Students Staff

Graduate profiles

Our alumni follow a wide variety of career paths after leaving Essex. Read the experiences of creative writing, literature, drama, and film studies graduates, and find out some of the careers paths they follow after leaving the University.

  • Vicki Weitz - Freelance theatre practitioner (BA Drama and Literature)

    Picture of Vicki Weitz, freelance theatre practitioner and 
BA Drama and Literature graduate.

    When I left Essex in 2006 I set up a theatre company with a fellow graduate, Nat Miller. We worked together for about eighteen months, successfully applying for funding and touring a performance piece in the East of England. When Nat moved to Amsterdam (where he currently works for the Opera house) I started to work as a solo performance artist.

    I have performed at a variety of places including The Junction in Cambridge, Colchester Arts Centre, The Hat Factory in Luton, Pulse at Ipswich, The Mercury Theatre Colchester, The Fling in Chelmsford, Edinburgh Festival as well as on the streets of Halstead, Chester and Walton. Over time this has gradually developed and I now work both individually and as part of a collaboration with 12 other artists from the East of England in Live Art Collective East (LACE). We were shortlisted for the Olympic Artist taking the Lead program, and off the back of this we were awarded funding to create eight new performance pieces during Summer 2012. I worked with Holly Darton and Dot Howard to create Three Step Endeavour: the simple joy of momentarily leaving the ground beneath your feet. Dot, Holly and I are the UK's first and only professional hopscotching team.

    In addition to this, I work at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester as a freelance practitioner, running workshops in their community and education department. My relationship with the Mercury developed purely from studying at Essex, as for early Modern Drama we went over to the theatre for a series of lessons. I maintained contact and as a result I was able to perform on the main stage in a Howard Barker play and I was also cast in two site specific works (Soutterain in collaboration with Wildworks and Depot, directed by Gari Jones). The theatre has been a great support of my work both as a practitioner and as a performance artist.

    Picture of Vicki Weitz, Holly Darton, and Dot Howard, 
who make up Three Step Endeavour, the UK's first and only professional hopscotching team.

    I work with Suffolk Artlink as a clown doctor, working in the children's departments of local hospitals and hospices using drama and performance art to help the children deal with stress, anxiety, fear, anger, boredom and loneliness.

    I also act with Father Hen Theatre Company based in Colchester and I have recently started to work with Frequency Theatre, both as a director for their first stage play and as an actor and a director with their audio plays.

    Since my degree I have also worked with Slack Space Colchester at its inception, introducing live art into the space and curating performance evenings for the first three months. I have also worked as an Activator with New Work Network, and as part of this I delivered and managed artist performance and networking opportunities across the region, including The Live Art Club and The Working Weekend at the University of Essex, The Live Art Platform at Colchester Arts Centre and the Live Art Picnic at St Martin's Church.

    How has your degree helped you to develop your career?

    The study placement with The Mercury Theatre led to a relationship that lasts to this day. My fellow students and my tutors at university encouraged me to experiment and find my voice which has given me the confidence to continue to develop my own practice out in the real world!

    What do you find most interesting and rewarding about your role?

    I love it all! It is so varied and interesting. My practice is based around being able to listen to my instincts and work in the moment. The acting I do with Father Hen (which has a non-rational approach to text) and the Clown doctoring allow me to develop this and I find these hugely rewarding and this then feeds into my solo practice and my practitioner work.

    What employability tips would you give to students?

    Make the most of every opportunity, particularly in the Literature Department. See as much theatre as you can and be pro-active! It's your degree, so make it a good one. Make contacts with local companies in the field you wish to work in. Find out as much as you can about the current scene but be respectful of others’ knowledge too. Be prepared to continue learning by observing those with experience. Be persistent and get advice (e.g. funding is much more likely to be given if you have spoken to the right people about it first).

  • Mark Brayley - Writer and teacher (BA Literature and Sociology, MA Creative Writing)

    Picture of Mark Brayley, BA Literature and Sociology, MA Creative Writing graduate.

    Having graduated from Essex in 2001 with a 2.1 in Literature and Sociology, I went into teaching. I taught English full time at a comprehensive school in Essex (but only after taking a year to travel around Australia and South East Asia).

    I find teaching really rewarding. It has its challenges but every day and every year is different and working with teenagers as they make realisations, and helping them develop a love of literature, makes it fulfilling.

    Through my work as a teacher I became involved in training other teachers. This in turn led to me working for Anglia Ruskin University as an Associate Lecturer and Associate Tutor on the English PGCE. There are plenty of routes into teaching, including: SCITT, PGCE, and GTP. Places are more and more becoming competitive and if you want to go into teaching then I would suggest spending a fair amount of time in a school. This would show that you are committed to such a choice and give you an insight as to whether it really is the right career for you.

