that authors’ side and working as that authors’ careers advisor and editor, as well as helping them solve problems with their work.

“I can’t imagine anything more fun than being a publisher. The joy of my job is reading something which blows me away, sending it to the publishers and having them reply ‘wow, that’s really amazing,'” says Anthony.

Other speaker highlights at the event were Brand Ambassadors for Teach First; Digital Marketing Apprentice for Google, Liam Marshall, BPP University representative, Lorna Mitchell, and lecturer in English, Dr Matthew Bradley, who spoke about postgraduate opportunities and jobs in academia, alongside PhD student, Madeline Smart.

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