Now is the time to talk about mental health

William More is a current student at Exeter, and completed a placement last year with Enterprise. He shares his experience of being diagnosed with severe OCD, and finally getting the treatment he needed. (This post originally appeared on Enterprise’s careers blog).

William More, current Exeter student on a placement with Enterprise

It is okay not to be okay. This is a message that’s really important everyone knows – perfection is a myth and as a society we need to be easier on ourselves.

For a long time, since around GCSEs time, I have struggled with a mental illness that I could never pin down. I knew that things weren’t right, but I never had an explanation for what I was going through. On the surface things were okay, my grades were certainly fine, but underneath I was getting worse and worse over a matter of years. Whatever this illness was, it, took different forms, with different worries and fears ruining more and more aspects of my life. What once started as severe social anxiety – to the extent I used to throw up – it began to morph into something even more consuming. At university I was able to hide this and focus on other things to get by, so it would come and go. However, desperately wanting to do well on my placement year, away from the support network of home and the relaxed nature of university life, I finally realised that everything really was not okay.

“For a long time… I knew that things weren’t right, but I never had an explanation for what I was going through.”

I have always found exams and revision time very difficult. I can’t switch off, and get burnt out as a result as I am always ‘on’. Slowly the working world began to have the same effect on me and different scenarios would run through my mind all evening. I struggled to relax and was constantly on edge. I would end up having about an hour each day where I could process thoughts ‘naturally’ and didn’t feel gripped by anxiety. This was on top of my issues that had developed through university and eventually everything became overwhelming. Through the year I got more paranoid about situations that my mind had magnified until during my 21st birthday celebrations, I broke down to my girlfriend about a situation that any normal person would be able to comprehend rationally.

It now turns out I suffer from severe OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour is an illness which is commonly misunderstood, often by people who tidy their house, or order objects in a certain way, as they confess they are ‘OCD about that kind of thing’. These jokes trivialise how OCD can hijack someone’s life. OCD can have such a severe impact on someone’s quality of life that the World Health Organisation put OCD in the top ten of most disabling illnesses.

OCD is an anxiety disorder caused by a lack of blood flow to the area of the brain which produces Serotonin, the thought-regulating chemical, and as a result OCD sufferers cannot process their worries rationally and move on from them. A concern with dirt and tidiness is just one of the many ways someone with OCD can be plagued by this illness. Other obsessions can include looking for symmetry, but to the extent that they would worry a family member would be hurt if all the things in the room weren’t symmetrical. That is where the C for Compulsive Behaviour comes in. To get rid of the anxious obsessions that their brain is stuck on, to the extent that they think of the same thing literally hundreds of times a day, OCD sufferers develop habits or compulsions to relieve this anxiety.

Naturally, those who fear contamination and dirt wash their hands, however the OCD makes them do this irrationally until they are red raw. Others may need to check things over and over; those concerned with hurting others, for instance, can have to retrace their route to work to ensure they haven’t run anyone over on the way. Imagine the trauma of this each day.

“There still remains a stigma in today’s society around admitting you are finding things tough, particularly for men who are told to ‘man up’.”

To someone who is struggling to understand this mental illness, the OCD feeling to me is a mix between the worst anxiety you feel when hungover combined with the stress of exam season – literally constantly. I would look forward to the moment of respite when I woke up before the OCD would kick in, and go to bed worn out from fighting my brain all day.

What made the OCD worse was the stigma of my fears and these would even seep into my nightmares. The OCD would tell me all kind of things that I never wanted to come true and naturally I resisted and hated this.

This is just one of the reasons why it takes an average of 11 years for an OCD sufferer to be diagnosed, for them to talk about what they are going through. The irony of OCD is that it is the disease of worriers – the OCD becomes worse as you become more alarmed and upset by it. The more you try and resist a thought, the more you think about it, and hence OCD gets more and more consuming. This is called the ironic process theory, and whilst going through the worst period of this, on several occasions I thought I was going genuinely insane, would be institutionalised and considered ending my life.

There still remains a stigma in today’s society around admitting you are finding things tough, particularly for men who are told to ‘man up’. It is little wonder the male suicide rates are three times higher than women’s in the UK, and 75% of suicides are men. To explain the scale of this problem, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and 84 men take their own life each week. Even if someone appears fine, it does not mean they are, and you only need to look at the sad cases of Avicii and Robin Williams to realise this is true. We need to change that people think they have no choice, and the best way to do this is by talking. It is okay not to be okay.