    I have always maintained my love of literature and language. Teaching helped me develop a deeper understanding of language, which in turn fuelled my own creative ambitions. I write and perform poetry and am involved in local groups. I have work published in The Essex Poetry Compendium and Creel as well part of an on-line project called Genius or Not. I completed a Masters in Creative Writing with the Department for Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies in 2010.

    Following my MA, I returned to teaching part time to allow me time to write my first novel. I am currently looking for an agent and am ready to start writing my second novel. I hope to return to Essex to do my PhD.

  • Thorunn Bjornsdottir Bacon - Writer (MA Creative Writing)

    Picture of Thorunn Bjornsdottir Bacon, MA Creative Writing graduate.

    Since graduating with an MA in Creative Writing from Essex in 2009, I've concentrated on developing as a novel writer, and I use every opportunity to learn more about the craft of novel writing by attending courses and talking to other writers, but the main thing is to just keep writing. Earlier this year I was taken onto the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme, which is very helpful in term of support and mentoring.

    I've recently finished writing a dark, erotic historical novel set in London in which one of the characters is Icelandic like me. My next step is to secure a literary agent which will hopefully lead to my book being published. I'm already working on the next novel, which again mixes characters from my two home countries, the UK and Iceland.

    Shortly after graduating I set up creative writing courses which I ran from Wivenhoe Bookshop. My aim was to bring creative writing into the community, and give people the opportunity to try creative writing in a friendly and supportive environment. I went on to train to be a Writing Coach which was very useful. My writing courses proved to be popular, and some of the students have gone on to study creative writing at a higher level, such as at Essex.

    The MA course gave me the opportunity to think about what kind of a writer I am. It introduced me to genres and ideas that I mightn't have come across otherwise. It's a fertile environment and I thrived there. But a degree is only the beginning I feel, a starting point. It's what comes afterwards that really matters but a degree will give you a better idea of where you're heading.

  • Diana Jones - Operations manager - Harmoni (BA English Literature)

    Since leaving Essex, I worked briefly as a healthcare assistant then moved very quickly into a position at a local Primary Care Trust. I moved up the ranks to become a Deputy Commissioning Manager. I am now employed as the Operations Manager for a Private Healthcare company providing Healthcare in prisons.

    How have you used your degree and any other experience gained at university such as volunteering, work placement or study abroad?

    I would not have got my job at the PCT had it not been for my degree, which has led to me being in the senior managerial role that I am in today. I absolutely loved going to Essex, and feel that I grew as a person, not only gaining a degree but many life skills too.

    What do you find most rewarding about what you do now?

    Although my job may be stressful and hard work, it is very rewarding to help shape the healthcare of some very vulnerable people.

    What tips would you give to Freshers on getting the most out of University?

    Get involved with as many aspects as possible, organising events, attending additional lectures, and make the use of your seminar leaders' office hours! I also cannot stress how important it is to build up some solid work experience.

    What tips would you give to recent graduates who are looking for work?

    Don't be afraid to start from the bottom. I don't mean this as a negative, but I think some graduates look for graduate positions, and don't see the potential chances for development in the entry level vacancies that are out there. I started in a secretarial role at the PCT, and because I had previous work experience (when you are studying, make sure you spend some of those holidays getting work experience – office based if possible) and my degree, I moved up two grades within 6 months.

    Are there any websites, publications or organisations that students interested in a career like yours might find helpful?

    www.nacro.org.uk is a good place to start to see why I am doing what I am doing now.

    Special mention should go to Dr Owen Robinson. I studied Post-War American Literature in my third year, and felt out of all the classes I took that is where I learnt and developed the most. So another recommendation would be to take a class led by Dr O!

  • Charlotte Vowden - Digital journalist and sub-editor - News International (BA Creative Writing)

    I work as a digital journalist and sub-editor at News International on both The Times and The Sunday Times. My role involves copy writing, featuring in and working behind the camera on video content, blogging, building the website and iPad app, plus subbing copy.

    I was heavily involved in the launch and now development of The Sunday Times iPad app, which is the most downloaded newspaper app in the world.

    I also freelance for other publications which means the hours are often very long but the sense of achievement overshadows the tiredness.

    After leaving Essex I interned at a magazine while working night shifts at the Mail Online to fund my NCTJ qualification - which was necessary to further my career.

    I have since moved from my home in Hertfordshire to London.

