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UEL alumni offer top tips on pursuing a dream career

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#BeTheNext alumni offer their best advice to students

Believe in yourself and in your dream. That was the message from a panel of University of East London alumni who are leading inspiring careers.

As part of the University's Welcome Week, the University hosted a #BeTheNext panel to let students and graduates know that the University is not just with them for three years but for the rest of their lives. This includes support from the Centre for Student Success (CfSS) and Alumni team. 

There are 100,000 University of East London alumni across 161 countries. #BeTheNext is a University campaign which highlights the achievements of outstanding graduates, aiming to inspire current students to reach for the stars.

The director of the CfSS, Dr Charles Prince, said, "If you decide to take jobs here or around the world, we are here to help you and support you."

Dr Prince brought together the panel and the guests at a networking event that followed the panel discussion, pledging to put each one of them with someone who could help and inspire them.

The most recent graduate on the panel was hip-hop entrepreneur Charlie Blair. She said students should look to take up every invitation and opportunity that was on offer at the University.

She said, “There is loads of help here - resources, facilities, people - use it all to your advantage. I have a space at Knowledge Dock. Explore every opportunity. If you see an event come up, go to that event; you don’t know who you’re going to meet. It takes one person, one event, one meeting for things to happen.”

The #BeTheNext panel answered questions about getting a break, making your own luck, getting on television and launching a business from nothing.

The #BeTheNext Panel

  • Reece Parkinson (RP) hosts 1Xtra Talks Show and has a large YouTube following.
  • Jacqui Bashford (JB) is Solution Center of Excellence Area Manager at AT&T and subcommittee lead for the University of East London’s Alumni Advisory Board.
  • Seth Hunter (SH) co-founded the Dragon Café in London, a wellbeing centre designed to help people suffering from mental health issues.
  • Charlie Blair (CB), is founder of The Blair Academy and winner of E-Factor 2019, the University's competition for entrepreneurs. The Blair Academy teaches hip-hop to vulnerable groups.
  • Jacqueline Malcom (JM) is a playwright, author, presenter, founder of the Creative Platform Academy and vice-chair of the University of East London’s Alumni Advisory Board.
  • Matt Braddy (MB) found success as a marketing professional working with Just Eat. He now invests in companies and mentors new businesses at Seedcamp.

1. Best piece of advice on starting out on your career

CB: Every job helps. I spent a year and a half in a call centre and thought it was a complete waste of time but now when I do funding applications I don’t feel bad about asking people for money because that’s all I used to do. Each of these experiences that I couldn’t quite make sense of have culminated to make me the person I needed to be.

JM: You have 1,000 careers in your life, that’s just normal. I am of the belief that our careers are supposed to support our lives, it’s not meant to be the other way round. Most of us live our lives to support our careers which means we will sacrifice all our family time, all our sleep, all the things we really love to serve the job. So from the start of your journey, decide what your perfect life is and go for that life. If the only value in your career is money then there is no value in it because there is no value in money. The value is in the people you love, the life that you live.

MB: If you end up doing what you love doing it’s not a job. You can’t wait to get up in the morning and do that thing. Some parts of marketing can be soulless but if you can do that on your own terms it’s worth it.

2. One piece of advice to someone looking to set up a fashion accessories business

MB: There’s blogging, there’s Instagram, there’s all sorts of DIY things you can be doing to launch yourself as a brand within that space so if you go do and meet people you’ve got content you’ve blogged about or made films on YouTube. Create yourself as a brand. Just the fact that you’ve been passionate about the topic will impress investors.

JM: Do not use your holidays as holidays. Use two weeks holiday and then do four weeks of some kind of internship and some kind of volunteering. Use this time to network, to meet everyone in your industry. Make a list of 10 people and say ‘I’m going to meet these 10 people this year’ and then you go after those people and I promise you - you will meet them.
CB: I saw a picture the other day that said ‘I’d rather hustle 24/7 than slave 9 to 5 and I said amen to that.

RP: When you study the game, you learn so much. There’s always a pattern to everything. Most of us got a job as a pattern. When I wanted to get a job on 1Xtra, I thought there must be a pattern to it. The last four DJs that went on 1Xtra were from Reprezent Radio in Brixton so I went on Reprezent. I knew that you needed to go viral so I studied Jimmy Kimmel, James Cordon, Jimmy Fallon to see what worked. With fashion, check out the most successful ones, there’ll be a pattern.

3. One piece of advice that has stood the test of time

RP: Be super patient. If I didn’t get on the radio at 23 I would have kept going till I was 40. You’ve got to know that what you want will happen and you will attract it to yourself. You have to know what you want, and it’s done as soon as you that out there. It might be just you that’s the person who believes that you can do it but that’s enough.

JB: Because I’m corporate I would say mentorship is important and you can’t just have one. You need to have a dynamic mentorship group.

SH: Seek out excellence. Find someone you really admire, a real mover and shaker, and be their right-hand person. You won’t go too far wrong. On a practical level some of the most successful people I know are incredible listeners. We are a society that is big on talking but to be a really good listener – body language and words – you can go far.

CB: Don’t waste your time trying to convince people that your business is going to work, manifest those things. Make it happen because nobody is going to do it for you. You have to believe in yourself fundamentally and to the core. Be relentless in being the best version of yourself.

MB: I used to work for a video games company and one of our values was passion. I always try to pursue that. It’s sometimes hard to be passionate about, say, kebabs but you can be passionate about having a great night in. That worked for us at Just Eat. In a job find something you are passionate about and you will excel.

JM: Three tips. Authenticity is beautiful so be your authentic self. Never, ever let anyone else value you. If someone says the job is worth £20,000 always push them. The moment you say my fees are normally £25,000 you’ve broken that psyche in their mind that ‘you’re only worth…’ And never forget none of us get out of this alive. So don’t waste it. Live your life to the max.

The Centre for Student Success is a one-stop shop, providing a network that enables students to grow and develop from their first few weeks through to employment.

The UEL Alumni Network is a service for all students and staff past and present which aims to provide opportunities for communication, friendship and involvement.