Miriam Zendle, Digital Content Manager, British Society for Rheumatology
Miriam graduated with a BA Hons in Classical Civilisation in 2007 and currently works as a Digital Content Manager for the British Society for Rheumatology. She’s also a freelance writer, editor and yoga teacher.
She talked to us about how extra-curricular activities can shape a future career and about how she coped with graduating into a recession.
What is a digital content manager?
"A digital content manager manages multiple digital channels: everything from websites and social media to audio-visual projects and email marketing. Day-to-day, I might be focusing on editing content or working on technical development, holding a website clinic or analysing and reporting on data.
It's a very creative role with lots of different opportunities within it. I prefer to work in smaller organisations where I can work in lots of different areas. I learn quickly, work fast, and get bored easily, so I like to learn new things and to always be developing."
Why Classical Civilisation?
"I chose to study Classical Civilisation because I loved it. I knew I wanted to be a journalist – my first career – and so I took advice from relevant people, who said ‘do work experience around the things you want to do and do a degree in what you love’. So I chose Classical Civilisation and I did loads and loads of work experience on the side.
Classical Civilisation is a really fantastic, high quality degree. You've got literature, language, history, art and architecture. Greeks and Romans are the foundation of society, so if you don't understand what they got up to you can’t understand the modern world.
It was honestly a brilliant course with a really good group of people. We had a society within the department and even organised a trip to Rome, although I got food poisoning on the first night so didn’t see very much…"
I took advice from relevant people, who said "do work experience around the things you want to do and do a degree in what you love". So I chose Classical Civilisation and I did loads and loads of work experience on the side.
Using extracurricular opportunities to kick start a career
"The extracurricular opportunities at Nottingham were so important for me. I worked on Impact (the student magazine) and worked my way up from being a writer to editing the whole thing. I learned so much, not just systems like InDesign, but also how to edit, how to write, how to put things together, how to manage contributors. Impact was a really fantastic ground for learning how to be a writer.
When you start applying for jobs, these extracurricular activities show productivity and an interest in what you're applying for. It shows a passion."
Classics to digital sounds like a big leap but actually the skillsets are the same. It's about having an analytical mindset and being creative with content and knowing how to edit. All the things you're doing when writing an essay are skills that a good digital content manager needs. A grounding in structure, analysis, editing and critical thinking is vital to so many roles.
Building a career during a recession
"I’d worked in a part-time online journalism job during my time at Nottingham, and when I graduated, still wanting to be a journalist, I got a job as an editorial assistant at The Strad, a classical music magazine. Unfortunately, due to the recession I was made redundant after just six months.
I didn’t see it coming and was really upset initially, but in the long run it pushed me to step up my game - I picked up some freelance shifts from a friend and ended up working at the Daily Mail (I know!) as a Content Manager on their Money pages and MailOnline. At the time, online was nowhere near as big as it is now, so my experience working on a website during university definitely stood me in good stead.
Graduating into a recession is an extremely bitter pill to swallow. You have to be quick-witted and flexible and prepared for the unexpected.
Eventually, I decided to find something with greater longevity, as journalism was so unstable. That’s when I started working in digital marketing; I was able to draw on the transferable skills developed during my studies and work experience (writing and creativity).
While the landscape for graduates is naturally different today to when I graduated in 2007, I still believe that studying what you love is really important – I worked in journalism for many years without doing either an undergraduate or PgDip in journalism. The skills I learnt in my degree and in my extracurricular activities allowed me to try lots of different things and give me the best possible start when I graduated."
What does success look like?
"When I was younger, it was more about climbing the career ladder. These days, it's more about security and stability in my daily life, being surrounded with good friends and family and having a happy life that you want to live."
Study classical civilisation
Miriam’s advice for you:
- "Take opportunities to follow your passions within the course; this will help to develop your professional interests. For example, in my second year I was able to record a radio play for one of my projects
- Find the balance; take up extracurricular studies, study hard, but remember it’s possible to work too hard Don’t make yourself sick with stress
- Ride the wave; don’t beat yourself up upon graduation if it’s hard and challenging in the job market. If your CV isn’t consistent, it doesn't matter. It will be okay. You have to believe in yourself and in your skillset, and that takes time and it also requires having good people around you
- Be kind to yourself; no one's going to expect you to graduate with all the skills and experience needed to do every job
- Use what is unique to your generation; as digital natives your generation has a unique skillset. So use what is unique to you, your age, and your experience and your knowledge of being who you are."