Final reflection…

Here we are, the final blog post required for the online presence section of my 3rd year.

Well, what to say…?

I’ve enjoyed blogging, generally speaking, although as the previous posts here are testament to, it’s not something I’ve routinely managed over the months. With so many other aspects of my final year studies to complete, as well as maintaining a personal and home life, wittering on about my progress in each area has been somewhat tiresome.

I’ve also struggled with the whole premise of blogging; I personally feel it’s quite an arrogant activity, documenting my every thought and action for the greater world of online users to browse and judge. I don’t believe I have anything of such outstanding interest to say that it needs putting down in type for others to peruse, I’m just not that sort of person. In fact, the only person to have any interest in my blog and website is my mother. It’s her job to be proud of me, and after a few months of wondering if she would still be around to see me graduate, it’s nice to have something to be proud of. Maybe it’s just me being old fashioned, I don’t know, I just know that I’m unlikely to continue blogging after completion of my degree. I don’t believe my future employment prospects will be affected by this decision though; I’m turning down work in my area at the moment, while I finish my degree, so it’s not the end of the world.

The online portfolio, which is the online presence showcasing my skills and experience, has resulted in a website that is very personal to me and is, again, unlikely to be used much after graduation.

After initially struggling to get my head around the programme in use, a tip to use the Wix ADI version sped up progress no end. Using this I was able to create a website which had all the basic areas covered, before switching back to the editor version to tidy up and add further content. This was a massive help and allowed me to complete the basics for the website with minimal brain melt.

I’m basically happy with my website, but I know I’m very unlikely to use it in my professional progression, due to the nature of the industry I’m heading into. My planned area of industry relies more on personal recommendations and contacts than it does advertisement, and with work already being undertaken, I’m making the contacts which will provide work opportunities in the future.

I have a job lined up on a festival in July which was acquired by simply asking the festival Director for an opportunity. I’d met him at a conference and spent maybe 10 minutes having a chat with him whilst outside having a smoke. The impression was made in that initial meeting and was clearly sufficient to warrant a job offer.

That’s how my industry works, and I like it.

I’ve never been one to shout and make a fuss about what I can do; I’m crew, not a performer. My work and attitude speak for me, in place of a fancy website or regularly updated blog. I accept there may be some polite interest from prospective employers for my online portfolio or blog, but that’s likely to be all it is; polite curiosity.

I’m confident I will continue to find work in the areas of interest to me without having to update my blog or remember my website details.

Cheerio WordPress and Wix; I’d like to say it’s been fun, but that would be a lie. I’m glad to be able to hand you all over to someone to judge now, while I get back to making and planning things for my final degree show load in next week.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

 

Over and out.

Laura x

 

Action plans away…

After an unexpected and prolonged absence from blogging due to personal issues, I make my triumphant return to tell of the happy news that the action plan which has blighted my life for so long has been handed in. Happy days! Slightly over ten thousand words makes it longer than my dissertation and it’s largely full of speculation, but it’s completed and handed in, so it’s too late to alter it now anyway. One less thing to think about, attention can now be turned more towards creative project and dissertation work. Deep joy…

BAFA Student Conference

After a bit of faffing about, I’ve got myself booked onto a couple of round table sessions with guest speakers at next weeks student conference in Manchester. Due to technical difficulties with the Google docs, I missed out on the chance to speak with one of Shambala’s production assistants, but I’ve got my name down to speak with an associate producer from Freedom Fest and a festival director of a few events in York. If more tickets become available, which they might do, due to popular demand, I might still get a tabled chance with the Shambala lady, but I’m still excited, and somewhat nervous, about speaking to the other professionals.

 

so many words…

I’ve been ploughing on with my SWOT analysis and have already surpassed the word count set out for my dissertation. I double checked my style with my tutor yesterday and with a few minor adjustments, I’m on track to producing an adequate piece of work for hand in. My brain hurts from the level of focus I’m having to put into trying to plan my developments and opportunities likely in the future; I’m hopeless at planning for uncertainty, I just accept that whatever happens, I’ll deal with as and when. I’m a big believer in crossing bridges when I get to them. Of course, I usually have several options for a successful crossing, covering all bases and always having a back up plan or three, so this particular exercise is proving especially wearing for me. I’ve broken the back of it now, but with the hand in still a few weeks away, I’m happy to walk away from it for a while to give myself a chance to focus on other module requirements. I think I’m going to read through the script now and give my brain a rest. Script analysis is easy and quite relaxing compared to a SWOT analysis.

