We are delighted to welcome this week’s guest blogger, Laura Lee Davies. Laura Lee studied at the Warrington campus from 1984-87, gaining a degree in Communication Studies from Manchester University. In this week’s blog post, she tells us about her career since graduating and offers some advice to future writers/editors…
“When I was in sixth form, communications courses were pretty thin on the ground. Many courses were very career specific: journalist courses in London, engineering ones elsewhere. But I found one at Padgate College, now Warrington Campus, which offered a mix of disciplines. Perfect for a 17 year-old who wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do yet…
“I chose English and AVC (Media Studies to anyone under 45). Because there were fewer colleges offering this kind of course at the time, competition for places was actually quite stiff. Clearly my interests and activities out of school were as important as my grades. I’d set up a school magazine and run a fanzine with friends. Hardly high-end publishing, but enough to show the College that I was engaged and creative, not just someone who’d ticked any course box to get me a place.
“I loved the variety of the course, and unlike a lot of my school friends’ courses, it had a view to career options with useful work experience components. I did my work experience at a magazine called City Limits in London. This was a listings magazine so I could channel my passions for film and music in a setting that wasn’t so gender specific like the women’s magazine industry.
“During the summer term of my second year, I got in touch with City Life (a similar magazine in Manchester) and offered my services on a casual basis, helping out for a few hours on production days. I’d do anything from reviewing a new exhibition, to calling round the cinemas to get their film listings for the following week – my knowledge of the suburbs of Manchester drastically improved!
“On the day I finished my last exam, there was an advert in the Guardian Media pages: Music Listings Assistant at Time Out magazine in London. To my amazement, I got the job! I think the mix of student enthusiasm for a junior role (no walking in and expecting to write the cover feature the next day), fanzine projects and my work experience gave me the edge over more experienced writers. Often in work experience roles, you won’t get the depth of exposure to a real job as you might with an internship, but even if in two weeks you just learn how to proof read and use the right markings, that’s another skill for your CV.
“The job was busy, but I said yes to everything extra that I could – even if it meant writing features at the weekend. I know that it’s not easy, but if you are recently out of university, stick at it and build on your enthusiasms. As an editor, I meet loads of keen young interns. The ones who get called back after their three month internships are the ones that are happy to do any task well and don’t think filing is beneath them. They have good writing skills but aren’t necessarily fully developed yet and they accept that if the editor asks them to do a rewrite, their copy requires a full workover, not just tweaking a couple of words. It also helps to show real knowledge and passion for a particular subject – it might not be the area you end up working in, but it gives the editor an idea of your level of ability.
“I ended up staying at Time Out for 17 years. I know that sounds very lazy, but every time I thought I should move on, I got promoted and the chance to work with new people. I went from music editor, to features editor, to editor. London was changing all the time, and that kept the job interesting. I did other projects like presenting a music show on a BBC London radio station and judging the Mercury Music Prize in my spare time.
“After five years spent as editor, I left in 2004. Now I love the flexibility of freelancing and enjoy working in print (yes, it still has a role) and online. I write about arts, music, London and lifestyle issues, sometimes working on commercial projects which pay well and give me the financial breathing space to take on arts editorial writing. I freelance as Senior Contributing Editor at Time Out still – the magazine is very different and it’s free these days, but the basic premise is the same: shout about all the good things to see and do in the place you live.
“I don’t think anyone, even beginners, should work for nothing though, unless they do something as a one-off to showcase their talents or to highlight an issue they really believe in. If a publishing house is still running as a business, it’s making enough money to pay its writers!”
Laura Lee made contact with our Alumni team at the recent Warrington Campus 80s Reunion. Pictured above is Laura Lee outside her room in her old hall of residence.
If you would like to organise a reunion or become a guest blogger, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.