What Our Graduates Can Learn From Olympic Athletes

As the London Olympics 2012 have shown us, it takes hard work, dedication, determination and a clear focus to achieve success, in any and every area of life. Elite athletes only get to the top by creating and capitalising on opportunities. And whether your aspiration is to win a gold medal, or work for a local radio station, life is about competing for what is available and making yourself the best you can be. As educators, it is important that we ensure our students are rounded enough people to know that.

Just a month after graduation, we already have several good news stories to shout about. They’re not fairy-tales of Olympic proportions, but they reflect much of what is good about what we do at the Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Industries. One of our graduates joins the BBC Casualty team as a script assistant in October; another is working with INRIX traffic media centre as a freelance travel presenter; one is writing for a Premier League football club; another is freelancing at Folded Wing production company; one has just completed a month-long internship with BBC Cymru Wales; several are producing and presenting programmes on community radio stations including Radio Cardiff and GTFM. In fact, one of our graduates has just been appointed the latest member of the Breakfast Show on the Pontypridd station. Several others have interviews lined up in the next few weeks and/or are actively seeking media related opportunities.

I use the word “opportunities” advisedly, because in today’s economic climate and rapidly changing media market, increasingly it is the opportunities which ultimately provide employment, rather than “a job”. The world of work is changing …

Here at CCI, our aim is to produce graduates with the sorts of industry-centred transferable skills which will make them employable in a rapidly shifting media market place. We encourage them to build websites to showcase their work; blog regularly to reflect their engagement with relevant media debates and take the chances available to them to garner as much relevant work experience as possible.

2012’s media graduate needs a different understanding of the world of work to his or her counterpart of even three to five years ago. They need resilience, determination and confidence aplenty if they are to stand out from the crowd. They also need to be able to spot an opportunity and make the most of it, before someone else does.

Many undergraduates volunteer for community or hospital radio stations or work as runners on television shows or write for local newspapers etc. Indeed, we actively encourage such associations because they often prove invaluable in building contacts and today, contacts are more important than ever. During their time with us, our students are also offered the chance to experience something of the pressures and responsibilities they would face if they end up as radio producers, television camera operators or journalists.

I run a final year major project, which sees students immersed in the world of radio broadcasting for a sustained period of time. They work with me and my radio practitioner colleagues on Exposure Radio, an online radio station, which broadcasts live programmes for seven hours a day, five days a week. Having run a real life radio station, (BBC Radio Wales), I’ve used my expertise to try and offer those who take part as realistic an experience as I can of live radio.

By the time we reach the broadcast period, those involved are in no doubt about the amount of hard work they need to put in to keep the station on air and sounding professional. Team work, individual work, the ability to take direction, work to a brief, juggle other commitments etc., all play their part in a daily experience which exhilarates those involved and builds their confidence. As a lecturer, it delights me to see them thriving in this environment.

Fast forward a few months then and imagine my pride when I watch them graduate. Just over a month ago our final year students did just that – donned their caps and gowns and took to the stage of Cardiff’s St David’s Hall to publically acknowledge their academic achievements.

Graduation is often an exciting and emotional time, marking, as it does, the end of one chapter and the start of another. Most people enter this period of transition with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation. Having worked so closely with the Exposure Radio team, I find it difficult not to be concerned about where they will end up after they leave the academic environment.

However, I believe the vast majority of them have the skills, wherewithal and tenacity to carve out a media career, if they choose to follow that path. Early indications show that most do and many are well on their way to achieving it.

Find out more about our journalism and radio courses.

About Julie Kissick

I'm a journalist with extensive experience working in radio, television, newspapers and magazines. I've been a manager, broadcaster and content producer for various media outlets including BBC, ITV and Northcliffe Newspaper Group. I have a passion for teaching and learning, social media and football.
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