BAFA

I’ve made some very promising progress in the last 2 days in the area of my industry portfolio that will also assist me massively in my dissertation. Whilst researching other sources for inclusion in my dissertation essay plan, I found the website for the British Arts Festival Association. The homepage describes them as ‘The National Membership body for Arts Festivals in the UK: Celebrating, Developing and Strengthening the work of its members’ and I suspect I’ll be featuring them heavily in all areas of my final year studies. The practitioner lead organisation provides a centre for those involved or interested in festivals to support and encourage growth within the industry. BAFA also organise regular events for industry practitioners along with maintaining a contact data base for employment progression opportunities. The student membership includes access to a data base of current students as well as recent graduates and a Facebook group which heavily features job opportunities. Suffice to say, I’ve signed up already. I’ve also bought a ticket to the student conference ‘A Festival Career’ in Manchester in November. This event will give me direct access to many people currently working on festivals in the UK, with open table discussions and speakers from recognised festival practitioners. It’s more than worth a day out in Manchester I reckon.

 

SWOT Analysis

As a part of my Creative Futures (Professional Practitioner) module of my current BA I need to develop a career plan to assist my final year of study and my progression into my chosen area. In order to complete this plan, I am to produce a SWOT analysis, identifying those issues which will affect my progression and development. The targeted action plan which will be formed using the elements of the SWOT analysis will identify areas for development and opportunities in order to develop my individual career path. The plan will be targeted to the developmental requirements in the short, mid and long-term to reach my career goals.

All sounds very exciting doesn’t it? I’m going to use my blog to create the SWOT analysis, so let’s start by creating the detailed part relating to my SWOTs: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. First up, in no particular order:

 Strengths

  • Problem solving skills – I am a realistic optimist in all areas of my life and refuse to believe that there are problems which cannot be solved. I have always had a methodical method of working and with experience of several industries, including engineering, I am always able to form ideas which will assist with solving the issue.
  • Practical – I prefer to be very hands on with projects and can usually offer simple but practical solutions to any issues which arise. I see myself as resourceful and able to ‘make do’ with considerable ease, which comes from my practical outlook.
  • Able to remain clam in a crisis – As a woman of a certain age, and with a life shared with 3 teenage and one excitable 8-year-old girl, the ability to remain calm when the world is tearing itself apart is crucial. My practical outlook enables me to keep my cool and focus on solving the crisis, rather than adding to the confusion.
  • Timekeeping – I would rather not turn up somewhere than be late; I am an absolute punctuality fiend and often get to places far too early. Better that than rocking up 10 minutes late and causing disruption or delay.
  • Resourceful – Mentioned in connection with being practical, my strength in being resourceful has resulted in my saving time and concern on most projects I have been involved with. I believe my life experience has enhanced my skills in this area, along with the consistently reducing fear, as I get older, of speaking to people.
  • Creative – I herald from a long line of creative women; tailors, woodworkers, knitters, musicians, the list goes on. Whilst as musically gifted as a lettuce (my sister got all of those skills) and unable to draw particularly well (my brother got that one) I enjoy the simple pleasures that being creative gives me, and also love the therapeutic aspect of creativity.
  • Communication – I am comfortable with all forms of communication and have no real issue with speaking to people of varying ages and professional standing.
  • Teamwork – I am always perfectly comfortable and happy to work in a team of similarly dedicated practitioners. Conversely, I am also perfectly happy to be left to my own devices and work independently.
  • Passionate – I am incredibly passionate about my work and my career plans.
  • Enjoys the physical aspect – In any job I undertake, I enjoy the physical aspect and prefer to see it as exercise.
  • Lists! – I have to write myself lists and have them strategically located in order to remember all the things I have to do. With so many components to keep track of, hard copies of things to do are essential for me.
  • That ‘mum’ thing – I realise this is more of an issue whilst I’m studying, but I tend to be one of the older members within a team and my mother status often transfers from my home life into my work life. I like to think it creates a safe and comfortable attitude for others to work with.
  • Life experience – Academia has its place, without a doubt, but the experience I’ve acquired in the 25+ years since leaving school has, and continues to, prepare me for just about anything. I’ve navigated my way through so many frankly ridiculous situations, that I now feel capable of dealing with anything that life throws at me.
  • Understanding of other industries – Prior to returning to education I worked extensively in a variety of other industries, including engineering and the care sector. As a result of this, I can adapt the various techniques and methods of working to enhance whatever project I am working on. This experience also allows me to better understand certain aspects of my work, e.g. engineering knowledge assists with set design and construction.
  • Woodworking – I have qualifications in woodworking and furniture restoration, along with an understanding of wood and woodworking techniques.
  • Pyro – Although I possess a certificate of competence in pyrotechnics, I wouldn’t feel confident working with them without assistance from a more trained person.
  • Outdoorsy – I love being outside and away from modern-day life; it’s therapeutic and relaxing for me.
  • Active imagination – I often feel this is a blessing as well as a curse at times, but I mostly prefer to have an active imagination and an open mind, than to stay closed and unimaginative and allow my progress to be adversely affected.
  • Compassionate – Despite a sometimes hard exterior, I’m actually a very compassionate person. I’ve had to deal with many uncomfortable and unpleasant situations since youth and it has developed my ability to empathise incredibly well. I’ve always thought of myself as a humanitarian; if only everyone could be nicer…
  • Flexible – Decreasingly so on a physical level as middle age takes a hold, but I am a flexible member of any team. I am happy to take instruction or direction and enjoy varying the jobs I do, as well as the increased knowledge which often comes as a by-product of this flexibility.
  • Eternal optimist – Having spent over 20 years telling myself that ‘everything will be ok’, I am now at a comfortable stage in my life where I refuse to look at the possible negative outcomes of a given situation, and instead will always focus on the positives.
  • Facing my fears – One of the few advantages of growing older for me has been the ability to face my fears. After a lifetime fearing water, I forced myself into a pool a few years ago and taught myself to swim. My connected irrational fear of water spanning bridges has also been conquered, at last, which is especially useful for me, now that I live a few miles from the Humber Bridge. Whilst I still have some way to go with this point, I enjoy the confidence to tackle new things that age and experience has brought.
  • First aider – I attended St John Ambulance training sessions as a teenager and have never forgotten much of the training. I also attended a work based first aid course whilst working in the care sector. I’ve always had an interest in all things medical and am mostly squeamish.
  • I’m a hippy – I’ve included this as a strength because I believe the basic ideals and beliefs of a hippy are things to be proud of. I’ve been ridiculed many times before but the opinions of those with little or no understanding or interest in the simple ideas of being respectful and loving to all people and things are like water off a ducks back to me.

