Humanities graduate profiles

Our graduates go onto work in a wide variety of careers, sometimes related to their degree, and sometimes in quite unexpected fields. The following profiles tell the story of Humanities graduates at a variety of career stages, what they did after their degree, and how they got to where they are now.

Mark Brayley - Writer and teacher

BA Literature and Sociology, MA Creative Writing

Picture 
of Mark Brayley, University of Essex graduate, standing and reading from aloud.

Having graduated from Essex in 2001 with a 2.1 in Literature and Sociology, I went into teaching. I taught English full time at a comprehensive school in Essex (but only after taking a year to travel around Australia and South East Asia).

I find teaching really rewarding. It has its challenges but every day and every year is different and working with teenagers as they make realisations, and helping them develop a love of literature, makes it fulfilling.

Through my work as a teacher I became involved in training other teachers. This in turn led to me working for Anglia Ruskin University as an Associate Lecturer and Associate Tutor on the English PGCE. There are plenty of routes into teaching, including: SCITT, PGCE, and GTP. Places are more and more becoming competitive and if you want to go into teaching then I would suggest spending a fair amount of time in a school. This would show that you are committed to such a choice and give you an insight as to whether it really is the right career for you.

I have always maintained my love of literature and language. Teaching helped me develop a deeper understanding of language, which in turn fuelled my own creative ambitions. I write and perform poetry and am involved in local groups. I have work published in The Essex Poetry Compendium and Creel as well part of an on-line project called Genius or Not. I completed a Masters in Creative Writing with the Department for Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies in 2010.

Following my MA, I returned to teaching part-time to allow me time to write my first novel. I am currently looking for an agent and am ready to start writing my second novel. I hope to return to Essex to do my PhD.

More Humanities graduate profiles

Art History

  • Rachel Brown - Estimator - Momart Ltd, (BA History of Art, MA Gallery Studies)

    Picture 
of Rachel Brown, BA History of Art and MA Gallery Studies graduate.

    I joined Momart Ltd a few months after finishing my MA Gallery Studies course. I have now been here nearly nine years! See our website for what we do www.momart.co.uk. We are fine art transporters and shippers based in London. We are part of a network of fine art transport agents around the world, who ship fine art all around the globe.

    The company is divided into two, with the exhibitions department servicing national galleries and museums and the gallery services department servicing the auction houses and commercial galleries. Each have their own very specific requirements and ways of working.

    My job role is Estimator, in a team of six people within the exhibitions department. We work on exhibition budgets for UK museums and for museums around the world working out all of the costs related to shipping and transporting the artworks to and from the exhibitions. Half of our team is dedicated to working on quotes requested by UK based museums and galleries for exhibitions being held at their premises, and half of us work on quotes requested by other fine art agents around the world, on behalf of the museums and galleries in their home countries (for UK loans to be transported to venues worldwide).

    I work on a lot of projects for all the Tate Galleries, The British Museum and many other projects for regional galleries and museums. My job is extremely varied – no exhibition is ever the same so no day is ever the same. An example of one of my projects: The current "Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde" exhibition at Tate Britain.

    There are a handful of agents based in the UK who do the same work as us and Momart had to submit a price bid to win the contract to transport the works of art to Tate Britain, as we do for all of our jobs. We had to submit an estimate of the shipping costs based on a loans list sent to us by Tate. After winning the job, I became Tate’s point of contact for all things transport related for this exhibition for around a year - I have been working on budgets and schedules for this exhibition on and off since June 2011. There is a handover where an exhibition co-ordinator will take the job over from me and actually arrange the transport/shipping schedule working alongside Tate. By this point a lot of the organisation is already in place as there has been a long lead-in time for this project. It is down to the co-ordinator to actually contact lenders and organise all travel arrangements for loans and couriers to London, overcoming any issues with lenders or flight schedules when they arise.

    The "Pre-Raphaelites" exhibition is a touring show, so as well as the transport of loans into London, Momart are also in charge of shipping the artworks to/from the other three venues where it will be shown afterwards. I am currently working on another update of the shipping schedule for the transfer of the exhibition overseas, which will be happening in January 2013.

    There are many elements to be considered in our quotes, from de-installing the artworks at the lenders address all the way through to delivery of them at the exhibition venue. Sometimes there are issues that we have no control over, for example Iceland’s volcanic eruption in 2010, which had a big knock-on effect throughout the airline industry, and then companies like ours; our clients rely on us to ensure the safe arrival of their artworks no matter what! Some situations have never happened before and our clients expect us to solve any issue that arises with the safety of the artwork being the priority.

    What do you find most interesting and rewarding about what you do now?

    It is a rewarding job because I help and advise our clients on various scheduling/pricing issues in order to fit their budget. It is also challenging - we have competitors in this business so we have to constantly keep on top of the current market and change our prices/rates in reaction to varying economic situations.

    I am working in the art world with many people who also appreciate art. I don’t get to view artworks that come into/out of our warehouse as our warehouse and office are on different sites but working on the large exhibitions for the major museums and galleries in London I do get to attend some of the private views, which I enjoy.

    I have a lot of contact with registrars from museums and galleries and am aware of lots of upcoming exhibitions in London and the UK, which keeps me up to date with the current art world goings on.

    What employability tips would you give to art history graduates?

