Grads of the UK is an Instagram project and series of articles run by graduates, for graduates. We are documenting what being a millennial in 2017 is really like, with honest stories about life after university.
Every week we hand over our Instagram account to a new grad and share their unique story here on GradTouch. This week, Drama and Film graduate Ollie Kerswell is taking over.
You can read our interview with Ollie below, and see more daily insights into his life since uni by following @gradsoftheuk on Instagram.
Ollie grew up envisioning himself on the stage, screen or behind the scenes directing.
He chose to study Drama and Film at the University of Manchester and, as a student, he was also part of the Drama Society, got involved in independent theatre, ran a comedy night and hosted a radio show. Essentially, he was immersed in all things performing.
When it came to graduation, it seemed only natural to Ollie that he’d carry on making work with the theatre company he and his friends had formed. Though Ollie admits doing so “does become harder and harder” after uni, as it’s tough to get affordable rehearsal space and organise times to meet.
The cost and ease of making work aside, the time after he left university was a struggle. Ollie spent over nine months at his parents’ house, claiming benefits while he looked for work, and then moved into a flat with his friend Joe, working in Sales. He and Joe look back on it fondly now, as a time when they joked their life was like a sitcom, “but it was also actually quite painful. Our lives were depressing and boring”.
Ollie was able to return to Manchester after landing a job as an Account Manager at GradTouch. He loved the culture of the company and there seemed to be a chance his role would grow into something more creative. In one of his interviews for the job, he says they “spoke for an hour and a half about video and how important it is on the Internet, how a company could go about using it.”
Over the course of his three years with GradTouch, the company has evolved a great deal and now focuses heavily on media production – something that Ollie was instrumental in developing.
In December 2016, Ollie became a Video Marketing Executive, sourcing and editing footage to create videos for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Reflecting on his career so far, Ollie says he realised: “the closer I got to marketing, the happier I was… I’ve essentially now moved closer to working in ‘the world of advertising’, something which my family has always been a part of.”
With his parents both working in Advertising and then going on to run their own agency – Ollie says he’s “grown up around it”. He adds, “I’ve always admired TV ads. I know people find them annoying, but I think there’s nothing better than a well-crafted TV ad. It can change an entire perception of a brand; it has the opportunity to completely craft an image.”
Thinking back to his time at university and with the theatre company, Ollie says “I never really knew what my exact role was. I acted a bit, but I don’t think I was the best actor out of all of us. I directed, but I wasn’t the best director. I just did a bit of everything.”
Meanwhile, Ollie was beginning to realise where he did truly fit – in the office, at GradTouch, creating videos with a marketing goal.
The growing use of social media in the industry meant that going into Advertising like his parents, which was always his “plan for if the big stuff doesn’t work out”, had well and truly become his Plan A.
The role Ollie has now didn’t exist when he graduated uni – he tells me, “companies definitely wouldn’t have had people who are exclusively producing video content for social media the way I am – but now everyone does it”. With social media becoming an increasingly essential tool for business, Ollie has been able to merge his interest in advertisements, with the skillset he developed at uni in video editing.
“Now I don’t see Advertising as a second choice at all,” Ollie says, “this is what I want to continue doing… five years from now I want to be doing the same, but doing it bigger and better. Doing things that no one’s even thought of yet.” Given the choice, he wouldn’t pursue directing or performing again – his dream is to “be involved in a huge advertising campaign for a huge brand, to make an ad or video that is remembered.”
Ollie says it took a lot of confidence to be a part of pushing GradTouch’s media focus and to create the job he really wanted – confidence which he says is down to his long-term girlfriend, Lucy. He tells me, “I can’t put my finger on why, but I think the confidence she gives me in myself has generally translated into work”. He’s come a long way since he first left uni.
Ollie would advise students and recent graduates: “don’t look for the perfect job title – you can’t expect to get it straight out of uni. It can take a lot of time, in the Creative sector especially.”
He credits his happiness in his career now to being bold, adaptable and willing to work in roles that weren’t 100% perfect until he could find his place.
“My job didn’t exist anywhere really when I graduated university, but it also didn’t exist here as a company when I joined. I put myself in the company and essentially did the hard work and ended up being a part of creating it.”
For Ollie, achieving a career that really fit him was a case of putting himself in the right position to find his dream role and being ready to seize the opportunity when it came. Several years ago, he thought to himself, “If I stay here long enough and I prove to them I can do other stuff like video, it will happen.”
He tells me now, “that was honestly, I think, the first time in my life that I had a plan and it worked out.”
Ollie is running the @gradsoftheuk Instagram until Friday 24th February.