Weaknesses

  • Poor tech skills/confidence – I have great interest but poor application skills when it comes to most things technical. I struggle to learn new software unless I am patiently trained.
  • Fear of failure/inadequacy – This affects me on both a personal and professional level and which I am constantly working to improve. Low self-esteem has plagued much of my life and the resulting feelings of inadequacy can hold me back. I can be reluctant to start or continue a project if I believe I will not be successful at it.
  • Poor time management – A big problem for me is my inability to efficiently prioritise my life. I consider my life to be one of organised chaos, but this does regularly put me in the position of finishing projects at the last-minute, despite always starting the project with good intentions.
  • Motivationally challenged – I’m not lazy, I’m motivationally challenged, which is invariably connected to my issues with prioritising and the fear of failure.
  • Easily annoyed by laziness and ignorance – Ironically, given my own motivation issues, I do struggle to tolerate laziness in people. I believe that if you’re at a place of work with a job to, then do the job; don’t stand around complaining or avoiding the parts you don’t like, because that helps nobody. I also believe in today’s technologically advanced world, there’s no excuse for the levels of ignorance that are so often displayed by those in the workplace.
  • Easily distracted/bored/frustrated – I’m easily distracted by shiny things, as well as by a million and one other things. My mind is constantly racing with ideas, memories, thoughts, things to do, and more and it can be a struggle for me to stay focused. This is more of an issue when it’s something I’m not especially interested in though, as I can happily lose myself for hours in a workshop or during a de-rig, for example. The feelings of frustration I feel are often connected to my fear of failure.
  • I can’t drive – It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years, but still haven’t. I know I need to address this issue but I’m not overly worried about doing so.
  • Health – A long-standing back injury from my engineering days, combined with hereditary arthritis, which is slowly becoming more noticeable, is starting to affect my ability to perform certain tasks. Long term ENT problems also often cause me problems which affect my ability to work efficiently, e.g. my poor sinuses which sometimes lead to partial hearing loss.
  • Harsh on myself – I consider myself to be a lazy perfectionist and put expectations of myself which are often unrealistically high. I can be particularly critical of myself, which can affect my progress but accept positive criticism relatively well.
  • Out of date experience – All of my previous theatre is experience was gained over 25 years ago and is mostly out dated. My current experience and knowledge is much less than my peers.
  • Procrastination – I like to think I don’t procrastinate, but I do like to think through every situation in order to have a plan for any eventuality. This often slows me down as my imagination and ease of distraction combine to leave me deep in thought for longer than is often sensible.
  • Socially awkward – I’m not a drinker and I find this regularly excludes me from some aspects of socialising. I don’t enjoy being in heavily alcohol soaked situations and usually find myself uncomfortable in a social group of people I don’t know when this is the situation. I generally struggle to find common subjects to discuss with people in a social setting, unless there is a known common interest. I’m really not very good at small talk.
  • Stubborn – I can be fantastically stubborn at times and refuse to back down or give up. I can also go completely the other way, but this is rare if it’s a subject I feel strongly about.
  • Not competitive – I’ve never suffered from sibling rivalry and am generally not a very competitive person. Possibly connected to my poor self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy, I prefer to not compare my success with others as I don’t believe it is healthy.
  • Confidence with initial communications – I do sometimes worry that I am too forward or open when I communicate in the early stages of a new project, and worry that this will be seen as unprofessional.
  • Public speaking – I hate it and always have done.
  • Asking for help – I’m a fiercely independent person and struggle to ask for help, even when I clearly need it. I know this stems from experiences in the past when I’ve asked for help but been refused, or help has been given but with conditions attached, which have left me very reluctant to rely on other people.
  • Tact – I have a habit of speaking my mind in a blunt and to the point way which can be mistaken for lack of tact or compassion. It’s not, I just prefer to explain myself in a way that guarantees understanding.

