When you're at university, it can be hard to know exactly what you want to do when you graduate. So it's essential to utilise your extended breaks, favourable timetables and any opportunities you can to get into the work place and experience as many potential careers as possible.
Which is what Emily Austen did when she was studying Criminology and Criminal Law at Manchester University. She did everything (and we mean everything) that was offered to her, and later turned her side-hustles into a way of make money - before eventually launching her own PR and communications agency, Emerge, off the back of it. Here's how she did it.
"I always tried to get as much work experience as I could during the school holidays and later while I was at uni, and I did everything; I worked for a local political party, a tennis club, a product placement company at Pinewood Studios. I wrote for a newspaper, worked for a student data company analysing trends, I even had a radio show! As none of it was paid, I also worked in a pub for the petrol money and had a student loan.
"I quickly realised that I wasn't textbook clever and disengaged very quickly if I wasn't interested in something, but I also craved mental stimulation - I didn’t find it easy to achieve through the institutionalised hoop jumping that school had offered, so had to find other outlets.
"Which is where my 'side hustles' came in. In my second year at university, I was offered paid work at a company I had previously worked for, based at Pinewood Film Studios. It was £500 (Dhs2,388) a month and I had to pay my own expenses. My parents lived in West London, so in the March of my second year at Manchester, I took coursework modules and moved back to London. I drove to Pinewood and worked 9am - 6pm for the Product Placement company, and then from 6pm -10pm, I would stay in the office, log into the university network to watch recordings of the lectures, and write my coursework.
"Come my third year, I would commute to London from uni to do a radio show, and later turned my attention to selling social media solutions into companies and agencies in Manchester.
"From there, I went for an internship with a fashion company, for basic work experience. When I sat down they told me they’d just fired their PR Agency and could I do it - I said yes. I had no idea what PR was, but I learnt early on to back myself, say yes, and figure it out quickly afterwards."
Emily's introduction into PR eventually led her to start her own agency, who now boast Motel Rocks, Ellesse, Missoma and Ray-Ban amongst their clients.
"My strategy, retrospectively, was to become a sponge, and soak up as much from the people I met as possible. I think a culmination of different experiences and working styles allowed me to refine the value add I saw for myself. I started EMERGE based on principles of kindness, integrity and communication - qualities that I often found lacking in the businesses I worked with. I wanted to create an office in which I wanted to work.
"I definitely did make sacrifices to get to this point, though, and my side-hustles came above socialising and university work when it came to my priorities. I wasn’t a big partier, and didn’t have a hugely demanding lecture schedule, so I wanted to optimise the spare time that I had. I cared more about working and being independent than having a social life - I chose to live by myself in my final year, so that I could focus on what would become EMERGE when I graduated. So long as I was learning about something, I was happy, so I viewed every experience as a positive thread to weave into the tapestry of my career.
"When I graduated (with a 2:1, no less!), I registered my company, opened a company bank account and found a desk in the corner of a Music Management Agency - they let me have it for free providing I helped with any crisis communications for their clients. I worked for hardly any money in order to build some sort of portfolio and experience. As my confidence grew, so did my fees, and my guts to walk into larger brands. I was young enough to think I knew everything, and I think that worked in my favour.
"I didn’t start making money until I could start regularly billing clients on retainers. I think the moment that it became a proper job was when I finally connected the dots between all the information that I had learned from my variety of experiences. Understanding that this could be a viable revenue earner encouraged me to convert it to a full time vocation.
"I have created an environment that supports, communicates and develops my team, as I felt that this lacked from my early experiences, and I truly believe that if you work hard and you are kind to people, you can do anything."
As for Emily's advice for any current students hoping to do the same thing?
"Things always seem impossible until they are done, and you can pretty much talk yourself out of anything, so I would suggest getting on with it and rolling the dice. You do need to be passionate, but you also need to be resilient. I believe that perseverance is one of the most significant qualities - you are more likely to succeed based on the fact that others will quit. From a practical perspective, read, learn, ask questions, become an expert. Consider what is important to your consumers, what is important to you, whether you are solving problems, and what the scale opportunities are. A solid business plan, or some sort of road map is essential."
H/T Cosmo UK