    Definitely try to do some volunteering work if you can afford to. In between gaining my BA Art History and studying for my MA Gallery Studies, I volunteered at The National Portrait Gallery for a period of time. I was based in the publication department, and it enabled me to get a really good insight in the inter-departmental workings of the gallery. I worked on the production of the publication 'Great Britons' whilst I was there assisting the publishing manager and I also spent some time in other departments who were working on the same project. The insight I gained whilst volunteering there really gave me a head start on the MA Gallery Studies course. I think it also really helped my job application as it was something additional on my CV, which not everyone would have had.

  • Julius G. Beltrame - Company Director, (BA History of Art)

    When I graduated I needed money fast (a relative was ill and needed me to cover their rent), so I went to a temp agency in the city near home and took everything they offered me, cleaning toilets, handing out leaflets, even photocopying Bank of England Archives. Eventually I got a longer spot as receptionist in a small tech subsidiary of a big financial data provider, booming in the dotcom madness. 5 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'd been promoted to Director of Operations, Principal in Europe. After helping organise (yet) another sale of the assets to a new parent company (this time based in Vancouver) I eventually made myself redundant 2 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. 3 years in and we're nearing break-even and have gradually built a portfolio of work that I'm currently trying to encapsulate in a website, which will form the basis of the next phase of business.

    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. How could I not? 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?

    You'll never be rich or successful working for someone else. 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 one on my own schedule. 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'm currently sourcing a pig's head now the test shoot is done. I enjoy the fact I know only a few people who would call that 'work'...

    What tips would you give to 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 (although I'm sure there are some in the Philosophy Department who'd happily debate that in the bar one evening).

    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).

  • Emma Rebecca Boyce Gore - Paintings Conservator and Technical Art Historian, (BA History of Art)

    Picture of Emma rebecca Boyce Gore, BA Art History graduate.

    I graduated from the Essex University Art History and Theory department in 2000 with an abundance of enthusiasm matched only by my lack of ideas for my future career. What does an art history graduate do, other than be an art historian? I certainly wanted something more dynamic and I knew that it had to involve physical interaction with artworks.

    An 'eureka' moment in the Sainsbury wing of the National Gallery started me on the long and challenging journey which led me to where I am today. After numerous rejections from private conservators whom I had approached regarding work experience or merely studio visits, my tactics changed: I moved to Italy where I thought I might have better luck. I had fallen in love with Florence when I visited there with fellow students in my second year at Essex. After more than a year volunteering at a paintings conservation studio and studying the conservation and restoration of easel paintings at Palazzo Spinelli Instituto per L’Arte e il Restauro in Florence, I returned to the UK and began a three-year postgraduate diploma in the conservation of easel paintings at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge University. Following graduation from Cambridge, I completed internships in the paintings conservation departments of the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. I now work freelance in the Amsterdam area.

    Like many undergraduates, when I began studying at Essex I had many passions and was reluctant to narrow my learning to a single subject. The multi-disciplinary construction of the first year enabled me to indulge various interests and to appreciate the advantage of seeing the ‘bigger picture’. This was certainly good preparation for my profession, the success of which relies greatly on an ability to collect and consider various types of evidence. Examination of the painting itself uncovers data that is scrutinised by specialist conservators, art historians, scientists, engineers, historians, and archivists. This is true whether one is searching for sympathetic and effective treatment options or researching the life of the painting or painter. The role of the paintings conservator is to cross-reference the various data collected and to understand the process and intention of the painter concerned. The reward is achieved when one discovers evidence that supports a new conclusion, such as the presence of an unexpected pigment, a new, successful cleaning method or even a previously unanticipated attribution or date for a painting.

    In the UK, there are three postgraduate paintings conservation programmes: Hamilton Kerr Institute Cambridge University, Courtauld Institute of Art and University of Northumbria. The course at Essex lends itself well to continuing into paintings conservation, but it is also possible to follow on to any type of fine art conservation and material study. There are conservation courses offered in universities in Europe and the rest of the world and it is common for students to study abroad or carry out their internships abroad. This facilitates sharing of information across the profession, and provides opportunities to meet and collaborate with people from all over the world.

    If the idea of continuing your academic career while putting your knowledge to practical use appeals to you, this is a very rewarding career, and if you are thrilled by solving riddles, or you are excited about finding things that no one else has ever seen, you will not be disappointed. One day when I was an intern at the Rijksmuseum, one of the Rembrandts came up to the studio for a condition check. There was much excitement as we all crowded around the table to take our turns looking through the microscope at luxuriant, unctuous brushstrokes and sparkling pigment particles. To a paintings conservator, the material object is the reward of the pursuit and understanding of art.

    A great little book is the National Gallery pocket guide The Conservation of Paintings, and another title, more comprehensive and focussed on technical art history, is A Closer Look: Deceptions and Discoveries (also NG).

    Useful websites for students interested in pursuing a career in painting conservation include: Hamilton Kerr Institute, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of Northumbria, Institute of Conservation (ICON), British Association of Paintings Conservator-Restorers (BAPCR), and the International Institute of Conservation (IIC).

  • Doris Pearce - Adult Programmes Officer - National Portrait Gallery, (BA and MA History of Art)

    Picture of Doris Pearce, BA and MA History of Art graduate.

