I’m really excited to announce that starting from April 2017 I will be guest lecturing at the University of Otago, New Zealand!
This is so huge for me, really. Because at 32 years of age I’ve finally found the thing I enjoy doing most. I also finally have a practical pathway to it, at a point in life where it might just be achievable around my family and financial commitments.
It feels like everything to this point has been working towards it and I just didn’t realise it. But accepting that conclusion wasn’t without its challenges for me…
Apparently it’s the thing we fear more than death!
The fact is not everyone can “do” public speaking. I don’t think I’m arrogant in saying here that I know I can do it. Although I’m not completely abnormal - I don’t actually enjoy public speaking at the time. In fact I’m usually extremely nervous in the whole run-up to it. But once I start I don’t mind and then when it’s over, I feel pretty chuffed with myself. The poor people listening usually give me positive feedback, so I keep on doing it.
All of this is in large part due to Sister Rosaleen, former Principal of St. Louise’s College in Belfast, who sadly passed away just last month. When, at 17 years old, I was nominated to be a Head Girl by my peers I begged both her and my mum to let me off the job. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even go on stage at Prize Night to accept the Outstanding Achievement Awards in my exams because I couldn’t face the backlash from the cool kids (it was a pretty rough, inner-city comprehensive and I was a totally non-rough inner-city academic).
But Sister Rosaleen knew I could do it and she made me a very clever offer: Head Girl or Principal’s Detention. Because “in life you don’t turn down opportunities merely because you’re too scared to try something new.” And that is why the Sisters of Mercy sent such amazing young women out into the world during the height of the Northern Irish “Troubles.”
So by the time I went to University I’d been delivering Assemblies to hundreds of my peers on a weekly basis. That baptism of fire meant that public speaking would forever more be a skill that I could use.
The question was, did I want to…
Those Who Can’t Teach
The weird thing is that post-school “teaching” as a very generic term gets a pretty bad wrap in the industries I work in (namely PR, Digital and Social Media Marketing).
That’s because the work is so time-intensive that it would be pretty rare to find someone who can lecture AND run a practical industry business on the side. So usually, the people who teach you have out-dated skills and knowledge. Which leads people to dismiss them somewhat.
Similarly in the training sector (a sector we always need in an industry that moves so quickly that it out-dates your qualifications almost immediately). There are those for whom training is their sole income, some of whom don’t actually practice any of the skills they claim to train. They are judged just as harshly.
And then, unfortunately, there will always be the odd bad apple. The boring ones. The inexperienced student ones. And the downright “I’m winging it” giving-the-class-a-wrong-answer ones. Although I’ve been fortunate to experience teaching from some fantastic professionals over the years, the reality is that you can actually get by in the training sector without being terribly good at the skills required. So the whole shebang got itself a bit of a bad reputation.
One that sadly leaves many of us working in the industry averse to pinning our names under. Yet that’s ultimately a silly reason to not do something worthwhile that you enjoy; because people might think you’re only doing it because you couldn’t succeed in the service delivery side of things.
Correction: Those Who CARE Teach
When I look back at my time at university (studying the CAM degree at Ulster) I had such a rich lecturing experience.
Fred Morrison is now my “Facebook friend” and yet I remember him as the Comms Lecturer. I so looked forward to his classes, not realising just how much the theory he was teaching us about interpersonal communication and negotiation would serve me in the working world.
Likewise Andy Purcell, recently retired CAM Course Director, was “the PR guy.” He had owned his own agency, won awards, was honoured by the CIPR. Andy was so passionate and excitable about the industry that we were desperate to get started in it (so desperate that I skipped my year out and graduated early!)
Andy also regularly invited guests in. I remember one lecture vividly when a woman from EasyJet came in to tell us how they handle Crisis Communications. Her insights into their reputation risk management - such as spray painting the plane white so the press couldn’t photograph the brand logo - just blew my mind. This was how theory, practice and creativity combined in the real world!
But more than inspiring us, Andy knew how fast the environment changed. Faster than academia could ever keep up with, and it would be Andy who would first invite me back to guest lecture to the UUJ students 15 years after I sat in their very seats myself.
He knew that the business world needed young people who were not just excited, but also prepared, and able. After a decade in the industry I know this is still the case. Debate rumbles on about how Academics and Practitioners can best work together and mutually-support each other for the good of the future workforce as a whole.
I see grown adults with mortgages and families struggling to pay themselves through expensive post-uni diplomas to try and up-skill digitally. Current students (the workforce of the future) deserve to exit uni more well-prepared than we did for the jobs they want to do. Given the best chance to thrive in their chosen careers.
Because it’s a damn fine industry to build a career in!
And the small businesses and global brands who will eventually hire them, need them to be prepared and able, too. So someone’s got to teach them. Why not me?
Marketing at the University of Otago
Well of course real life is always getting in the way…
Back in Belfast I was running a business and I simply didn’t have the time to study the required Masters programmes to qualify for lecturing work.
Now that we’ve moved to New Zealand, my business is much more of a simple freelance role consisting of remote content marketing, editing and social media marketing. I may not have the finances just yet to study (emigrating is expensive FYI) but I hope to in the future.
What I do have is more time to give, up-to-date practical experience and a world-renowned university on my doorstep who share the same values that Andy Purcell did - that students deserve the best opportunities we can give them.
I’ll be delivering lectures in topics such as Social Media Marketing for Healthcare Campaigns within the Marketing Management degree course and Content, Social Media, Mobile and Email Marketing lectures in the new Integrated Digital Marketing third year paper. I’m still working on these things practically for clients every week so hopefully my insight will add to the students’ sound theoretical training.
And if nothing else, I can show them how hard work and determination in this industry can take you anywhere you want in the world. Literally.
I’m excited. I’m hopeful.
I’m nervous as hell… but…
“in life you don’t turn down opportunities merely because you’re too scared to try something new…”
Amen Sister, Amen!