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From English Graduate to Charity Media Officer

It was with a sense of sorrow and excitement that I graduated from the University of East Anglia in 2012 with a 2:1 in English Literature.

I had experienced three tumultuous wonderful years of learning and living, including delving into the complexities of Albert Camus' The Outsider while moonlighting as a section editor for my student newspaper.

The outside world beckoned as I considered my employment options. Some of my friends were heading into the workplace and others were re-opening textbooks in a bid to extend their education. I opted for the latter and undertook a 6 month NCTJ journalism qualification in Brighton.

Know your interests 

University had nourished my appetite for media, whether it was 20th century literature or print journalism, and I knew that I wanted to work in this field in some capacity. I opted to take an NCTJ qualification because I thought it would offer me a practical, immersive experience in the professional media world, and it largely delivered upon this preconception.

Once complete, the NCTJ opened doors and provided insight into different career paths but I came across a weakness in my CV. There was a lack of work experience with media organisations or publications, and three years of varying contributions to my student newspaper represented the only relevant experience. This yielded unsuccessful results in my initial applications for graduate schemes and roles. I took on a couple of internships (unpaid, sadly) to demonstrate a breadth of experience beyond the academic.

Why internships count 

I contributed to a hyper-local publication and provided them with social media support. Another internship involved writing travel and events articles for a new start-up website looking to combine maps with listings pages. This attempt to offer a diversity of experience culminated in me travelling to Malawi for three months with a charity called Progressio, to complete some aid work and act as a Written Media Officer. These efforts nullified what had been a problem for me and I found my first graduate job working as a Communications Officer for the Green Party in Norwich, 6 months after finishing full-time education.

Working for the Green Party provided a wealth of opportunity as I supported local councillors and helped fight local elections alongside a general election. I gained valuable media experience. Highlights included working alongside BBC Newsnight for a package on the Green general election candidate in Norwich as well as involvement with the setting up of print pieces for national newspapers, such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

It isn't all glamourous 

I am keen to point out though that the role wasn’t all glamour and broadcast interviews. I recall periods where I was manning an industrial printer late into the night, desperately trying to prepare leaflets and materials for distribution the following day. But I wouldn’t wish to disown the experience as I believe it showed dedication to the job and a willingness to help out. Elections were wild, exhilarating experiences and my fixed-term contract came to an end after an all-consuming 2015 General Election.

This meandering route through life led me to my current job as West Midlands Media Officer for Alzheimer’s Society, which I am really enjoying. My academic experience alongside my past professional experience provided me with the necessary skills to secure the role. My duties include supporting local offices with media work across six counties, contributing to national campaigns enacted by the charity, writing press releases, spots of photography and much more.

You have so many options 

The role is really varied and I have found covering a large geographic area to be stimulating. I’ve been presented with exciting opportunities such as working on huge fundraising events like Memory Walk, contributing to Dementia Friendly Communities in the West Midlands and immersing myself in awareness behemoths such as Dementia Awareness Week.

The beauty of studying English Literature is that it offers graduates so many career options. Graduating without a clear career path can be a daunting prospect but my experience shows a job will yield itself when you nurture your interests, skills and contacts.

James Dixon studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia and was Lifestyle Editor and Joint News Editor for the student newspaper, Concrete. James is a massive Oscar Wilde fan and is currently learning Dutch. He lives in Birmingham and works for Alzheimer’s Society as a Media Officer. Find him on LinkedIn