Penelope Labram’s job didn’t exist when she was a school. So how did she get into her current line of work? She tells icould about working abroad, overcoming A-level results and the surprising value of Maths.
Tell us about the job you’re doing now. What does it involve?
I’m a content and community manager. This means I write for our website’s blog (as well as in other people’s), as well as handle the company’s social media policy (spend a lot of time on Facebook!).
What is the most exciting aspect of your work?
The internet is constantly changing, so you always have to be ahead of the game.
Would your classmates from school be surprised at what you’re doing now?
Facebook arrived in my first year of university, so this career hadn’t been invented when I was at school (wow, that makes me feel old!).
Was there a teacher who had a particularly strong influence on you and if so in what way?
Several stand out. In hindsight, the best teachers weren’t the flashiest or those who made the funniest jokes, but those who were easy to talk to, were passionate about their subject and tried hard.
What school subjects were you good at and have any been surprisingly helpful later on?
I never thought I would say this, but Maths has actually turned out to be useful – sometimes I have to write articles about data trends, and having a vague knowledge of statistics has definitely come in handy! Although I think the main thing school teaches you is how to learn, rather than any subject in particular.
How did you decide what you wanted to do after school?
When I left school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I took a gap year and worked in Africa for a year. I did worse than expected in my second year of A-levels, which meant I ended up getting my place at university through clearing and studying a different subject – Philosophy (vital life lesson: doing badly in your A-levels is NOT the end of the world). When I graduated, I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I ended up moving to Barcelona, Spain. I taught English for a while, which was fun, but not for me. I worked round the clock to combine a Master’s degree in Publishing in the university here with work experience in a website. One thing lead to another, and here I am.
Did you take a gap year? Did it influence any decisions later in life?
The gap year I took opened my eyes up to the fact that travelling isn’t really that hard – anyone can do it. I’ve lived in two more countries since.
If you went to university what was your university experience like?
Studying Philosophy at university was in many ways a frustrating experience – I’m very practical and love doing things, so it was too abstract and too introverted, although it has allowed me to get where I am today. I studied in France as an Erasmus year, which was a great experience.
What are you proudest of achieving?
I’m really proud of the variety of things I’ve done. From cleaning toilets in the bar I worked in at university to volunteering in a men’s prison when I was in France, I’ve tried it all.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Probably doing something similar to what I do now, although perhaps on a larger scale. Although with the internet changing so quickly, who knows where I could be?
What advice would you give someone still at school who wants to do what you’re doing now?
Read blogs (copyblogger is good) to keep up to date with what’s going on. Keep your eye out for conferences (such as Social Media Week) so you can meet people who share your interest. And finally, learn how to write and how to use Photoshop!
Can you give us a link for more information?