20something profile: Ruby
My name is Ruby Nelson-Will. I am a 24 year old from Christchurch, New Zealand, and I began a Physical Education Teaching degree in 2008. I had also very randomly decided to take Spanish as another teaching subject, as it was something I had always wanted to master. This grew into an obsession and crazy love for the Spanish language and anything associated. What I wasn’t to know was that this love for language would bloom into something more than just a love — and sooner than I thought.
On February 22nd, 2011, there was a huge earthquake in Christchurch, killing almost 200 people. It was crazy and changed a lot of things for me. The house I was living in got demolished, and I was becoming less and less fond of the thought of becoming a teacher. Put two and two together, and the move to Wellington (another city in NZ) made sense.
I couldn’t transfer my whole degree, so I had to change it so I could finish that year. So I went searching through the subject guide book and found Linguistics. I still can’t believe that I had never considered this before – it suited me so perfectly. So off I went, turned up to university 2 weeks into the semester, with ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what they were talking about in class. I studied my butt off and took all the papers in one year to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts specialising in Linguistics, Education and Spanish. Not what I had set out to do 4 years ago, but I was a lot happier.
The job situation in New Zealand isn’t great; they aren’t exactly known for giving graduates any big breaks. So the next year I moved to Melbourne, bursting with graduate enthusiasm, ready to start a career. But as what? The million dollar question. I didn’t have many career options — especially when I ruled out any teaching or doing any postgraduate study (at this stage). So I had to re-evaluate.
I came to the out of left field, surprising conclusion that I wanted to give marketing a go. Only problem is, with no Marketing degree, no one would hire me. I applied for so many internships, and even then no luck. I read a few books to gain some insight and in hope of finding the magic cure to get me a job ASAP.
It was then that I discovered how much marketing interrelated with Event Management and realised I was going about it all wrong. I am such a hands on person; Event Management is what I really wanted to do. Since then I haven’t looked back. If I had looked back, it would be a long way, because boy I did some yards getting to where I am today. I was working in a café at the time to pay the bills. I applied for job after job and internship after internship. No bites — rejection sucks. You have to have a pretty thick skin.
After a while I realised that I needed the golden ticket that would stop employers from laughing at my CV. I needed a qualification in Event Management; I needed to look serious and have some sort of experience in this competitive world. So I enrolled in a 3 month part time diploma with the Fitzwilliam Institute. It was a quick and easy way to get a diploma and learn a basic overview of events.
A few months later, I had bumped practically all my previous job experience from my CV and replaced it with the oodles of new event experience I had gained. Along with my diploma (and degree of course) I was semi employable! I was lucky enough to score an internship, plus some experience with one of the course lecturers organising an outdoor public event.
Then the call that changed everything happened: a few months back I had met an Event Manager at the Reclink Community Cup as I was cutting thousands of bread buns in the food tent (I really did volunteer for all types of jobs at events).
After I had finished the cutting, I went searching for another task, but we were pretty overstaffed (or over volunteered). So we briefly chatted and critiqued how the team was working and how to improve the process. Not wanting to stand around, I decided that the poor man who was trying to open a brown paper bag one handed to put the burger from his other hand in, definitely needed some help. So, I became the “paper bag opener.”
I laugh when I think about this, but this is actually kind of how I have my job in Event Management now. The Event Manager loved the idea, as it was making the process faster, and we ended up swapping business cards.
The next week I went in to have an informal chat with the Director of the Brand Experience Company — Jack Morton Worldwide. We got along like a house on fire — she was amazing. I was in love with the company and wanted to work there so badly! The company works on a project basis, so there was nothing available at my level at the time. But I was on the books in case they needed a hand with anything.
3 months later they needed just that. I received the call to help out 1 week leading up to a major conference and the week onsite at the conference. It was the worst timing, as I had tickets to NZ for my sister’s 21st, and they needed me for the whole time. I had to decline. But I didn’t feel right. I had been waiting so long for an opportunity like this. So 2 minutes later I was on the phone changing my flights.
After the conference I was asked to come in randomly to help with bits and pieces around the office: moving, filing, research etc. I always happily accepted, as it allowed me to be in an event environment where I could listen and ask questions. 9 months after I had moved to Australia all bright eyed and über excited, I had reached the end of my tether. I had no idea it would have been so hard to start a career.
I was so presumptuous that having a university degree would make it easy. Everyone you’re up against has a university degree these days. It is experience that employers want. Now don’t get me wrong, having a degree is definitely beneficial. I would NEVER take back my study — I had such a great time, met some amazing people and learnt so much content as well as about myself. It is hands down the best thing you can do for yourself.
But it is so vital to get hands on experience while you study. Do internships and volunteer. It will make it so much easier to break into the workforce. I definitely shot myself in the foot with my sudden degree change. But it is never too late. I seem to have changed my mind many times and have still ended up in the right direction, whatever that even means!
I am now a Production Coordinator at Jack Morton, where I help organise the production of all types of different events. Although it is hard starting at the bottom again, like a small fish in a big sea, I have learnt so much in my 6 months there. As hard as it is doing the jobs no one wants to do themselves, you really do need to learn every aspect, so you understand the full scope of an event.
The road was long and hard, but that triumphant feeling when you reach your ultimate goal and get that job makes it all worthwhile! You will get there; it just takes hard work, networking, a very, very thick skin and a smile permanently plastered on your face.