“…I now feel more confident, happy and just relieved that, more than anything else, what I was going through is normal.”

There is always a silver lining if you look hard enough though. After my 21st, I took some time to recuperate with my family and began to slowly unload the worries that had weighed me down for so long. I saw a therapist, started counselling and began to take enough tablets to knock out a small cow. A couple of months later I now feel more confident, happy and just relieved that, more than anything else, what I was going through is normal.

The key is to talk. Lots of stars have also come out and talked about their struggles in recent times, with Ryan Reynolds, Zayn Malik and Danny Rose all highlighting the issues that they have had with mental health.

Enterprise has a host of blogs about physical and invisible illnesses, and this is just one of the many ways in which it builds a culture of acceptance, and from these examples I knew I could be honest about my diagnosis at work. I summoned up the courage to talk to a selection of close people and found it so empowering. On a personal level, the more I have shared with people, the more I have learnt that everyone has their own hidden ‘bumps and bruises’. I am just thankful that there are people out there who are willing to listen and help, and take people as they are.

If you want to work in a world leading company that puts its emphasis on employee wellbeing, search and apply to Enterprise’s Graduate Management programme.

Make Your Experience Work

Jess Franks graduated from the University of Exeter in 2018 with a BSc in Business Economics WIE. She’s currently working in Client Relationship for BlackRock. Jess talked to us about making her time at Exeter work for her. 

Jess Franks, Client Relationship for BlackRock, and Exeter Graduate

Morgan Stanley stood out at the Careers and Placement Fair because of its culture; opening my eyes to the opportunities in Investment Banking outside of the ‘front office’ trading roles. Having expressed an interest in the Operations division, the team set up a trial insight week for me and another Exeter student. I was fast-tracked, and secured a Placement Scheme prior to coming back to University in my Second Year.

At Morgan Stanley I was awarded ‘Campus Ambassador of the Year’ for my commitment towards promoting the organisation at Exeter. In support of the company’s core value of ‘Giving Back’ I volunteered for a day at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and ran my first half marathon for the charity, raising over £800. This helped me realise that I wanted to be part of an organisation which was both intellectually stimulating, but also gave back to society.

“The Career Zone’s services – ranging from Employer Events, Panel Sessions and the Mentor Scheme has undoubtedly helped guide me to a destination… I’m very thankful to all the team for helping make my career aspirations a reality.”

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my year at Morgan Stanley, I knew I wanted to work in a sector which combined the client-facing experiences I had at PwC with the finance knowledge I’d gained. I took part in the Career Mentor Scheme where my mentor encouraged me to look into Asset Management. I realised that I preferred the ‘buy side’ work which is built on developing long-term client relationships, rather than the ‘sell side’ which is focused more on short-term work.

I successfully applied to BlackRock’s summer internship programme in the Client Relationship Management division – spanning from departments dealing with Central Banks to Charities. I enjoyed being in the Asset Management division where I observed fund managers who were managing portfolios and actively taking investment decisions.

After the internship I was offered a graduate role at BlackRock in the same Client Relationship department – a role I find very exciting. I get to work closely with insurance companies yet also follow what’s going on in the rest of the global economy at a macro scale, and the value of constantly innovating fits with my ethos of continuous improvement and development.

The Career Zone’s services – ranging from Employer Events, Panel Sessions and the Mentor Scheme has undoubtedly helped guide me to a destination I’m thoroughly looking forward to entering. I’m going to be able to contribute to an expanding business, work with impressive clients and give back to society. An induction of two weeks in New York with BlackRock is a dream come true and I’m very thankful to all the team at the Career Zone for helping make my career aspirations a reality.

Create Your Own Career

Natasha Azar graduated from Exeter with an MA in Creative Writing in 2014. She’s currently Senior Manager of University Relations at Osage University Partners. She talked to us about the often surprising benefits of being flexible in your career path.

Natasha Azar, Exeter alumn and Senior Manager of University Relations at Osage University Partners

Osage University Partners is a venture capital firm that invests in university spinouts. Before coming to Osage, I worked as a contractor for Siemens, a position which made me an attractive candidate for my role as a University Relations Manager. At Siemens I was a Communications Specialist under the Communications & Government Affairs group. I supported one of the R&D offices in New Jersey, from a communications and internal marketing perspective.