    How have you used your degree and other experience gained at university?

    I have built upon experience gained at The Rabbit newspaper and work experience placements that I arranged. Skills learnt as part of my Creative Writing degree have also helped with copy writing.

    What do find most interesting and rewarding about what you do now?

    The media industry is rapidly changing so you must think on your feet and not become complacent. You have to work hard to maintain the quality of journalism while always looking at areas that can be improved.

    I am lucky that some of my work involves travel which sometimes doesn't feel like work at all. Earlier this year I travelled to the News Corp headquarters in New York to discuss production processes.

    What tips would you give to students on getting the most out of University?

    Don't be shy. I didn't join any societies in my first year and in retrospect I think it would have made the transition from home to university easier as you will have an instant group of friends. Societies also offer new experiences – it's amazing how your confidence will soar if throw yourself in at the deep end.

    With regards to work I would say to any fresher that every year counts. Applying yourself from the beginning will make your degree even more worthwhile and don't take for granted the resources that are available to you.

    What employability tips would you give to students?

    Talk to people. Don't underestimate the power of networking, it's amazing how much work you can pick up just by knowing someone. In my experience a lot of work in this industry comes from recommendation so make a good impression as it will get you a long way.

  • Lizzy White - Business development officer - Genesis Housing Association (BA Creative Writing)

    Picture of Lizzy White graduating with a BA Creative Writing.

    I consider myself lucky, and I have done ever since my friend asked me to go along with her to an open day at Essex in 2007. It was a fluke that I was asked to go, and the idea of going to university just down the road to home didn't sound great; however all that changed when I got there. It was a nice day and even the 1960s tower blocks didn't look so bad in the sunlight. I was instantly drawn in by the community atmosphere, gorgeous Wivenhoe Park grounds and the Creative Writing degree the university had to offer. After putting down Essex as my first choice on my university application form I have never looked back.

    My time at Essex was divided between studying hard, writing a lot of fiction and training hard with the university rowing team. It all paid off in 2010 when I graduated with a 2:1 honours degree in Creative Writing, a full colours award for dedication to the sport of rowing, a whole truck load of transferable skills and a lot more confidence than when I started.

    My luck continued on graduation day when a volunteer from the careers centre handed me a leaflet about their internship scheme. I applied to the Essex Careers Centre Internship Scheme straight after graduation and by September 2010 I had my first interview with an organisation called Springboard Housing Association.

    I was successful at interview and as soon as my initial 3 month internship started it became apparent that I was going to be thrown into the deep end. The team consisted of just my manager and me tackling all business development and new business ventures for the care and support directorate of Springboard Housing Association. The organisation has housing stock in London, Hertfordshire, Essex, East Anglia even Lincolnshire.

    Being thrown in at the deep end and learning how to write a decent Pre-Qualifying Questionnaire in my first couple of months as an intern made me invaluable and so my internship was extended for another three months. After those further three months of interning, Springboard amalgamated into an even bigger organisation now called Genesis Housing Association.

    At the end of my internship the department advertised for a Business Development Officer on a one year fixed contract. I made it through competitive interviewing and gained the position much to mine and my manager’s relief. That was 18 months ago and my contract has been extended for another year and my responsibilities have tripled.

    I have become a valued member of the team at Genesis, contributing to £2.5 million of funding for housing related care and support services for vulnerable adults including older people, people with learning disabilities and/or mental health problems and the homeless. My job is incredibly rewarding and I use the skills I gained at university every day, from writing skills, keeping to deadlines, project managing and team work.

    If I could give new graduates any advice it would be to take any opportunity you can, remember your transferable skills, not just the title of your degree subject and if you get thrown in at the deep end, take up the challenge and run with it. You could end up with your dream job.

  • Sarah Collins - Campaign management executive - Digital Cinema Media (BA English and Drama)

    Sarah Collins, BA English Literature and Drama graduate.

    I left uni not knowing what to do, loved my degree, but was a little unsure on my career route, so decided to do work experience. Having an English and Drama degree I knew I wanted a career where communication was key. Lots of big companies have work experience placements. I did work experience at Natmags (with Country Living magazine), Penguin books in the publicity department, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (Hot Sauce TV-production company) and a marketing consultancy. Through the last placement I landed a temporary job in advertising for 4 months. A small agency in Oxford Circus that looked after print and some online adverts.

    I then worked for a charity in a voluntary role - a scheme funded by the BBC. They recruited young people/graduates to get other young people to volunteer within the community. I did this by promoting my fundraising events through the local media and mainly the BBC radio station where I was based. I ran aerobics fundraisers, soup kitchens, conservation events and shows at the local university (Bedfordshire).

