The spotlight of this week’s instalment of Grad Talk is on Rhian Williams, who graduated from Jesus in 2016 with a degree in French and Spanish. Uniting her love of food and writing, Rhian started a blog in her final year of Cambridge which she now continues to work on post-Uni. Here she tells us about life without a 9-5, her entrepreneurial aspirations and what she’s learned about getting internships.
Interview by Kitty Grady
So, what do you do now?
I graduated less than a year ago, but I’ve already done lots of different things since then. I’ve worked at a local café, a healthy baby food start-up (which included a couple of days working in their factory in Wales), and I’ve also done some freelance writing. I left a job a few weeks ago, and am currently looking for something else, working on my food blog (www.rhiansrecipes.com) in the meantime.
Describe a typical day.
I’ll usually cook something during the day as I tend to test out at least a few recipes per week. I’ve recently started to work more on my food styling and photography, and taking decent photos takes quite a lot of time! In the evenings, I usually write blog posts, do blog-related admin like scheduling social media, as well as working on articles for the freelance writing I do.
What do you like about it?
I love writing and being creative, so am finding it really fulfilling in this sense. My favourite thing, though, is when I hear from readers and see that they’ve made my recipes, which feels so rewarding.
What do you dislike about it?It is nice to have a team of people to work with, which I don’t at the moment. But it’s not that big of a deal as I still get to see my friends often. Also, as I’m not currently doing a traditional 9-5 job, it feels like I always have something I could be working on, rather than being able to separate time between work and fun.
What do you miss about Cambridge?
Having all your friends living just a few metres away. It gets harder and harder to meet such a wide group of people your age and with similar interests, so make the most of it while you can! Also having that feeling of community in a college, which you don’t really get once you leave. And having the luxury to study something because it’s interesting and intellectually stimulating, and not just because it serves some sort of purpose.
…and what do you not miss?
Exam stress, time pressure and of course: the constant feeling of guilt when you’re not working. And being compared to your peers in terms of exam grades…it all seems so irrelevant once you leave!
Did you know what you were going to do before you graduated?
Not really. I did think I wanted to be a journalist, an aspiration I’ve managed to maintain by the freelance writing I’ve been doing. I started my blog at the beginning of final year and knew I wanted to keep up with that after I graduated, and I’ve managed to do that too.
What are your personal aims for 2017?
To keep learning. I’m always reading and listening to podcasts so I can expand my knowledge about certain topics that interest me at the time – just because you’ve left uni doesn’t mean you don’t have the chance to keep learning! Oh, and I’d also like to figure out what I want to do.
What’s your pipe dream? Be bold.
To start my own business. I love to set myself challenges and love to have a continuous project to work on, so I think it’s something I’d really enjoy. I’d also like to write a book one day.
Name three women you look up to.
I look up to J.K. Rowling because I admire how she became so successful just from being amazingly talented. I follow her on Twitter and love how witty and relevant her tweets are. Another woman I look up to is Emma Gannon – I listen to her podcast called Ctrl Alt Delete where she interviews women who have become successful in creative careers such as writing, television and online, and find it really inspiring. And finally my mum because she’s a great businesswoman.
Any words of wisdom for undergrads apprehensive about job prospects?
Start a blog! Not only is it a great hobby, but my blog has also rather unexpectedly lead me to lots of job opportunities, both permanent and freelance. I often get contacted by recruiters on LinkedIn, who’ve shown interest in my profile because of my blog. It’s a great way to prove you have certain skills even if you haven’t yet had the chance to have much professional experience. It’s also a great way to show you have a genuine passion for and knowledge about a certain topic, and can demonstrate certain personality traits such as organisation, self-motivation and resourcefulness. And especially if you want to go into a more creative career, it can work as an excellent portfolio.
In terms of getting professional experience whilst at uni, I’d say it’s really important to actively seek opportunities out, even if it means cold-calling 20 companies asking if they offer summer work experience that isn’t advertised on their website. And I feel like a lot of students feel pressured to land their dream job immediately after they graduate, but in reality this happens to barely anyone, so it’s ok to try something out so you can see what suits you. Also you can afford to be picky too – don’t feel like you’ll need to leap at the first job you’re offered even if you know you’ll absolutely hate it! It’s ok to turn things down too.