The best part of my job is that every day is different. I might be at a university or conference, designing marketing materials for an event, editing a podcast episode we just recorded, blogging the highlights of a recent webinar we held, or developing a new program to test on our universities. The startup landscape is always changing, so it’s the nature of the industry as well.

“You shouldn’t feel cornered in your current job… nor restricted by the degree you chose to study. If you come across a job you really want, go after it regardless.  There really is no harm in trying.”

The biggest challenge I face is that my role is so unique and traditionally not found at a venture capital firm.  While there’s no clear career trajectory for someone like me, I think the experience I have has set me up for a plethora of options after this.  I could stay in finance, work for a university, or even keep with a relationship management role in a different sector such as government or politics. The lesson I learned is to be open-minded and assume I could qualify for a position I truly am interested in, even if it means venturing into a new industry.

I moved back to the US after finishing my MA at Exeter in 2014. At first, I was juggling my time between applying for jobs and freelance blogging. I wanted to move out on my own, but it isn’t news to anyone that it’s tough to make a living as a freelance writer. I instead focused my application efforts on positions that would involve some aspect of writing. At first I only applied for full-time permanent positions directly on websites of companies where I wanted to work, but found nobody was biting.  I chose a different tactic and met with a few different creative headhunting agencies.  These recruiters place individuals in contract positions which can be part-time or full-time, short-term or long-term. Contract jobs are much easier to attain with high profile companies as there is little to no risk to the company.  It’s a great way to gain experience at one or several recognizable companies – plus the placement process is usually expedient.  I used this method for 3 contract positions before falling into my current role, which is full-time with benefits.

When I decided to pursue a Master of Art’s in Creative Writing at the University of Exeter, I didn’t believe the degree would be applicable to any career outside of writing – whether it be journalism, screenwriting, or novel writing. But when I was interviewing for the Communications Specialist role at Siemens – a position that would require ample interviewing of scientists and article writing about technologies being developed at our research & development centre – my future boss pointed out my degree specifically during my interview.  After I was hired, she said it gave me leverage over the other candidates as I would be able to provide a ‘unique voice’ and creative angle to the articles I would be required to write.

I found it hard to believe my Creative Writing degree could be useful in writing articles describing science and government contracts, but the experience taught me I had a very close-minded approach when it came to applying for jobs. I would read a job description and assume I wasn’t qualified for it.  By now, I’ve heard many stories from friends who have transitioned into different industries and roles just by catering their resume to the job they’re going after and writing a stellar cover letter.  You shouldn’t feel cornered in your current job market if you want to get out of it, nor restricted by the degree you chose to study. If you come across a job you really want, go after it regardless.  There really is no harm in trying.

Getting into International Development

Clara Hawkshaw graduated from Exeter in 2009, with a BA in International Relations. She’s currently Awards (Grants) Capacity Building Manager with Save the Children International.

Clara Hawkshaw – Exeter alumn, and Awards (Grants) Capacity Building Manager with Save the Children International

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

After I left Exeter I struggled to get a job in an NGO, and after four unpaid part-time internships and too many job applications to count I started my first paid job as a Personal Assistant in an investment bank. That experience opened doors to work as a PA; first into a social housing association, and then into the humanitarian sector. Since joining Save the Children in 2013 I’ve worked in many different countries including Sierra Leone for the Ebola Response in 2014-2015. I’m currently coordinating capacity building activities for our grant management teams in the Country Offices around the world.

The best thing about my job is working with our teams in the Country Offices and Field Offices and knowing that my contribution is working towards implementing life-saving programmes to children who need it most.

“I genuinely think that International Development is one of the most competitive sectors, and there isn’t any clear guidance in how to get in to it…there aren’t any graduate schemes or obvious routes to take…but so long as you keep sight of the end goal and be a bit creative with building up your skills and experience elsewhere then you’ll get there in the end.”