    When I left Essex I began an internship at Tate Britain in their education department, using my knowledge of art history and experience of teaching on the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Colchester Institute which I did whilst completing my BA and MA in modern art history at Essex.

    From this internship I successfully started work as an assistant administrator and then was able to assist with events and activities organised by the education department. When a maternity cover contract was available I was ready with the necessary experience for the job of Assistant Curator: Adult Programmes. This job involved the planning and delivery of a range of educational events for the Gallery's adult audience, from talks and discussions, to workshops and Late at Tate.

    When I was ready for more responsibility I left Tate Britain to work for the National Portrait Gallery in a similar role and helped to introduce the successful Late Shift programme, as well as continue to plan the Gallery's popular day time talks, conferences and workshops.

    How have you used your degree and any other experience gained at university?

    My degree underpins most of what I do, apart from the confidence it gives me in the understanding of art and the history it is intertwined with. As I work with the interpretation of art on a daily basis the degree is essential.

    What do find most interesting about what you do now?

    I really enjoy working with curators and the collection and exhibitions to create a programme of events which helps to explain, reveal and engage with the works on the walls. At the National Portrait Gallery there is a vast range of opportunities to work with ideas and histories surrounding people, art and society which means I am never bored.

    What tips would you give to Freshers on getting the most out of University?

    Work hard, play hard.

    What tips would you give to recent graduates who are looking for work?

    Be enthusiastic - its never too soon to start building a good reputation. Use all your experience intelligently. I always feel that the years of waitressing and bar work have been invaluable to my career as it has helped me to work with the public and negotiate busy workloads.

    Are there any websites, publications or organisations that students interested in a career like yours might find helpful?

    Museum jobs, and all Galleries have tons of information on their websites about their collections and the organisation of the institutions which I think is really interesting.

  • Rachel Francis - Assistant curator - Victoria and Albert Museum, (BA History of Art)

    Picture of Clare Francis, BA Art History graduate.

    I knew from quite early on that I wanted to pursue a career in the museums sector. Looking back now I wasn't anywhere near as prepared as I should have been and having graduated in 2001 I spent the first four years in the finance industry. It wasn't until I managed to secure a volunteer placement at the National Maritime Museum that I really began to understand the sector. My time as a volunteer at the NMM and the organisational skills I gained in the finance industry helped me to secure my first museum job at the Imperial War Museum - I was able to demonstrate that I had worked in a museum environment in my own free time and that I was serious about trying to pursue a career in the sector. I have been at the Victoria and Albert Museum since 2006 and I am now working as an Assistant Curator in the Prints Section of the Word & Image Department.

    I consider my degree and all the jobs I have done since I left university as contributing to my current career path in some way.

    What do find most interesting and rewarding about what you do now?

    The biggest rewards are opening displays you have put together and seeing people genuinely enjoy them. We literally spend hours scrutinising label text and layouts, agonise over what to keep in and what to take out. There is an enormous sense of duty and pride in everything that is done.

    What employability tips would you give to students?

    Make sure you explore your work options almost as soon as you start your degree course. If you are interested in museum and gallery work try and get as much experience as you can before you graduate and don't dismiss private galleries and auction houses as a starting point. You can't beat a bit of volunteering to get a good sense of what the sector is really like.

History

  • Tyler Davies - Current BA History student

    I chose Essex University primarily due to location as it meant I could commute from home. However, once I arrived I realised that Essex had a lot more to offer than just practicality. From the beginning, there was a brilliant community feel on campus and I was made welcome everywhere I went. With so many clubs, societies and other activities to get involved in, it was overwhelming to begin with, but I soon found out which best suited me and joined both the History and Student Ambassador Societies.

    The Department of History has surpassed my expectations. At first, I underestimated the value of its research-led focus, but soon discovered that this allows you to work on topics with supervisors who are at the forefront of their field. The support provided is excellent; whether I have needed extra help with a particular essay or have wanted to meet my fellow history students to talk about the challenges we are all facing, opportunities are always at hand.

    Now in my third year, I have chosen to focus my studies towards the social history of Early Modern England and the breath of modules offered have easily facilitated this specialism. Last year I particularly enjoyed the Gender in Early Modern England module, which has inspired me to centre my Independent Research Project (IRP) on the struggles of eighteenth-century female Quakers.

    As well as my academic studies and input into societies, I have also been keen to focus on developing my transferable skill set ready for a career in teaching. I became a student ambassador in my first year. One of the many opportunities this provided was to go into schools and teach children about the benefits of higher education, as well as increasing my experience in the classroom. In my second year, I completed the Big E award, which will demonstrate to employers my passion for developing my employability and now in my third year, I have just begun a Frontrunner placement with the Faculty of Humanities, focusing on their use of web and social media. In this position, I am developing and learning new skills, such as web page coding, which will hopefully set me apart from all other teacher training applicants.

    I can positively say that I do not regret anything about my time at Essex, I have enjoyed getting involved with both my department and the University as a whole. I have made friends for life and am not looking forward to the day I have to leave!

  • Andy Grazebrook - Business Development Manager, (BA History)

    Andy Grazebrook, BA History graduate.
    What have you done since leaving Essex and what do you do now?

