I bet you’ve been looking forward to part three of our new ‘Ones to Watch’ series all week, haven’t you? This is a (relatively new) series in conjunction with the University of Cumbria’s Alumni team. We think all University of Cumbria graduates are amazing, and are proud of each and every one of you. Occasionally we get to hear about certain individuals who are already making a huge impact, despite only graduating recently. Those who have really applied themselves whilst still a student; taken advantage of every opportunity and worked exceptionally hard to get where they want to be.
BA (Hons) Events Management
Helen’s name constantly comes up in conversation regarding our fantastic students! Tutors have nothing but praise for her; she’s an exceptionally hard worker, very motivated and determined. Helen squeezed every opportunity possible out of her student experience and achieved excellent results in all her assignments leading to a first class degree and her dream job offer straight out of uni.
We are all so proud of Helen and rate her knowledge and experience so highly that we asked her to be part of our ‘expert’ panel in a recent creative alumni/network event alongside industry insiders who have been in the business for years! Helen is highly deserving of a place on our ‘ones to watch’ and we have no doubt that she will go very far! Here’s Helen in her own words…
Course: FdA Performance, Festivals and Events and BA (Hons) Event Management top-up
Campus: Brampton Road
Graduation year: 2014
Hometown: Northumberland, orginally, but I’ve lived in Carlisle for ages
Current job: Online project co-ordinator. I run the website Cumbria Live (Cumberland newspaper), writing stories, running the social media, interviewing musicians, artists and comedians heading to the region.
What made you choose the University of Cumbria?
I already live in Carlisle so it meant I would save on things like travel and accommodation. I couldn’t afford to go back to uni in a different city, so studying close to home gave me options of working and earning money around my timetable.
Why did you choose your particular course?
I’d got as far as I could in my previous job and wanted to study for a degree so it would help me in a change of career. My husband owns his own company which has strong connections to the events industry. The more I read about events, the more I realised it was a hugely versatile industry with so many different career options.
Although it’s possible to work in events without a degree, an event management qualification gives you more opportunities and the chance of faster career progression. UoC has a great reputation with a lot of links to local and national businesses, which are especially relevant to events. I knew that studying here would help me to make valuable industry contacts as well as learning from experienced people currently working in the events industry.
What did you like most about your course?
My personal tutor, course leader Laura Baxter, was amazing. She encouraged everyone on the course and it helped build our confidence throughout the three years. In the first semester of year one she handed round information on an internship opportunity and told me just to go for it. I did and couldn’t believe it when I got it. After that I applied for just about everything else I found out about which eventually led me to my current job.
What was your favourite experience at university?
I had an amazing three years studying at the University of Cumbria but my favourite experience was probably getting my final mark and knowing that it was all totally worth it. How corny is that?!
Do you have any particular memorable/funny stories to share?
I got married on a Friday and started uni the following Monday – coming to UoC was pretty much my honeymoon.
How did coming to university change your life?
I’d tried uni the first time around after finishing sixth form and it just wasn’t for me. Nearly ten years later I came to the University of Cumbria and it completely changed my life for the better. I studied the most interesting subject, with amazing people and I was taught by inspiring tutors and lecturers. After finishing my course I bagged myself my dream job – sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
Did you make use of university career resources? How did these help your career?
I definitely made use of the university resources. I don’t think I would be where I am now without the valuable work experience I gained through the Unite Placements. The first one was working as an events assistant at the Whitehaven Festival (so hard, but so worth it!), the next with Lake District Hotels working as a digital marketing assistant (I learned so much there), I worked as a market research person with designer Lydia Leith (she’s the one that designed the royal sick bags!) and then I worked as a social media advisor with a local legal company. Even just applying for those jobs was great experience.
University was the perfect time for me to take part in a few work placements. I found out what I enjoyed (and what I don’t) which was so useful when I was thinking about what I wanted to do after uni. When I finished my events management degree and I totted up all of my work placements it came to a total of about two years worth of experience. That’s a huge advantage when you’re looking to apply for jobs.
What were your career ambitions when you started studying and do you think that you have achieved them?
When I started I thought I might work with my husband when I finished uni, but I soon abandoned that idea. Ultimately I just wanted to be working in a job that I enjoyed. I’m definitely doing that.
Would you be where you are today, without your degree?
No way. Although my job isn’t really to do with events, without my degree I wouldn’t have had the confidence to even attempt it. Having a degree has opened so many doors for me.
How did you get your current job?
In my first year, one of the events I helped to organise was a fashion show with some of the costume students. I was looking for a bit of press coverage and met Tom Little, who was in his final year studying journalism. It turned out he also did a student section of the local newspaper, the News & Star.
Well, the event wasn’t much to write home about but I kept in touch with Tom (see – I told you it was all about networking) who eventually went to run the business website incumbria.com. In the summer before I started my final year Tom told me about a blogging competition that was being held on the entertainment website Cumbria Live. He knew I had a fashion blog and asked if I fancied giving it a go.
I had to write about events and gigs happening in Cumbria with a chance win an ipad. I didn’t win (I think I came fourth – boo!) but I was asked if I wanted to do a bit of work on the website over the summer. Turns out that was way better than winning an ipad anyway. I worked on Cumbria Live all through my final year and I was lucky enough to be offered a full time position once I finished my degree.
What are you most proud of?
As part of my final degree I had to stage an event. I was working on Cumbria Live all the way through my final year so decided to tie it in with that. I was really interested in social media (which was the subject of my dissertation) and my editor and I came up with the idea of #cumbriaweekend.
We’d utilise social media to showcase the best the region had to offer with a huge ticket giveaway worth £5000 and encourage everyone to get out and about and share their favourite things about Cumbria and the Lake District on social media. It was amazing and worked really well.
How did you stay motivated to pursue your dream when studying hard and enjoying the University lifestyle?
The main thing that kept me motivated throughout the three years was thinking that I was so lucky to have the chance to study. I knew I wouldn’t have the chance to do it again, so no matter what, I had to study hard.
What advice would you give to today’s freshers and prospective students about making the most of their time at university?
Easy – say yes to everything.