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

I started my career as a PA which taught me to be very organised – this is important as there are a lot of competing priorities in the sector and often there aren’t enough staff to deal with them all. Empathy and passion which I’ve learnt in my volunteering and field experiences keeps my spirit high in the face of adversity. Likewise, you need a lot of resilience – both in applying for jobs in the beginning, but also for the long working days and travel which come with the job. Project management is very important but it is more than studying for a project management qualification – you need a level of general creativity in how to make things work efficiently and effectively with limited resources.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

International Development is a very competitive sector, and there’s no blueprint for how to get into it! If you ask any humanitarian worker they’ll all say they had a different route to their current job. You may be told that you need a Masters degree and that you need to do unpaid internships. If you are in a position to do both of these things then you’ll be able to get in quicker, but there are definitely other ways to get in so try not to feel discouraged. There are now lots of ways that you can study for a Masters part-time whilst working which is how I got my MSc in Development Studies.

What are your plans for the future?      

To continue to work in the humanitarian sector. I’m looking to leave the Head Office life and move back overseas to a humanitarian emergency, where I can really use the remote management and project management skills which I’ve perfected in London to build up the capacity of the teams who are implementing our programmes.

Do you have any tips or advice for beginning a career or working in your industry/sector?          

Don’t give up! I genuinely think that International Development is one of the most competitive sectors, and there isn’t any clear guidance in how to get in to it. Unlike other professional sectors there aren’t any graduate schemes or obvious routes to take. If you don’t have the financial opportunity to study a full-time Masters or do a full-time unpaid internship then it will be a harder journey, but so long as you keep sight of the end goal and be a bit creative with building up your skills and experience elsewhere then you’ll get there in the end. Also don’t underestimate the power of local volunteering – not just for your CV but mostly to keep your passion ignited.

Putting pen to paper: a career in writing

Emily Poole graduated with BA History in 2015, from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus. She’s currently working for workplace interior design company Interaction

Emily Poole, BA History graduate and copywriter

Hear the word “copywriting” and it may conjure up ideas of patenting products (Dragon’s Den style). Yet it’s actually another word for professional writing – and a great outlet for graduates that want to make a living out of a love for the written word.

Most copywriters these days will fall under the umbrella of marketing, and are therefore usually called digital copywriters – that means writing any copy (words) you see online; whether that be on websites, emails, blogs, news articles, social media etc. (the list is pretty endless). Digital copywriters will often work closely with other members of a team, including web developers, brand managers and graphic designers.

“I wouldn’t be in my current role if I didn’t have previous writing or marketing experience. Fortunately, soon after graduating, I was employed as a copywriter at a marketing agency… Although I wasn’t writing about anything that interested me… I became familiar with writing a lot of blogs and web pages in a short space of time, and also started managing the social media accounts for a number of clients.”

Writing for the web these days often goes hand in hand with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Essentially, this means creating content around a set of keywords that will be searched on google. For example, say you wanted a pair of black jeans and typed “black jeans” into Google, the companies that appear first will be those that have successfully written SEO-optimised content. It’s really fun to see the effect that your writing can have on a customer – and learning how to track and analyse this.

How would I know?

Well, I’m a digital copyrighter, and have been since I graduated three years ago. After studying essay-based subjects at A-Level and falling in love with the Penryn Campus, I chose to study a BA in History with The University of Exeter. I wouldn’t have done this without a love for writing – which certainly came in handy when writing my dissertation! Wanting to write for a living, after graduating, I searched for content-based roles.

Fast forward to today and I’m currently working at a workplace interior design company called Interaction, based in Bath. My role is varied to say the least! I could also be called the Social Media Manager, Blog Editor, PR Manager, Web Assistant, Email Builder, Photoshoot Co-coordinator and more. No day is the same, but I still get to spend most of my time writing, which is what I’ve always wanted. Most importantly though, because I work for a creative and fun company, I get to conjure up the odd pun; which is a massive passion of mine!

A step in the right direction

I wouldn’t be in my current role if I didn’t have previous writing or marketing experience. Fortunately, soon after graduating, I was employed as a copywriter at a marketing agency in Weston-Super-Mare. Although I wasn’t writing about anything that interested me (generally windows, doors and conservatories), I learned a lot; I became familiar with writing a lot of blogs and web pages in a short space of time, and also started managing the social media accounts for a number of clients. Importantly, I became used to an office setting; working a 9-5 job is odd after the amount of free time you get at University, but I soon got used to it.