    After leaving university, I travelled around the UK and Western Europe for a while, working in different types of short term jobs, to earn enough to live and move to the next place. After about 3 years, I began working in the charity sector and worked my way up through the ranks from telephone fundraising to business development. I spent a lot of time working in organisations in the background of the charity sector and finally managed a year ago to join a cause related charity, which works in science, technology, engineering and maths educational outreach.

    How have you used your degree and other experience gained at university?

    Research and analysis skills are pretty fundamental to a history degree, as well as independent thinking, working out your own opinion, and not always going for the most obvious answer. These skills provide a really useful background to the working world, as does the massive personal development you go through from going to university generally. My job requires an acute ability to get on with people, understand different points of view, negotiate and reach mutually beneficial outcomes. I would say that I honed most of these skills as a student in the SU bar and at parties in the towers and around the campus.

    What do find most rewarding about what you do now?

    I have really good relationships with the people I work with, with my colleagues and also my clients. I also really enjoy working on projects and seeing things through to conclusion. Over a year, I will see unprompted conversations that I initiated myself develop into new interactive educational outreach activities. That is really satisfying and it feeds wider interests I have in digital technology.

    What tips would you give for getting the most out of university?

    Enjoy yourself. Immerse yourself in the experience. These few years are certainly about books and learning, you may not ever get this much dedicated reading time again! But it’s also really important to make the most of the social aspects. People make many of their life-long friends at University and the freedom is pretty special, make the most of it!

    What tips would you give to recent graduates who are looking for work?

    Don’t panic, make the best of your situation and whatever you have in your favour. Volunteering and internships are good ways to build up experience at a time when you may be able to afford to live without earning. Obviously employment is pretty dire at the moment, but there are pockets of industry that are less badly affected. Become familiar with the newest approaches to working, and all the different options. For example, a lot of the tech industry these days is populated by very small start-up businesses who develop the most advanced technologies, and there are lots of different models for companies such as social enterprise. Also, you can have a decent career in the charity (third) sector. You have time now to test things out and work out what you want to do, the longer you go down a particular path, the more difficult that can become.

    Are there any websites, publications or organisations students might find helpful?

    I really would search on the internet, go on Google and research things you’re interested in. Join LinkedIn and develop your profile as well as you can. I use Twitter a lot to keep a track of people and organisations, especially as all the information is broadcast in very small digestible messages. Get to know the sector you are interested in and research into some of the more niche areas. If you are lacking work experience, a good understanding of the landscape can help a lot. It’s probably worth picking up the phone and approaching places before they’re advertising roles, again you could do voluntary work in the short term to build up your experience and build up your networks.

  • Geoffrey Towsey - Careers officer, (BA History, MA History)

    Geoffrey Towsey, BA History and MA History graadute.
    What have you done since leaving Essex and what do you do now?

    After I completed my undergraduate degree I decided to stay on at Essex for my masters. Whilst I was still doing my masters I got a job working in West Hatch High School as a Careers Officer. I started on Monday 2 September 2013.

    My current job involves a range of different elements, but is mainly based around offering careers advice and guidance to students from year 7 to 13. It is all about telling students what options are open to them and the different routes they can take. As well as this, it also involves planning careers fairs and events, as well as developing lesson plans and resources for career sessions. Whilst it involves a great deal of time spent working with young people, equally there is a lot of paperwork too.

    How have you used your degree and other experience gained at university?

    Regardless of the job you do a history degree will give you a fantastic set of skills – (all the clichés) communication, team work, time management, analytical skills. I would encourage students to really think about what skills they are using throughout their time at university. Practically all interviewers and application forms will ask you to prove you possess these key skills.

    During my time at Essex I worked as a Student Ambassador with the Outreach Team and this was really useful for my job. Outreach is all about working with young people and raising their aspirations, so it was ideal for my current position.

    What do find most rewarding about what you do now?

    Working with young people and helping them make decisions about their future and possible options. It was an opportunity I was never given when I was younger. No two days are the same either and I am not constantly sat in front of a computer.

    What tips would you give for getting the most out of university?

    Do everything! There is no excuse to not get involved with things at university. You can always find something: CV Workshops, Employability and Careers Centre events, the Big E, volunteering and the vTeam, joining societies, getting involved as a student representative, doing some part-time work or a Frontrunners placement, or getting involved with the Students Union.

    What tips would you give to recent graduates who are looking for work?

    Do not just look at graduate schemes; you do not have to do a graduate scheme just because you are a recent graduate. Many employers will offer you a standard job and give you the training (and higher pay) anyway.

    Know the industry and the job you are applying for and prove it with skills and experiences – a week spent in a marketing department does not make you a ‘branding guru’. Also have a think about whether there are any obscure jobs within an industry, which people might not think of at first (people might think about finance and risk management, but would they think actuary?)

    Look in local papers, Google or companies websites for jobs, or ask someone you know. Talk about your skills and what you have done. The clichéd terms (teamwork, communication etc.) are what the employers look for, so make sure they are in your covering letter.

    Are there any websites, publications or organisations students might find helpful?
    • Website: Google – it knows everything! Just Google a job you are interested in and see what comes up.
    • Publication: the ‘Hire Me!’ careers booklet which the History Society produce. Read it! Trust me, it’s excellent!
    • Organisation: Department of History and especially their alumni links, plus the University's Employability and Careers Centre.

Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities

  • Stefanie Kogler - PhD candidate Art History, (BA Latin American Studies, MA Curating Latin American Art)

    Picture of Stephanie Kogler, BA Latin American Studies and MA Curating Latin American Art graduate.

    I am the youngest of six children from an Austrian farming family: going to university is not something we do. I always knew I wanted to do an undergraduate degree but I thought that would be it. I never anticipated how much University would add to my life.

    I moved to England at 18, and worked as a care assistant for three years. Then I attended an Access Course in Arts and Humanities which opened up a whole new world. After that I knew I wanted to do something left of centre. I had a "Eureka" moment when I saw the BA in Latin American Studies and thought 'that's me'! The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) and opportunities for study abroad really set Essex apart from other universities I was looking at.

    I divided my year abroad between Argentina and Colombia. It was challenging at times but doing something that stretches your perceptions helps you to get to know yourself better. When I got back from my year abroad I volunteered with ESCALA. Then I worked as Archive Assistant and Archive and Collections Frontrunner through the frontrunner (University paid internship) scheme which taught me a lot about collection care, administration and different aspects of curating. Mostly, it fed my passion for art from Latin America.

    I am about to complete my MA in Curating Latin American Art at Essex and I am on a ten week paid internship, working three days a week at the East Anglian Railway Museum. This involves different aspects of marketing, changing people’s perceptions about the museum and increasing footfall. I enjoy reaching out to people and getting them excited about something. It’s amazing to be part of that.

    Jobs are few and far between in the sector I want to work in – museums, heritage, art, contemporary art. The competition is tough so I want to do whatever I can to get experience. I am staying on at Essex to do a PhD in Art History and I will combine that with some kind of work in my field. I am very happy to have been awarded a scholarship. I put everything into the application, but never in a million years thought I’d get it; it is all a bit out of this world!

    The advice I’d give to new students is that it’s good to volunteer for something – it will get you noticed and may lead on to something more. Work experience makes you more rounded and you can put it on your CV – showing you have done something apart from studying really helps.

    Although we are in recession and the job market is tough, there is still stuff out there. There’s a sense of opportunity in that you can get involved and get paid provided you are willing to work at it and remain positive.

  • Clare Welton - Sub-editor - IHS Jane's, (BA Humanities, MA Film and Literature)

    Picture of Clare Welton, BA Humanities and MA Film and Literature graduate.

    I left Essex in 2008 having completed a BA in Humanities and an MA in Film and Literature. Since then I have been living with my partner Simon Ambrose (who I met in my first year of University) near Croydon. On moving down here, I temped with various companies before being taken on at IHS Jane's as a Production Assistant in 2009 and rising to Production Controller before becoming a Sub-Editor in 2011. Simon and I bought our first home together last year and have been together 7 years. I regularly see other Essex alumni from my courses and my best friends are all people I met at Essex, some of who were also in the LiFTs department.

    How have you used your degree and any other experience gained at university?

    I am currently a Sub-Editor meaning I'm using my research and editing skills daily. I also run the social committee in my office so my interest in the more theatrical and creative aspects of my studies has translated into the events I run (for instance I have just booked a Christmas party for our company at Madame Toussauds - great for the film student in me).

    What do find most interesting and rewarding about what you do now?

    Doing Humanities for my BA meant I studied a wide variety of subjects and within various departments including History and Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies. I think this has translated into my career so far and I work over a variety of Defence, Transport, Maritime and Security titles, meaning I get a real mixture each day.

    What tips would you give to Freshers on getting the most out of University?

    Try everything. Even if you don't like it, try everything. Live in the towers if you can. I did for my first year and my MA year. Not only do they have the best social lives on campus, the views are great, and they are the most fantastic buildings. Ride the lifts in the library (and although it's not allowed, try and go all the way round). Have BBQs and picnics by the lake in the summer. Take the bus into Colchester and go to the castle. Make sure you do the Wivenhoe run at least once - in fancy dress (believe me, in adult life there is no room for dressing up in a toga!). For those that don't know, this is usually an initiation into Essex life. It starts at the bottom of Wivenhoe and you start drinking at the Rose and Crown, stopping at every pub on the way back to the University before going into Sub-Zero. Have a drink with your lecturer - it's amazing sat in top-bar with a bottle of wine discussing ideas and theories. I'll never forget that. Finally, make sure you go to the summer ball.

    What tips would you give to recent graduates who are looking for work?

    Keep trying. It gets so soul destroying with the amount of applications you fill in and the amount of times you re-write your CV, but all it takes is patience. Exploit every connection you've made and keep bumping up your CV with voluntary work and work placements.

Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies

  • Vicki Weitz - Freelance theatre practitioner, (BA Drama and Literature)

    Picture of Vicki Weitz, freelance theatre practitioner and BA Drama and Literature graduate.

    When I left Essex in 2006 I set up a theatre company with a fellow graduate, Nat Miller. We worked together for about eighteen months, successfully applying for funding and touring a performance piece in the East of England. When Nat moved to Amsterdam (where he currently works for the Opera house) I started to work as a solo performance artist.

