Tales of a graduate conference

When I decided to organise a graduate conference for our final year Magazine Journalism students at Southampton Solent University, the focus was on getting some great industry people and our alumni to share the secrets of their success. That, I thought, would be the main challenge. Apparently not.

With some key names lined up – including Mark Payton, editorial director at Haymarket and Elizabeth Barnett editor of Hampshire Life, along with our most recent alumni – we promoted the event to the students. A tepid response ensued, resulting in more tasters on the student’s social media pages. Clearly getting a good attendance was going to be a major challenge.

When I relayed this to colleagues at other institutions, I was surprised to find such apathy was indeed a common trait among university students – despite the £9,000 a year fees.

As so often happens, it was the usual suspects (known for their regular attendance) who turned up, but those who perhaps needed that extra help to prepare for graduation did not. Shame, it was their loss. As Woody Allen once said: “Eighty per cent of success is showing up.”

Inspirational speakers

Unsurprisingly those students who attended were not only inspired by our speakers, but also made the most of their networking opportunity.

Elizabeth Barnett (left) talks to Mary Hogarth at the Graduate Conference

Elizabeth Barnett talks to Mary Hogarth at the Graduate Conference

First off was the editor of Hampshire Life. Elizabeth spoke about how she got started, explaining that it is hard initially for graduates to gain confidence in their skills. She urged students to start freelancing and take every opportunity because “you don’t know where it might lead.”

Our alumni panel also recalled their early experiences. Hannah Green, now a showbiz reporter with OK! Magazine, secured her job just before graduating last year. Her role was a result of a couple of stints of work experience at the magazine. Hannah confessed that it took a while to gain confidence in her role. “But all the skills I learned on the course stood me in good stead,” she said, adding that getting published for the first time was a great feeling.

Mark Payton, a frequent visitor to the university participating in events such as Make A Magazine in a Day, shared his experiences. He captivated the audience with tales of one or two hazardous moments in his career, but revealed they had actually had a silver lining. Mark praised Solent students for their skills and innovation. The Magazine Jounalism degree, he said, was a great course, which taught relevant skills and produced industry-ready students.

Five tips to get that job

What are the key issues soon-to-be graduates need to address when taking that first step on the career ladder? All of the speakers and panel agreed that students should:

  1. Get lots of work experience
  2. Build a network of contacts
  3. Have a good online presence
  4. Don’t be afraid to take chances
  5. Start freelancing.

From my perspective, having taught journalism students for many years, it is these five points that are key to graduate success. Follow each point and students will get that first job. Why?

Because each of the points demonstrates the student’s commitment to their chosen career – a must for any editor looking to hire a graduate.

Discussion

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