“The main factors that have enabled me to get where I am today are passion, experience and skill. I’ve always been passionate about creating content, which tends to shine through on my CV and during interviews.”

After a little less than a year, I applied for a maternity-cover role at Clarks HQ in Street (the shoe people!) I got the Content Executive role and learned so much in the process! I would create the content for emails that were sent out to hundreds of thousands of people. Not only was it amazing to work for such a well-known brand, but it proved to me how important even the smallest bits of text can be. I also got used to working in a larger marketing team (hint: being able to collaborate with people is a big learning curve, but so worth it).

Although my maternity contract was extended, I chose to move on. Clarks was great, but I wanted to work for a more creative company – and hence my applying for my current role at Interaction.

 A little bit of advice

The main factors that have enabled me to get where I am today are passion, experience and skill. I’ve always been passionate about creating content, which tends to shine through on my CV and during interviews.

I’ve been lucky to work my way up to a role I really love, for an amazing company – but this was only possible by getting my foot in the door writing for other companies (even if that quite literally meant writing about doors). Although I wasn’t passionate about my first job after Uni, it gave me experience of the marketing sector. So even if you’re thinking twice about applying for a job, I’d say go for it. Even if it’s only to add a year’s worth of experience to your CV, that could prove to be invaluable at a later date.

Personally, I think there are few traits that are vital if you want to be a professional writer (and a good one!) These include: immaculate spelling and grammar, the ability to create content quickly whilst maintaining quality, a creative flair, a genuine love for the written word, a willingness to learn new things (e.g. SEO), and the ability to work equally well alone or as part of a team.

If you’re wondering where to start after Uni (I know it can seem daunting), keep an eye out for copywriting, editing, publishing, or marketing internships and jobs. Although they may be unpaid or not paid very well, the experience will probably make them worthwhile, even if you only stay in them for a few months. Whilst applying for jobs, also spend time (and effort) getting your own work published online – this could be in the form of your own blog or portfolio, or on a site that publishes content for free.

As long as you’re passionate about writing, you’re halfway there! Good luck!

Be More Than Your Degree

Be More Than Your Degree

The core of your experience at Exeter is always going to be about academia, but extra-curricular activity is crucial to your personal development and employability.

Be More Than Your Degree showcases the incredible depth of ‘extra stuff’ you can get involved with at University, enriching your experience and helping you get the absolute most out of your time at Exeter.

From Monday 1 to Friday 5 October in the Forum Street, Streatham Campus, find out how we can help maximise your potential through ‘Making a Difference’, gaining ‘Experience’ and ‘Career Support’. You can speak to the professionals and find out what is on offer and ask all the questions you need to, in order to figure out what to do next.

Ready to get inspired?

Katherine Giff, BA English Graduate and Talent and Music intern at MTV

Katherine Giff – BA English Graduate 

“During my time at Exeter I joined XpressionFM, Expose and PearShaped Music Magazine. I chose these societies because I love music and wanted to try music journalism and radio. These societies helped me with my writing, gave me a taste of deadlines and introduced me to so many people. My role in XpressionFM forced me to think creatively as I had to come up with new concepts for our shows and live events, and taught me how to work in a team without my experience in these societies, I would not have got my current job as Talent and Music intern at MTV. Interviewers love to ask questions about when you have worked in a team, overcome difficulties etc. and every example I gave related to my societies. There are some parts of my job now that build on what I learnt in these societies, and I’m always grateful that I threw myself in, and would encourage everyone else to do so, too.”

Alex Somervell (right) started ‘One Third Stories’ whilst studying International Relations and Languages at Exeter

Alex Somervell established his own language learning business ‘One Third Stories’ whilst studying for his degree in International Relations and Languages. 

One Third Stories uses a concept developed by Alex and his business partner Jonny Pryn known as The Clockwork Methodology® which creates bedtime stories in the form of a book and app that starts in English and ends in a different language by gradually introducing words in the target language, delivered as part of a monthly subscription box.

Think: Try: Do was the first bit of support we received in the form of both mentoring and funding” said Alex. The pair also featured on the TV program Dragons den however declined their backing. Peter Jones valued their business at £300,000 and wanted 20% of their margins.

One Third Stories is now worth £2.6 million.