    I have performed at a variety of places including The Junction in Cambridge, Colchester Arts Centre, The Hat Factory in Luton, Pulse at Ipswich, The Mercury Theatre Colchester, The Fling in Chelmsford, Edinburgh Festival as well as on the streets of Halstead, Chester and Walton. Over time this has gradually developed and I now work both individually and as part of a collaboration with 12 other artists from the East of England in Live Art Collective East (LACE). We were shortlisted for the Olympic Artist taking the Lead program, and off the back of this we were awarded funding to create eight new performance pieces during Summer 2012. I worked with Holly Darton and Dot Howard to create Three Step Endeavour: the simple joy of momentarily leaving the ground beneath your feet. Dot, Holly and I are the UK's first and only professional hopscotching team.

    In addition to this, I work at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester as a freelance practitioner, running workshops in their community and education department. My relationship with the Mercury developed purely from studying at Essex, as for early Modern Drama we went over to the theatre for a series of lessons. I maintained contact and as a result I was able to perform on the main stage in a Howard Barker play and I was also cast in two site specific works (Soutterain in collaboration with Wildworks and Depot, directed by Gari Jones). The theatre has been a great support of my work both as a practitioner and as a performance artist.

    Picture 
of Vicki Weitz, Holly Darton, and Dot Howard, who make up Three Step Endeavour, the UK's first and only 
professional hopscotching team.

    I work with Suffolk Artlink as a clown doctor, working in the children's departments of local hospitals and hospices using drama and performance art to help the children deal with stress, anxiety, fear, anger, boredom and loneliness.

    I also act with Father Hen Theatre Company based in Colchester and I have recently started to work with Frequency Theatre, both as a director for their first stage play and as an actor and a director with their audio plays.

    In the past (also since my degree) I worked with Slack Space Colchester at its inception, introducing live art into the space and curating performance evenings for the first three months. Also in the past, I was an Activator with New Work Network, and as part of this I delivered and managed artist performance and networking opportunities across the region, including The Live Art Club and The Working Weekend at Essex University, The Live Art Platform at Colchester Arts Centre and the Live Art Picnic at St Martin's Church.

    How has your degree helped you to develop your career?

    The study placement with The Mercury Theatre led to a relationship that lasts to this day. My fellow students and my tutors at university encouraged me to experiment and find my voice which has given me the confidence to continue to develop my own practice out in the real world!

    What do you find most interesting and rewarding about your role?

    I love it all! It is so varied and interesting. My practice is based around being able to listen to my instincts and work in the moment. The acting I do with Father Hen (which has a non-rational approach to text) and the Clown doctoring allow me to develop this and I find these hugely rewarding and this then feeds into my solo practice and my practitioner work.

    What employability tips would you give to students?

    Make the most of every opportunity, particularly in the Literature Department. See as much theatre as you can and be pro-active! It's your degree, so make it a good one. Make contacts with local companies in the field you wish to work in. Find out as much as you can about the current scene but be respectful of others’ knowledge too. Be prepared to continue learning by observing those with experience. Be persistent and get advice (e.g. funding is much more likely to be given if you have spoken to the right people about it first).

  • Thorunn Bjornsdottir Bacon - Writer, (MA Creative Writing)

    Picture of Thorunn Bjornsdottir Bacon, MA Creative Writing graduate.

    Since graduating with MA in Creative Writing from Essex University in 2009, I've concentrated on developing as a novel- writer, and I use every opportunity to learn more about the craft of novel writing by attending courses and talking to other writers, but the main thing is to just keep writing. Earlier this year I was taken onto the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme, which is very helpful in term of support and mentoring.

    I've recently finished writing a dark, erotic historical novel set in London in which one of the characters is Icelandic like me. My next step is to secure a literary agent which will hopefully lead to my book being published. I'm already working on the next novel, which again mixes characters from my two home countries, the UK and Iceland.

    Shortly after graduating I set up creative writing courses which I ran from Wivenhoe Bookshop. My aim was to bring creative writing into the community, and give people the opportunity to try creative writing in a friendly and supportive environment. I went on to train to be a Writing Coach which was very useful. My writing courses proved to be popular, and some of the students have gone on to study creative writing at a higher level, such as at Essex University.

    The MA course gave me the opportunity to think about what kind of a writer I am. It introduced me to genres and ideas that I mightn't have come across otherwise. It's a fertile environment and I thrived there. But a degree is only the beginning I feel, a starting point. It's what comes afterwards that really matters but a degree will give you a better idea of where you're heading.

  • Diana Jones - Operations Manager - Harmoni, (BA English Literature)

    Since leaving Essex, I worked briefly as a Healthcare Assistant then moved very quickly into a position at a local Primary Care Trust. I moved up the ranks to become a Deputy Commissioning Manager. I am now employed as the Operations Manager for a Private Healthcare company providing Healthcare in prisons.

    How have you used your degree and any other experience gained at university such as volunteering, work placement or study abroad?

    I would not have got my job at the PCT had it not been for my degree, which has led to me being in the senior managerial role that I am in today. I absolutely loved going to Essex, and feel that I grew as a person, not only gaining a degree but many life skills too.

    What do find most rewarding about what you do now?

    Although my job may be stressful and hard work, it is very rewarding to help shape the healthcare of some very vulnerable people.

    What tips would you give to Freshers on getting the most out of University?

    Get involved with as many aspects as possible, organising events, attending additional lectures, and make the use of your seminar leaders' office hours! I also cannot stress how important it is to build up some solid work experience.

    What tips would you give to recent graduates who are looking for work?

