My Postgraduate “Words of Wisdom”: Speaking at SMILEfest 2014.

One of the staff asked me whether I was there to help record the conference, and was quite surprised when I broke the news to him – I was there to speak.

I probably have a reputation with my MA lecturers for ranting about my course (Note: Don’t get me started…). However, my groaning has a far bigger audience than they might think.

Picture 34
Taken from the Southampton Solent University site. I was meant to be in that picture, but had to blitz across the park to a rather important lecture.

On 20th March 2014, during Solent SMILEfest, I was called upon to participate in a talk to educate undergraduate students from Music Journalism and Music Promotion and a few other ‘Music…’ courses, about opportunities available once they graduate. Considering this was the kind of session that half of classes take the opportunity to not go, there were quite a few people there. 50 maybe. As I have my sights on maybe steering my career into academic territory one day, and as a relatively confident speaker, I couldn’t resist taking part. Considering how I worked pretty damned hard during SMILEfest 2013, as producer of and interviewer for its podcast (listen here), it was bizarre to be one of the cast, rather than the crew.

Also, to think of all of the high ranking journalists and contributors to the music industry had done the same, how could I turn it down?

To begin with, I felt out of place. As I’m still a student at Southampton Solent University, a large chunk of the students present probably recognised me, hardly making me a special guest. Despite being a postgraduate, I still work with a few undergraduates on the student run, music site Noise Cannon. As we were all introduced, one by one, the lecturer addressed this:

“And lastly, Nick Pollard, who some of you may be familiar with.”

The other three onstage were Sam Kitchen (Radio plugger at Polydor Records), James Moodie (Label Relations and Social Media Manager at Vevo) and Carly Rockett (Assistant Promoter at Communion Records), whose roles were slightly more impressive than my own. I’m still not totally convinced when seeing the event described as “a current Master’s student and three of our most successful Music Promotion graduates”. I wasn’t entirely sure that the fourth chair on the stage was for me, and not a lecturer to chat with the guests.

Feeling as though I was the face of ‘if all else fails, there are Master’s degrees’, I was inevitably last, and couldn’t resist jokingly opening by pointing out how I felt.

“Hi, I’m Nick Pollard, and I feel a little upstaged!”

However, as the head of the department correctly pointed out, Master’s degrees are on a spectacular rise, meaning that my talk how far more purpose than I thought at first.

I got to speak about my time at the university as an undergraduate (trying to be a little inspirational, though I’m not sure how successful I was), advice for their remaining time on the course (with emphasis on expanding their skills into multimedia, rather than just writing, as I did by taking part at Radio Sonar), what drew me to an MA degree (potentially a stepping stone to PhD, and the fact that after brain surgery, I wasn’t in a good state to delve straight into work, but could make the best of the following year with further study), the differences between BA and MA degrees, and what to expect.

After being relatively positive throughout, I felt a little bad about talking about the negative side, and was a little worried about reactions from lecturers. But since then, I have realised that when I hit this point, that I wasn’t simply putting students off. I was giving them a relatively soft warning. Lecturers seemed fine with my comments. Hopefully this comment won’t be misunderstood as arrogant, but I wish that someone like me (probably quite difficult to find) had come in, a couple of years ago to tell me what I had had to say in 2014.

I’m disappointed that I couldn’t hang about for any longer for a chat with the other guests, but as a postgraduate student, there was a Cultural Influences lecture to run to.

I’d love to do this again at my old college to discuss my degree, as I have quite a few stories to tell about the opportunities that university offers. I might nag one of my college lecturers and see what they say. If not, then I’ll just crash their lecture anyway.

All things considered, I think it went pretty well. One step closer to a TED Talk I guess.




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