We look forward to meeting you at Be More Than Your Degree, and did we mention there’s free cake? #BMTYD

One Step at a Time

Rowanna Smith is a Careers Consultant based on the Streatham Campus. 

Rowanna Smith, Careers Consultant

TIME – it’s a funny thing. I bet if you look back at your study here at Exeter it’ll feel like it’s flown by, but remembering your first few days arriving on campus it probably feels like a lifetime ago!

Keeping perspective is therefore quite tricky when the goal posts keep moving – completing your first Autumn Term had once seemed like a fantastic challenge, getting a particular grade may have been a goal, now ‘what are you going to do after graduation?’ seems to be the only focus.

So at this particular crossroads, it’s really good to pause – TAKE TIME. Be proud of what you’ve achieved; the friends you’ve made, the fun you’ve had, the struggles you’ve overcome, all that you’ve learned.

A few moments of reflection can really help you to be aware of where you are, and create a new horizon. Making use of the range of services available through the Career Zone after graduation can help you to clarify your next journey and support you to reach your next goal.

Some of you may be feeling completely lost about what you want to do, and seeing friends advancing with clear plans while you may be heading home can feel quite isolating.  Fast Forward provides a full list of careers-related services available to everyone long after graduation.  You can book onto our career webinars if there is anything you want to catch up on, as well as gain support from finding work, to helping you to work out what you want to do next.  You can book 1:1 Careers Appointments to discuss your circumstances over Skype, Phone or face to face – a chat with a Careers Consultant can certainly help you stay connected and keep you on track.

*tick tock tick tock*

If you’ve planned to take some time out, perhaps travelling for a season, we can still support you via Skype, no matter the TIME ZONE, and even help you to find graduate opportunities abroad, or make plans for your return.

For those of you that may be anxious that your ideal plans haven’t yet come to fruition; be assured that we are still available to support you. I’m a firm believer in the word ‘yet’.  If you feel you’ve failed, change your perspective… you just haven’t reached your goal yet!  You can still have applications and CVs reviewed via Skype with the Career Zone, and talk to a Careers Consultant about targeting different employers or different types of work if your goals have changed.  You are still eligible to make use of The eXepert scheme which can put you in contact with University alumni to get advice on how to enter a chosen sector, occupation or company; extending your professional network.  So stay resilient, and remember that a detour to reach the summit can sometimes offer the best views!  You still have PLENTY OF TIME!

Finally, if you’re keen to prepare for your new job and want to do some personal development before you start, then making good use of My Career Zone Digital offers some excellent online training.  There is also support on creating your LinkedIn profile, and developing your professional networks.

So no matter quite where you are on your career journey, we have a range of opportunities available. Let us help you reach your destination, ONE STEP AT A TIME!

Marion Milne – Director, Writer, Producer

It’s Never Too Late… helps final-year Humanities students get advice from successful Exeter alumni, and showcases opportunities from the Career Zone.

Marion Milne is a Documentary Film Maker as well as an Emmy Nominated Director, Writer, Series Producer and award winning Producer. She graduated from Exeter with a BA in French and Drama in 1979.  Read about a day in her life filming one of her most recent documentaries about Martin Luther King.

This photo was taken last summer while shooting in America on a documentary for ITV about Martin Luther King.

Marion Milne and camera man on location in Memphis, Tennessee

We were in Memphis, Tennessee, and I’m directing from the back seat, while my camera man is in the front seat wielding the camera.

The reason we are filming in this way is that our presenter, Sir Trevor McDonald, has finished shooting for the day, and we are picking up what are called Point of View shots (POVs).

We’re inside a gorgeous 1955 Cadillac (from the Martin Luther King era) because we wanted to add a period feel to the documentary. We also used lots of music from the time. While shooting, with our driver, we covered many miles in the American South in the Cadillac, taking Sir Trevor from place to place of relevance to the Civil Rights Era.

It’s standard practice in TV (and even in feature films) to shoot the POV shots separately. So you film with the presenter (or the actor) to capture them sitting inside the car, you film something called ‘up and pasts’ to see them go past in the vehicle from outside the car, and then the last thing you do are the POV shots – as if the camera is seeing what the presenter is seeing.

Sometimes we get caught out. If you shoot everything in sunshine and then the POVs later in the day when it’s getting dark, the Editor (whose job it is to cut it all together) is most unimpressed. Ditto for rain!

