A few weeks ago, The University of East London (UEL) kindly invited me along to their careers fair. My task was to give a pep talk about life after graduation. With this being a rare chance to play ‘visiting lecturer’, I decided to take this as an opportunity for experimentation. ‘How can I combine my poetry, teaching and presentation skills’ into one funky affair?!’ This question racked my brain for a minute, but soon after, the penny dropped, and I came up with the following:
What Does it Mean to ‘BA’?
Deep in a Picasso painted canvas, we squelch our way through the mudded colours of life –
forcing our limbs to tare through the conflicted pallet our preceding generations have left us.
Blood reds, petrol yellows, fire oranges and the faint residue of green is what we consume –
only to be spewed out into a vacuous space of cold, ambiguous blue.
As we float mid-air and stare back at this paradox of a rainbow, we contemplate next steps.
Analysing the analysis from an analytical point of view: Reading, researching and dissertat-ing, rarely discerning.
Amidst the academia we apply practicality…
and right on the cusp of ‘giving up’ we ask ourselves, ‘what does it mean to BA?’
A fair question,
and not one the world has been able to answer – with conviction.
An answer hiding in nubilous clouds, but not one that is impossible to find.
The calamitous journey of our young souls –
bouncing between the realms of the desirable and the attainable,
comes to a halt when we appreciate the beauty of our minds –
accepting that the opportunities we want are what we must create from conception to reality.
In short, the desirable and the attainable are one of the same.
To ‘BA’ is to already have achieved and to make way for the embodiment of vocation.
To ‘BA’ is to accept that many no’s make way for a resounding yes.
To ‘BA’ is to be honoured by the fact that you are who you are,
and no rejection letter, unsuccessful application or interview, or even an unanswered email implies that society is awaiting your apology.
To ‘BA’ means accepting that beans on toast is not the core of a staple diet.
To ‘BA’ means admitting that waking up after 11am may decrease your chances of having a full, productive day.
To ‘BA’ means you acknowledge and take comfort in the idea of making a living from what you get…
and a life from what you give.
All the above applies not just to those who ‘BA’,
but to those who ‘BSC’, ‘MA’, ‘MSC’, ‘MED’, ‘MPHIL’, and/or ‘PHD’.
When the day is done and you mind-frame a new one, I encourage you to smile as you ponder future steps.
Life has handed you a blank canvas. What colours will you paint yours? What will you do next?
That little allegorical stint I just gave you came to mind when I was pondering just how I would approach the subject of employability fresh out of graduation.
I graduated with a BA in Journalism in 2008. I did okay- a 2:1 with a few awards and internships to show on my CV…but it was a long time before I found a job.
In fact, I became so sick and so drained from looking, finding project-to-project based contracts and constantly trying to find something permanent, that I decided to create my own job- be my own boss.
And from being an in-experienced Journalism graduate, I worked my way up to becoming a frequently commissioned writer and founder of Scribble Ink Story Consultancy- a social enterprise dedicated to mentoring writers’ throughout their creative process.
Within three years of birthing my business, I have had the pleasure of developing, running and sustaining writers’ programmes in schools, colleges, theatres, galleries, bookshops, coffee shops, libraries, care homes, shelters, church halls, offices, community centre’s, media centre’s, pubs, parks, festivals, universities, online, etc, all the while, maintaining part-time work here and there, performing and publishing work wherever possible and being the full-time minder of a fiancee who never picks up his socks!
I say this not to boast about what I’ve done- in fact, what I’ve done is nothing compared to what I’m about to do.
I say this to submit to you, the concept of increasing your chance of employability, by hiring yourself.
Naturally, It will serve you well to find work within your field; gain work experience wherever possible, make the most of free or heavily subsidised networking events, training courses, etc, and simultaneously, never be afraid to play to your strengths and refine what the world may call ‘weaknesses’, but what I call ‘strengths in the making.’
– Create a mastermind group with reliable friends so you can encourage each
other during the hard times, congratulate each other on the good times, help each other out when under deadlines, endorse each other, support each other in filling out application forms or updating CV’s, be on the look out for opportunities a friend may be interested in, etc. To summarise- have each other’s backs.
– Advertise yourself on linked-in, ideas-tap,etc.
– Get yourself some business cards.
– Join online forums that are applicable to your field.
– Subscribe to e-newsletters, podcasts and screencasts that are applicable to
– Consider the freelancing status even if for a while. Create your own job
description, set your own fees, your own hours and your own terms. In my reading, I came across a source that said in the UK alone, 367,000 more people took the self-employment route in 2012 (which is when I decided to go full-time with Scribble Ink) compared with 2008 (which is when I graduated and also when the powers that be admitted to us that we were in a recession).
– Look out for grants that will help you get started in business, professional development, on your next level of study or research…there are tonnes out there and the world is very good at hiding them.
– Where you feel you lack in some much needed experience that will contribute to your long term goals, consider interning somewhere for a few hours a week (just for a season), but only in exchange for a written reference and some mentoring throughout.
These actions are among the many I took and subsequently gave me the courage to ‘Scribble Ink it’ full-time in the last year.
These ideas and my invaluable experiences gained thus far is what I aim to impart on those who join me on the UEL Ambassador Programme and/or other Scribble Ink projects.
I’d like to thank UEL for having me today, and I’d like to thank you for listening.
If anyone has any questions about me, Scribble Ink, the Ambassador Programme, etc. Please feel free to ask/ chat with me at the end.
You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if face-to-face chats are not your thing.
Many thanks to UEL for the invite. I look forward to working with you again 🙂