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Elise Skogrand

Elise SkograndProject Manager & Content Strategist, Headspin Communications

BA Business Management, 2010

What is a typical day like for you?

I start my day with a coffee from my favourite coffee place, and open my emails once I´m at my desk.  I spend most of my time project managing various projects, and there are always a lot of client meetings going on.

As a project manager, my responsibility is to pull the right resources at the right time and make sure it all goes to plan, preferably within budget. However, what´s most important to me is that the client gets something they´re proud of and excited about.

We work closely with our clients so there´s a lot of correspondence by email and phone to attend to. Its always hectic, but then again that makes time go quicker and I´m never bored! In the course of a day I get to take part in a variety of different things, ranging from graphic design and print, to strategy, content marketing and video production. Each day is different, and that’s exactly how I like it.

There’s a lot of brilliant minds at Headspin and its very inspiring to work with these gifted people.

What aspects of your career do you enjoy most?

Some projects we´re involved with feel extra meaningful to me, like the time we made an animated educational film for children who live with a parent with early onset dementia. We´ve also just finished a campaign to increase awareness about the mental health services available for students who push themselves too hard in order to be “perfect” in all aspects of life. Growing up in today´s society can bring on a lot of pressure!

We regularly pitch ideas and concepts to clients and there’s a real buzz around it. I also enjoy the creativeness of the industry, being part of a team that comes up with concepts and new ideas for the client. We do a lot of content production for our clients, and this is where we can really get creative. Also it’s really satisfying to see something the teams have come up with do really well.

What can be the most challenging?

Creativity can’t be forced, so sometimes it’s hard to get the ideas flowing and find the right solution for the client. Inviting outsiders in to give their point of view is also sometimes helpful as you get a new perspective on something.

What made you choose Middlesex University?

I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, but I felt the need to challenge myself. That's how I decided to study in a new country. Being from Norway, I got in touch with an organisation called Across the Pond. I asked them about universities in London and they recommended Middlesex. They helped me through the application process. I was aware there are universities in London that are perceived to be 'better' or cooler, but after researching I decided that what Middlesex could offer me was equally as good.

What attracted you to BA Business Management?

I initially didn't want to do a business course, as I was dead set on a more artistic education. However I got rejected from the art schools I applied for and thought 'I already am creative, what I don't know about is business, so that's what I need to learn.'

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

I thoroughly enjoyed Managerial Leadership, which I had in my final year. When I look back at my time at Middlesex, that is what stands out the most. It was about being an authentic leader and getting to know yourself, being conscious of leadership.

Another very useful thing we did in that course was training our presentation skills. We all had to make a presentation about something we felt passionate about and then the class would review your presentation skills and give feedback. To a lot of people speaking in public is daunting but it was such an important experience that helped me overcome any fears I had. Also, speaking in public or giving a presentation is something you'll most likely have to do in your working life and thus this was perhaps the most relevant thing to my career after graduating.

The lecturer was a very inspiring person and to this day I remember clearly some of the talks he did.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you to get where you are professionally today?

Obviously just being able to speak and give a presentation confidently in English really helped me. When I was interviewing for my job here in Norway, I had to go through two stages of interviews, both in English, and I think the presentation skills and English skills really helped me land the job. The company is international so being able to communicate efficiently in English is key.

In general I'd say that my time at Middlesex contributed to give me the confidence to realize I can do anything if I put my heart into it.

What skills have been most valuable in your career so far and how have you developed these?

I believe I've learned how to approach conflicts and problems in a better way than I used to – I've found that something that may seem super complex and unsolvable can sometimes be solved by taking a soft approach, talking things through, hearing each other out and eventually agree on something you can move on from. This is something I've learned in my current position.

I've learned the importance of being authentic from the Managerial Leadership module and it's something I'm very aware of in my working life.

How did you get your foot on the career ladder post university?

This was a tricky one. I was offered a job as manager of a shop in my hometown in Norway after graduating, and as I hadn't really figured out what I wanted to do yet, I took it. After a few years social media really blew up and I taught myself a lot about digital media and communication. This is something I was really interested in, and when you're interested in something it's so much easier to learn and try things on your own. I then started blogging, using more social media and webshops for local retailers. This experience eventually helped me get my current position.

What does the future hold for you?

It's hard to say really, but what I have become aware of is what aspects of marketing I enjoy more and where I can contribute the most. It's a very fast moving industry and things change super quickly. Being in my current job I've also learned a lot about myself and how I relate to other people in daily communications, what I'm good at and what I'm not so good at. So when I move on to my next position, I'll be more able to aim for one where I can put my abilities to good use.

At this point, I see myself in ten years as either being a leader in an advertising agency, or doing something else creative that I really enjoy. But in five years I could be doing something totally different, so there's no saying, really.

I started out being very focused on the money, but as time has passed I've realized I need to be doing something I enjoy too, and that that's equally important to me. If I'm not happy in my workplace, it doesn't matter if it pays well.

What are the top three career tips you would give to current students and recent graduates?

  1. Don't freak out if you still don't know what you want to do or what kind of job you'd be most suited for once you graduate. You'll figure so many things out along the way and you'll get to know yourself so much better. What you thought you wanted to do may not be what you want to do at all.
  2. Find your USP's. Look into what companies do what you think could be interesting. Think about what you're good at or interested in and look for places where that could be put to use. Ultimately, you'll want to be in a job you get satisfaction from. Don't be afraid to start at the bottom – things move quickly and possibilities open up. If you keep getting rejected from the jobs you're applying for, take a moment and rethink your strategy. Look at how you could change your CV for the better. Try again.
  3. Success rarely looks like what you think it'll look like. It can be a messy and confusing road, but if you stay in touch with yourself, add a dash of luck, work hard and never give up – you'll eventually get to where you want to be. Even if you don't really know where you want to be yet.

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