Placements and career progression while studying a Creative degree
It’s one of the biggest and most fundamental questions for students, ‘what am I going to do when I graduate?’ For some this is easy, they’ve had an idea for a long time about what they want to do and it’s that idea which has guided their decisions up until that point. From subjects at school, to degree choice or even which institution they want to study at.
But for others this is more difficult. What if you don’t know what career you want and instead concentrate simply on what you enjoy? This isn’t bad, in fact it’s fantastic! As it ensures you’ll enjoy your studies, are more likely to achieve a good grade and appreciate the university experience. But as time goes on and you edge closer to graduation, you need to start thinking about an answer, and going on placement is a great place to start.
Insert Emma Lawrence, a Graphic, Communication and Illustration student at Loughborough who’s currently working for the Met Office. We’ve managed to sit her down and ask her all about her placement, how she got to this point and what the future holds for a career in the Creative Industries.
Loughborough: So Emma, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Firstly, how did you end up studying at Loughborough – what drew you to the University?
Emma: The course at Loughborough instantly stood out to me due to how broad and flexible it seemed. At the time of applying, I was very unsure on specifically what area of design I wanted to go into, therefore a course where I could try lots of new things was key for me. It was clear from the outset, that I would be able to try animation, photography, branding, editorial design, illustration and so much more at Loughborough (and boy was I right)! I also got such a good community feeling whilst walking around campus on the Open Day; I instantly felt at home. The number of societies, sports clubs and volunteering opportunities at Loughborough was also a big attraction, as I like to be on the go 24/7 (chilling out is not something I am very good at)!
Loughborough: When it was time to start looking for placements, how did you choose yours and what help was available from your Department and the wider University?
Emma: Towards the start of second year, we had various lectures covering top tips on where to find placements, financially the loans/costs involved and do’s and don’ts of Creative CVs and portfolios. We also had the option to watch the previous cohort’s placement presentations, whereby they had to present how their placement year had gone, including images of their work. It was going to these presentations that gave me the drive to get myself a placement. I could instantly see the value that the students had gained from their year out in industry. The Careers Network looked over my CV, covering letter and portfolio as well as giving me vital advice on how to nail applications.
Regular emails also kept us up to date on any placement opportunities that the University was aware of. My placement journey was a long one (27 applications, several interviews/assessment centres and many setbacks) but the support from the careers network at Loughborough, as well as my grit and determination, is why I am where I am today; loving every second of my year at the Met Office.
I am just over 4 months into my Design and Content placement and I’m part of the Content Team, which is full of designers, presenters, animators and video producers. My role has been very varied…it is so much more than just designing weather symbols like you might think! I have had the opportunity to input fresh ideas to a wide range of projects, such as working on the campaign to promote the new Met Office book ‘Very British Weather’, to working on an infographic to advise scientists on how best to present climate information to the public.
Loughborough: Wow that sounds really engaging! I thought the Met Office just made mostly inaccurate rain forecasts.
Emma: Haha, no there’s actually a lot more to it than that. I know this sounds cliché but there really has been no ‘typical day’ as such; it is so varied! One day I could be working on the latest Christmas campaign, the next I could be working on a re-vamped identity to promote our ‘live’ show.
I do have 2 meetings which occur every single day, one being at 9am where we all go round and list off the jobs that we will be working on for the day. This gives the Design Manager the opportunity to see what everyone has on, so he can delegate new jobs accordingly. It’s a nice start to your day and is a great chance to ask any questions, should I have any. I also have a regular meeting at 10am known as the ‘Daily Editorial’. This is where we act a bit like a Newsroom (as my manager likes to call it). We hear a brief summary of the weather forecast from the experts and then work out what the story is and how we will tell it consistently over social media for that day.
Loughborough: And what have been the main benefits? Are you picking up any new skills or getting the chance to apply what you’ve learned in lectures to the real world?
Emma: Well, my animation skills are rapidly advancing and this is one of the skills that I wanted to develop during my placement year, as I think motion skills are becoming increasingly important to any designer’s toolkit. Whilst my design skills are developing naturally through using Adobe software daily, a lot of the skills I feel I am advancing in are those vital to any working environment! These involve leadership, communication, time management skills and so much more. I love feeling like my ideas are valued and that no question that I ask, is a stupid one.
Despite working from home (and not in the glorious building in Exeter), the team have welcomed me with open arms. The way I have integrated smoothly into the team, even though I have only met them once in person, is a huge benefit as I already sense that I am making connections that will stay with me throughout my career. Networking is something that I am getting better at; for me this involved remembering that everyone, no matter what job title or background, is a human and that it only takes 2 minutes to message someone. Ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen? It’s only that they won’t reply, but most do. My advice is to build up connections naturally by being friendly, approachable and useful, and don’t be afraid of reaching out to find new contacts!
In addition, I get to stimulate my academic as well as my creative side. As someone who did Maths and Geography A-Level, I love having the opportunity to design things about something that is really interesting (well to me anyway). I have always had it in my nature to help people and it is important for me to use my creativity to do this wherever I can. I find it rewarding knowing that the communications we put out as a team on social media every day, help keep the public up to date with the latest weather forecast to ultimately keep people safe, especially in times of severe weather.
Loughborough: Have there been any highlights or something you’ve been particularly proud of during your time at the Met Office?
Emma: One thing that stands out is my feature on Agorapulse which is a social media management software tool. My line manager, Ross Middleham signposted me towards Jennifer Watson, a Social Media Manager there, so I dropped her a message as she is also an incredible meteorologist who has previously worked for the Weather Channel in America. I asked a few questions and she instantly engaged and showed interest in hearing about how we deal with weather here in the UK. Ross and I then set up an initial meeting with Jennifer and since then, the relationship has grown with Jennifer featuring on our podcast, joining our team for a brainstorm on re-launching our ‘live’ show and Ross and I have even featured on Agorapulse’s live show to talk about all things TikTok!
It was an incredible experience and a true highlight of my placement so far. I got such a buzz from going live and answering questions on the spot (even if inside I was incredibly nervous)!
Loughborough: And finally, what would you say to someone considering studying a Creative course with a placement year?
Emma: Go for it! I can’t express how much value I am gaining from my placement year and not just in my design skills…in all the other skills (leadership, time-management, communication) that are vital in any job you go for. My advice would be to have the grit and determination to keep applying for placements, as believe me it is a long haul, especially balancing applications and interviews alongside your degree, but it is so worth it.
Find out what makes 'The Loughborough Experience' by reading our student blogs.