    I then landed my first proper job working for CBS Outdoor as an Advertising Planner. I worked there for three and a half years, based in Camden town. I had to plan all advertising campaigns that ran on the London underground. This was a busy and demanding role, liaising with all departments and clients to ensure that all campaigns ran smoothly.

    I now work at Digital Cinema Media (cinema advertising) as a Campaign Management Executive. I manage and schedule all the advertising before the films starts in the cinema. A similar planning role to CBS but working on digital adverts instead. Free cinema is one of the best benefits too!

    I've also just completed a "Marketing Communications" diploma with the CIM. I'm hoping this will help me stand out from the crowd in the future.

    Work experience and volunteering definitely helps you decide what career path you wish to take, and it looks good to future employers.

  • Tom Allen - Journalist (BA and MA Creative Writing)

    Tom Allen, graduate.

    First, my time at Essex: quite simply amazing and by far the best time of my life. I still see the friends I made there regularly, despite them being scattered all over the country (and world in some cases). We formed an incredibly tight-knit group, which was helped by the fact that we were all part of the LiFTS department.

    When I left in 2008 I always intended to come back to Essex to do an MA. I was lucky in that I managed to get a job I enjoyed in Colchester, writing for a jewellery magazine. I have a family background in the jewellery trade, but even if I hadn't, I'd have felt confident about getting a similar job - Colchester is, quite unexpectedly, something of a centre for UK magazine publishing! For example Aceville Publications publishes a huge range of magazines, and is conveniently located close to Tesco! I also did some volunteer work at other publishing houses in the area to familiarise myself with the industry - and you always have the chance of landing a job through 'puppydog selling'!

    While I was initially taken on as an Editorial Assistant at Mulberry Publications, I was moved up to become the Editor of Jewellery Focus within seven months of starting! This also led to my role being expanded and I also took over editorial responsibility for the company's other magazines, Pet Gazette and Funeral Service Times. Hey, no-one ever said the job was going to be classy!

    The subject matter might have been a bit dead (har har...trust me, I've heard them all), but the experience was amazing and put me in really good stead when I went looking for another job; however that wasn't until later.

    I spent a year at Mulberry and then came back to Essex to study for a Master's in Creative Writing, although I kept freelancing for the magazines until the workload got too high. I can't recommend the MA highly enough to anybody. The BA had its ups and downs - a common complaint was that there wasn't enough creative writing and too many essays, as the course shared a lot of classes with pure literature students. That was totally the opposite in the MA though; we wrote in every class, and never the same thing. Fables, science fiction, poetry and some very weird experimental stuff with Oulipo (again, I recommend this course VERY highly! I didn't take it in my third year and regretted it when I found out how good it was in the MA). It was a LOT of work but worth every keystroke. Don't be afraid of the dissertation, either; it seems like a lot of words, but it can easily be broken down into manageable chunks.

    After I finished the MA I spent a long time doing temp work. I won't lie, the publishing industry isn't easy to get into, especially now. However, keep trying. Websites like Gorkana and Elance are really excellent for aspiring journalists. It also gave me time to develop the novel I started writing for my dissertation!

    It took a long time to find my current job - even though I live in Oxford, which is of course a publishing centre. However the companies around there are very focused on publishing other peoples' work, rather than your own. What I really wanted was to be a journalist, and eventually I managed it! I'm now a technology journalist for a trade publication, based in Surrey. Before taking the job I had no idea about the subject matter (display technology), but then I hadn't known much about funerals or pets either! Don't ever be afraid to apply for a job you don't know much about - you'd be very surprised at how quickly you pick it up.

    Now I fly all over the world and get to see the world's coolest technology before it's released to the public. Three months after I started I was sent to Las Vegas for a week to cover the Consumer Electronics Show, CES. Two weeks after that I was in Amsterdam for ISE, and I just got back from IFA in Berlin. I'm loving it and honestly, it's all thanks to the support I got and friends I made at Essex - it made me more outgoing, less nervous and of course, a better writer!

    Key tips:

    • Get as much experience as you can, anywhere you can.
    • Don't settle! If you have to take a temporary job, go for it (writing is NOT easy to make money from!), but don't lose sight of what you really want to do.
    • For Freshers: throw yourself in the deep end. Make the most of your time at uni, because you'll kick yourself if you don't. Don't let go of your friends at home, but remember there are lots of great people around at uni who can support you and will look out for you if you do the same for them. Also, steer clear of microwave pizzas. It never turns out like you think. Trust me on this!

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