    Don't be afraid to start from the bottom. I don't mean this as a negative, but I think some graduates look for graduate positions, and don't see the potential chances for development in the entry level vacancies that are out there. I started in a secretarial role at the PCT, and because I had previous work experience (when you are studying, make sure you spend some of those holidays getting work experience – office based if possible) and my degree, I moved up two grades within 6 months.

    Are there any websites, publications or organisations that students interested in a career like yours might find helpful?

    www.nacro.org.uk is a good place to start to see why I am doing what I am doing now.

    Special mention should go to Dr Owen Robinson. I studied Post-War American Literature in my third year, and felt out of all the classes I took that is where I learnt and developed the most. So another recommendation would be to take a class led by Dr O!

  • Charlotte Vowden - Digital Journalist and Sub-editor - News International, (BA Creative Writing)

    I work as a digital journalist and sub-editor at News International on both The Times and The Sunday Times. My role involves copy writing, featuring in and working behind the camera on video content, blogging, building the website and iPad app, plus subbing copy.

    I was heavily involved in the launch and now development of The Sunday Times iPad app, which is the most downloaded newspaper app in the world.

    I also freelance for other publications which means the hours are often very long but the sense of achievement overshadows the tiredness.

    After leaving Essex I interned at a magazine while working night shifts at the Mail Online to fund my NCTJ qualification - which was necessary to further my career.

    I have since moved from my home in Hertfordshire to London.

    How have you used your degree and other experience gained at university?

    I have built upon experience gained at The Rabbit newspaper and work experience placements that I arranged. Skills learnt as part of my Creative Writing degree have also helped with copy writing.

    What do find most interesting and rewarding about what you do now?

    The media industry is rapidly changing so you must think on your feet and not become complacent. You have to work hard to maintain the quality of journalism while always looking at areas that can be improved.

    I am lucky that some of my work involves travel which sometimes doesn't feel like work at all. Earlier this year I travelled to the News Corp headquarters in New York to discuss production processes.

    What tips would you give to students on getting the most out of University?

    Don't be shy. I didn't join any societies in my first year and in retrospect I think it would have made the transition from home to university easier as you will have an instant group of friends. Societies also offer new experiences – it's amazing how your confidence will soar if throw yourself in at the deep end.

    With regards to work I would say to any fresher that every year counts. Applying yourself from the beginning will make your degree even more worthwhile and don't take for granted the resources that are available to you.

    What employability tips would you give to students?

    Talk to people. Don't underestimate the power of networking, it's amazing how much work you can pick up just by knowing someone. In my experience a lot of work in this industry comes from recommendation so make a good impression as it will get you a long way.

  • Lizzy White - Business Development Officer - Genesis Housing Association, (BA Creative Writing)

    Picture of 
Lizzy White graduating with a BA Creative Writing.

    I consider myself lucky, and I have done ever since my friend asked me to go along with her to an open day at Essex University in 2007. It was a fluke that I was asked to go, and the idea of going to university just down the road to home didn't sound great; however all that changed when I got there. It was a nice day, and even the 1960s tower blocks didn't look so bad in the sunlight. I was instantly drawn in by the community atmosphere, gorgeous Wivenhoe Park grounds and the Creative Writing degree the university had to offer. After putting down Essex as my first choice on my university application form I have never looked back.

    My time at Essex was divided between studying hard, writing a lot of fiction and training hard with the university rowing team. It all paid off in 2010 when I graduated with a 2:1 honours degree in Creative Writing, a full colours award for dedication to the sport of rowing, a whole truck load of transferable skills and a lot more confidence than when I started.

    My luck continued on graduation day when a volunteer from the careers centre handed me a leaflet about their internship scheme. I applied to the Essex Careers Centre Internship Scheme straight after graduation and by September 2010 I had my first interview with an organisation called Springboard Housing Association.

    I was successful at interview and as soon as my initial 3 month internship started it became apparent that I was going to be thrown into the deep end. The team consisted of just my manager and me tackling all business development and new business ventures for the care and support directorate of Springboard Housing Association. The organisation has housing stock in London, Hertfordshire, Essex, East Anglia even Lincolnshire.

    Being thrown in at the deep end and learning how to write a decent Pre Qualifying Questionnaire in my first couple of months as an intern made me invaluable and so my internship was extended for another three months. After those further three months of interning, Springboard amalgamated into an even bigger organisation now called Genesis Housing Association.

    At the end of my internship the department advertised for a Business Development Officer on a one year fixed contract. I made it through competitive interviewing and gained the position much to mine and my manager’s relief. That was 18 months ago and my contract has been extended for another year and my responsibilities have tripled.

    I have become a valued member of the team at Genesis, contributing to £2.5 million of funding for housing related care and support services for vulnerable adults including older people, people with learning disabilities and/or mental health problems and the homeless. My job is incredibly rewarding and I use the skills I gained at university every day, from writing skills, keeping to deadlines, project managing and team work.

    If I could give new graduates any advice it would be to take any opportunity you can, remember your transferable skills, not just the title of your degree subject and if you get thrown in at the deep end, take up the challenge and run with it. You could end up with your dream job.

  • Sarah Collins - Campaign Management Executive - Digital Cinema Media, (BA English and Drama)

    Sarah 
Collins, BA English Literature and Drama graduate.