Day to day shoots like this one are a combination of hard work and great fun. You get access to places you might never otherwise go to, and meet people you might not otherwise meet.

On the Martin Luther King shoot we interviewed his God Daughter and some of the brave people who marched alongside him in the Civil Rights Marches.

We learnt some amazing new facts. For example Martin Luther King never planned to say “I have a dream” in his famous March on Washington in August 1963. The truth is he was slightly running out of steam in the speech when a singer called Mahalia Jackson called out ‘tell them about the dream Martin, tell them about the dream’.

We also interviewed Martin Luther King’s secretary who typed up his words for the March on Washington. ‘That’s not the speech’’she said ‘that’s not the speech we stayed up all night typing’.

Sir Trevor McDonald, OBE

Another funny incident on the shoot was when we were in New York interviewing Harry Belafonte, the legendary singer who was also part of the Civil Rights movement.

We picked a location on the Upper East Side inside a building that is normally very quiet. When we got there, to our horror, there were construction workers outside, drilling. They were basically digging up the road and needed to get the job done that day. So much noise the interview would be impossible.

I spoke to the foreman, who was African American, and explained the problem. ‘For Mr Belafonte’ he said ‘we’ll stop drilling’.

When Harry Belafonte arrived (bearing in mind he is ninety) he happily posed for photos with all the construction workers as a thank you.  And true to their word, they stopped drilling as a thank you.

When we got back to the U.K. we had one more celebrity to track down. Naomi Campbell – who was also an honorary Godchild to Nelson Mandela – is a champion of Martin Luther King. When we learnt that one of the world’s most famous Super Models was keen to be interviewed for our documentary, we cleared our schedules and set up camp in the Dorchester Hotel during a brief break in Naomi’s busy day.

We learnt that Naomi was in her way to a Vogue shoot and would need at least two hours with her stylist and make-up artist before she appeared.

We waited on tenterhooks. Super Models are not really known for their punctuality and our window of opportunity was narrowing as the minutes ticked by.

Then, just when we had given up hope, the phone rang. ‘You’ve got fifteen minutes’ barked one of Naomi’s minders down the phone. In swept Naomi. In swept her entourage.

We were poised, waiting ready to roll. Naomi – looking amazing – gracefully sat down, switched off her phone and took off her sunglasses.

Action’ I said.

Ten minutes later we had our scoop. Naomi on MLK.  ‘He was fearless’ she said. ‘He lived what he said, breathed what he said, did what he said. His name will never be erased from the history books. Martin Luther King will never be forgotten’.

And with that she was gone. Bravo Naomi. Bravo Martin Luther King.

You can find out Marion’s Top Tips about how to gain a career in her sector: here.

Top Resources from My Career Zone Digital for Graduates

Marie Johns graduated in BA Philosophy and Sociology from Exeter in 2017. She’s currently the Survey Project Officer (GBP) here at the University. 

Marie Johns, Survey Project Officer (GBP) and Exeter alumn

During my final year at Exeter, I was pleased to discover that the Career Zone is available to graduates for three years after graduation. I’ve certainly been taking advantage ever since!

In particular, online resources from new platform My Career Zone Digital have been extremely useful in helping me to understand what I want from a job, make successful applications, and ultimately secure employment. Since starting my job, I have enjoyed browsing the resources available for graduates who have entered the workplace. Below, I have compiled a list of my favourite resources from My Career Zone Digital, for graduates at any stage of their career journey.

The Elevator Pitch Builder is a great tool to get you used to talking about yourself by teaching you how to create an effective professional summary. Not only does this help you to develop self-awareness of your strengths and ambitions, but it will help you to talk confidently about yourself in applications and interviews.

The Employer Advice section of My Career Zone Digital contains a number of useful videos covering a range of topics. I found the Job Hunting videos well worth watching. As a recent graduate, I was new to job-hunting and the world of full-time work. It was therefore interesting to hear experienced employers talk informally about which attributes they look for in a new employee and think about how I could demonstrate these to make a good impression.

I found the Interview Simulator to be a really useful tool for interview preparation as it includes many examples of questions you might be asked, grouped into categories. The fact that it allows you to record yourself giving answers enables self-evaluation and improvement and also helps you to build confidence in answering a variety of questions. I also like that there is a way of testing yourself and rehearsing a real interview by having a mock interview which you can either take without knowing the questions beforehand, or create yourself.

