Don't underestimate how vital the right attitude is in the workplace

About me

Lisa P.
History
Early Modern History
MA
Wentworth
2009
Ireland

About this profile

Head of Events and Learning
Dean and Chapter of York
United Kingdom
Library, museum and information services / Tourism, leisure and hospitality
Large business (250+ employees)
2015

About the job

What I do

I am currently the Head of Events and Learning at York Minster. I oversee the learning and events offer at the cathedral.

Skills I use and how I developed them

Interpersonal skills are extremely important; being able to work well with a variety of people is vital. I have always enjoyed meeting different people, finding out about their interests and motivations. Building relationships with people isn't a static thing, in every workplace you will encounter different personalities that will carry their own unique challenges and opportunities. It's important always to work on yourself first, to ask yourself if you're approachable and self motivated before you find fault with other colleagues.

In most roles it is really important to develop "soft skills" like using certain softwares, also understanding and following procedures in an organisation. It makes the day-to-day of your role far easier. In some cases I did a course (for example in Excel) in other instances I paid attention to procedures so I fully absorbed them in order to carry them out.

What I like most

The variety of my job, working at a place like York Minster presents me with lots of interesting opportunities to embark upon exciting and creative ventures. I am also extremely fortunate to work with a really good team of people.

What I like least

Many people want to do a myriad of things at York Minster, these requests can create various tensions within such a multipurpose building on a daily basis. For example, whether an event is in conflict with a service or the visitor operation, meticulous planning must take place in order to avoid these issues arising.

Finding and applying for the job

How I found out about the job

Already worked there

My career

My career goals when I graduated

I had originally been interested in pursuing a PhD. However, it was at the height of the recession and I wasn't willing to take the financial risk.
I wanted to work in Heritage but I wasn't entirely sure what that would look like.

My career history

I gained a part-time contract at Jorvik Viking Centre and then gained a separate contract at The Royal Armouries as a gallery warden. I did this for about 18 months, The Royal Armouries underwent a restructure and I went for a 35 hour contract as a Learning Assistant. Due to internal changes I managed to gain a number of promotions in the years I worked there. It gave me experience in line managing colleagues and event management. I also set up an animation company with some friends called Glass Cannon in my free time which specialised in work for the museum and heritage sector. This gave me another set of experiences including project and financial management. In 2015 I left The Royal Armouries to work for York Minster.

What has helped my career to progress

It's so important to be self-motivated, don't expect anyone in a more senior position to take pity on you and give you a promotion or a prospective employer to do the same. Employers want a full package someone capable and good to work with.
I learned that an incredible academic record will not necessarily get you very far, it's important to have a really good attitude too. I asked myself questions what would I be like to work with on a daily basis? Do I whine and moan about all the time? Am I the type of colleague to be avoided like the plague at the Christmas Party?I learned that you don't necessarily have to be everyone's best friend but you have to have an attitude that people don't do an eye roll if they get an email from you. And believe me there are plenty of those out there...

I also sat down and looked at my interview technique and my personal statements in job applications. It's vital to hone those skills, you will consistently fall at the first hurdle if you don't crack this.

What surprised me about my career so far

How many people aren't emotionally resilient in the workplace. Again, it's back to attitude, it's important to develop a thick enough skin that you don't get really upset if you get some constructive criticism. You will get plenty of knock-backs, that's part of work. It sounds cliched but it's really important to bounce back from rejection and criticism without taking it too personally.

My advice to students

My advice to students considering work

The style of writing in a job application is very different to academic writing. You need to make sure you evidence how you match the job criteria in a succinct way.
If you get an interview have a think about what kind of things you might be asked (you can glean a huge amount from the job spec) then work out what experience you have best to demonstrate it.

My advice about working in my industry

Get work experience as soon as you can, do not wait till you have graduated.
I and a number of my colleagues like to see that you've had some kind of paid experience in the past. It demonstrates that you understand things that we can take for granted in the workplace, like filling out time sheets, showing up on time, following procedures. I have recruited people who had worked really challenging roles outside of the sector because they demonstrated a good work ethic, rather than extensive specialist knowledge.
If you're lacking key experience in the sector you may have to be creative while you need to pay the bills. You may need to volunteer in your free time, in my case I set up the animation partnership.

Other advice

A good attitude can go a really, really long way.

Contacting me

I am happy to answer questions on applying for roles and interview technique.
I am happy to discuss career goals and how to make the next step.


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