Opportunities

  • City of Culture – I’ve already worked on 2 City of Culture projects and am on the list of freelancers available for future projects.
  • Contacts – I expect to make contact with the production teams of several festivals in order to research my dissertation.
  • Freedom Festival – I obtained paid work this year as well as a voluntary role through college, with the hope to work on future festivals.
  • Festival industry is a growth industry – Early research has led me to this knowledge, which I will further and hope to benefit from.
  • BAFA Membership – Again, through my early research I found the website for the British Arts Festival Association. I’ve become a student member and plan to attend the student conference in November for students and recent graduates.
  • Hull New Theatre- Planned for a re-opening in 2017, this may provide further opportunities for experience.
  • Swingamajig – Recent contact has confirmed the availability of volunteer positions for the one day festival in Birmingham by a section of the Shambala festival team.

Threats

  • Children – Having children limits my options with regard to work opportunities. I’m restricted by both geography and time constraints.
  • Health Issues – With an established back injury, there’s always the possibility of it making it impossible for me to work, albeit for relatively short periods. Excessive cold affects my health too, which will only get worse with age.
  • Can’t drive – An irritation I’ve had for many years, but this is an issue at the moment.
  • Age & gender – These can, and will, go against me sometimes, but may also work in my favour on occasion.
  • Long term – There are no guarantees of long-term work available.
  • Suitability – I might discover I’m actually not very good at the job.

 

So, there we have it, as far as my brain can think at the moment, there are my SWOTs, ready to use in order to create my development plan. Now for the analysis bit. Taking the information above, I need to discuss the effect of each one on my future professional development. My overall career target is to be working as a member of a production team within the UK music festival industry, in the specific area of stage management/artist liaison. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that my final year of study will increase my experience and understanding of the industry, and that contacts made during the coming year will also assist me in finding suitable opportunities after graduation.

The analysis will be broken up into three sections: short, mid, and long-term. Within each timescale I hope to identify the areas of opportunity, and those for development, in order to create my individual career progression plan.

Working chronologically, I will firstly discuss my short term career goals. For this study, I will be using the period of time from now until I graduate to be the short term. My goals during this time are:

  • Complete my degree to the best of my ability
  • Gain further experience and contacts within the industry

 

 

And so it begins… 

After endless lists and spider diagrams, I’ve finally managed to form a suitable working title for my dissertation and completed my initial essay plan. It’s due to be handed in tomorrow; it won’t be graded, but it will form the basis of my first individual tutorial for my dissertation. I’m a little nervous that I’ve missed the point entirely as it all looks relatively simple when I look at the chapter explanations in black and white. Thursday afternoon will reveal all, until then I have to turn my attentions to the next hand in. Deep joy…