My Career Zone Digital

The IT Skills Courses are a great way to brush up on those Microsoft Office skills you haven’t used since GSCE! You can set the course to fit your preferred level of ability (beginner or intermediate) and you have the choice to either actively participate in the tutorials, or to simply watch videos of someone else performing the tasks. My current role involves a lot of work on Excel, which I’d not used extensively before, and I found this course was the ideal way to increase my confidence for the tasks required of me.

The Career Skills Section is great for those, like me, who are in work. There are lots of resources available under sub-headings such as Balancing Work and Life, Being More Productive and Improving Workplace Skills which I have often drawn upon to help me adjust to everyday workplace challenges. It is great to know that these resources are available to me as my career progresses over the next three years.

My Career Zone Digital is there to support you whatever you’re doing now or hope to be doing in the future. There is also a new weekly newsletter you can sign up to which means you can keep up-to-date with new content that’s added.

I fully recommend that you take advantage of these resources just as I have. Good luck!

Working for a Startup

Kellie Wragg graduated from the University of Exeter in 2016 with a degree in Business Management, and then in 2017 with a Masters in International Management. She is currently an Account Manager at HeadBox. 

Kellie Wragg, Exeter alumn and HeadBox Account Manager

During my final years at Exeter I used the Career Zone a lot to get some helpful advice about what my steps should be after my university career was over. They were really helpful and I would definitely recommend paying them a visit if anyone is finding their next steps daunting.

I wasn’t sure which industry I wanted to work in, but knew it was best to get as much experience as possible. Soon enough, I started working for an Estate Agency in London as a member of their Sales department. Although this role taught me a lot and was a great experience, I knew it wasn’t for me. The company themselves was fairly large and the processes they had set up were rigid and very set in stone. I didn’t like the feeling of being just another employee to them and having to stick to outdated and rigid terms. So, I decided to start looking for something else. That’s when I came across HeadBox.

“Being part of startup is always exciting and there are constant developments and new things to learn.”

HeadBox is the UK’s first SaaS enabled marketplace for creative venue and event spaces. The website was the first of its kind that allows you to instantly search, book and pay for a quirky venue online, which was a very exciting concept for the events industry. The more I looked into the company, the more interesting it sounded so I applied for a position as one of their Account Managers. I went through their interview process and eventually landed myself the role in the budding technology start-up. Working for a startup is a great experience, and one that comes with many positive aspects. Here are just a few reasons why I think working for a startup is the right step after you graduate.

Making an Impact

When you work for a smaller company or startup, there’s a lot more room for you to get your voice heard. As you’ll be working in a fairly small team it means each person has the chance to contribute and share their ideas from the beginning. This makes a huge difference to not only your confidence in the workplace but your ability to present your ideas to managers and peers. You can feel real ownership over your successes and how your work impacts a company as a whole. It really makes you feel like all your working efforts are making an impact on the success of the company, which is great.

The Startup Journey

Being part of a company during its adolescence is an invaluable experience, and an exciting one. You’ll definitely learn tonnes about the department you work in, but you’ll also get to work very closely with other departments and see how they work together to make the company great. For example, you may sit right next door to the marketing or finance team which means you can get a great insight into how your role affects them and vice versa. This is something you don’t always get in a larger company. Being part of startup is always exciting and there are constant developments and new things to learn.

Sociable Startups

The third benefit of working for a startup is the social aspect. You’ll usually find yourself surrounded by a group of other recent graduates who all share the same enthusiasm for making their way up the career ladder. Although there’s lots of hard work to do, there’s also a great sense of team spirit which makes it a relaxed environment to work in. You can constantly bounce ideas off of your colleagues and ask them for help and advice.


Finally, I think that being part of a startup company gives you a lot of opportunities for fast progression through a company. A successful startup grows pretty fast, and if you’ve made a good impression, you’ll be climbing up the ranks a lot quicker than at a larger corporate firm. There will be plenty of opportunities for you, and possibilities to see yourself moving from executive to manager within 6 months.

There are plenty of other benefits to working for a startup, the rewards really are endless and I would highly recommend it to any graduate who is looking to kick start their career.