    I left uni not knowing what to do, loved my degree, but was a little unsure on my career route, so decided to do work experience. Having an English and Drama degree I knew I wanted a career where communication was key. Lots of big companies have work experience placements. I did work experience at Natmags (with Country Living magazine), Penguin books in the publicity department, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (Hot Sauce TV-production company) and a marketing consultancy. Through the last placement I landed a temporary job in advertising for four months. A small agency in Oxford Circus that looked after print ads and some online.

    I then worked for a charity in a voluntary role - a scheme funded by the BBC. They recruited young people/graduates to get other young people to volunteer within the community. I did this by promoting my fundraising events through the local media and mainly the BBC radio station where I was based. I ran aerobics fundraisers, soup kitchens, conservation events and shows at the local university (Bedfordshire).

    I then landed my first proper job working for CBS outdoor as an Advertising Planner. I worked there for three and a half years, based in Camden town. I had to plan all advertising campaigns that ran on the London underground. This was a busy and demanding role, liaising with all departments and clients to ensure that all campaigns ran smoothly.

    I now work at Digital Cinema Media (cinema advertising) as a Campaign Management Executive. I manage and schedule all the advertising before the films starts in the cinema. A similar planning role to CBS but working on digital adverts instead. Free cinema is one of the best benefits too!

    I've also just completed a "Marketing Communications" diploma with the CIM. I'm hoping this will help me stand out from the crowd in the future.

    Work experience and volunteering definitely helps you decide what career path you wish to take, and it looks good to future employers.

  • Tom Allen - Journalist, (BA and MA Creative Writing)

    Tom 
Allen, graduate.

    First, my time at Essex: quite simply amazing and by far the best time of my life. I still see the friends I made there regularly, despite them being scattered all over the country (and world in some cases). We formed an incredibly tight-knit group, which was helped by the fact that we were all part of the LiFTS department.

    When I left in 2008 I always intended to come back to Essex to do an MA. I was lucky in that I managed to get a job I enjoyed in Colchester, writing for a jewellery magazine. I have a family background in the jewellery trade, but even if I hadn't, I'd have felt confident about getting a similar job - Colchester is, quite unexpectedly, something of a centre for UK magazine publishing! For example Aceville Publications publishes a huge range of magazines, and is conveniently located close to Tesco! I also did some volunteer work at other publishing houses in the area to familiarise myself with the industry - and you always have the chance of landing a job through 'puppydog selling'!

    While I was initially taken on as an Editorial Assistant at Mulberry Publications, I was moved up to become the Editor of Jewellery Focus within seven months of starting! This also led to my role being expanded and I also took over editorial responsibility for the company's other magazines, Pet Gazette and Funeral Service Times. Hey, no-one ever said the job was going to be classy!

    The subject matter might have been a bit dead (har har...trust me, I've heard them all), but the experience was amazing and put me in really good stead when I went looking for another job; however that wasn't until later.

    I spent a year at Mulberry and then came back to Essex to study for a Master's in Creative Writing, although I kept freelancing for the magazines until the workload got too high. I can't recommend the MA highly enough to anybody. The BA had its ups and downs - a common complaint was that there wasn't enough creative writing and too many essays, as the course shared a lot of classes with pure literature students. That was totally the opposite in the MA though; we wrote in every class, and never the same thing. Fables, science fiction, poetry and some very weird experimental stuff with Oulipo (again, I recommend this course VERY highly! I didn't take it in my third year and regretted it when I found out how good it was in the MA). It was a LOT of work but worth every keystroke. Don't be afraid of the dissertation, either; it seems like a lot of words, but it can easily be broken down into manageable chunks.

    After I finished the MA I spent a long time doing temp work. I won't lie, the publishing industry isn't easy to get into, especially now. However, keep trying. Websites like Gorkana and Elance are really excellent for aspiring journalists. It also gave me time to develop the novel I started writing for my dissertation!

    It took a long time to find my current job - even though I live in Oxford, which is of course a publishing centre. However the companies around there are very focused on publishing other peoples' work, rather than your own. What I really wanted was to be a journalist, and eventually I managed it! I'm now a technology journalist for a trade publication, based in Surrey. Before taking the job I had no idea about the subject matter (display technology), but then I hadn't known much about funerals or pets either! Don't ever be afraid to apply for a job you don't know much about - you'd be very surprised at how quickly you pick it up.

    Now I fly all over the world and get to see the world's coolest technology before it's released to the public. Three months after I started I was sent to Las Vegas for a week to cover the Consumer Electronics Show, CES. Two weeks after that I was in Amsterdam for ISE, and I just got back from IFA in Berlin. I'm loving it and honestly, it's all thanks to the support I got and friends I made at Essex - it made me more outgoing, less nervous and of course, a better writer!

    Key tips:

    • Get as much experience as you can, anywhere you can
    • Don't settle! If you have to take a temporary job, go for it (writing is NOT easy to make money from!), but don't lose sight of what you really want to do
    • For Freshers: throw yourself in the deep end. Make the most of your time at uni, because you'll kick yourself if you don't. Don't let go of your friends at home, but remember there are lots of great people around at uni who can support you and will look out for you if you do the same for them. Also, steer clear of microwave pizzas. It never turns out like you think. Trust me on this!