Where former Manchester students report back from the “real world.” This week we chat to marketing assistant and American Studies graduate Stevie Mackenzie-Smith
Stevie graduated from the University of Manchester in summer 2013, with a 2:1 in American Studies. She currently works as the marketing assistant at Creative Tourist, an arts, culture and travel site for the North of England, and runs lifestyle blog Discotheque Confusion.
Did you have any idea what you wanted to do when you graduated?
I knew I wanted to work in the arts but assumed it would take a while to find something so intended to wait tables and write and volunteer on the side.
What made you decide to stay in Manchester after graduation?
I love Manchester; I came to study here for the city and didn’t feel ready to leave it after graduating. It was also somewhere I could afford to stay and support myself financially. Manchester is a great city for people interested in working in the arts. There is a sense of being able to get to know everybody and make progress quickly. I find it more appealing than London for now. It’s a place full of do-ers who won’t let you get lost.
What path did you take to get your current job?
I applied for an editorial internship at Creative Tourist through the Manchester Graduate Internship Programme. I didn’t get it, but a couple of months after my interview I was asked to join the team in a marketing role instead.
What does your role at Creative Tourist involve?
Creative Tourist covers arts, culture and travel goings-on from across the North, from the best coffee shops to exhibition openings. We also work lots with arts organisations within Manchester. Because we’re a small team my role is very flexible. I’m involved with the running of campaigns on the website, liaising with our arts partners, generally spreading the word about what we do, researching and helping to develop products like our annual Cultural Calendar, day-to-day social media monitoring and writing articles.
What do you most enjoy about your current role?
I love working with a group of people who are ambitious and driven by a desire to make the Manchester arts and culture scene dynamic and of international interest. Getting to know more people working within the industry has been great. It’s also nice to have a reason to keep up to date with all of the cultural events I’d want to be going to anyway.
What are your thoughts on the “intern culture” that faces most graduates?
I was very lucky to find a paid internship; there’s no way I could have supported myself otherwise. I find the culture of unpaid internships very troubling. On a basic level, working for free removes the dignity and autonomy that should come from working hard. I know people who had to move back home in order to afford to intern; it was important to me to be able to leave home and financially support myself after graduating.
In what ways has your degree at Manchester been useful to you?
All those hours crying in the library over essays actually helped as being a competent writer is essential; from emailing to writing proposals. While there’s a lot that a humanities degree can’t prepare you for, the emphasis it places on thinking critically and independently helps you to handle the rest.
Was it a bit of a jolt, adjusting from the lifestyle of a student to that of a Career Woman?
I felt ready for a change after graduating. I think I craved the structure that a 9-6 routine would bring. Although I now have a severe appreciation for the joy of the weekend.
Discotheque Confusion covers culture, style, art, music and history, with personal essays thrown in too. Do you think having the blog on your CV helped you get the job at Creative Tourist?
Absolutely. I’ve been writing my blog since 2006 and though it’s always been something I’ve done for fun it has led to other projects and bits on the side that I think helped my CV too.
What advice would you give to people thinking about aiming for a graduate job in marketing – or to those wanting to set up their own blog?
This sounds basic, but I often search for jobs online and read the descriptions for the roles I like the sound of to check what sort of skills and experience are essential; it’s a good way of knowing how to plug the gaps in your CV. I also used the careers service for interview practise. Blog-wise, you should start one because you have an interest you want to share, rather than viewing it as a career tool. Focus on producing interesting and substantial content – it doesn’t need to be serious but make it you and let it be a place to show what you’re about.