An Evening With Leeds University’s History Makers

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The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society 150th Anniversary book ‘Home from Sea’

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

It’s been a constant source of disquiet for me that our brightest, youngest, most vital minds are sold the fallacy that the world is a barren wasteland of opportunity, with a paucity of enterprise and scant pickings, even for those who achieve straight A’s.

Such is the power of stories.

As someone who has never been out of work since age eight (family business making deliveries on a butcher’s bike) and who most definitely wasn’t a straight A student, I thought it was time to get out amongst our city’s young folk and learn for myself what was happening today.

During my time at the inward investment agency for Leeds City Region, I’d been privileged to hear from some truly inspirational leaders, from the emerging fields of fintech and med tech through to chief executives, operations managers, systems designers and many doctors, scientists, security experts and entrepreneurs. All of them confirmed the need for capable millennials in all sectors.

During my five years with HSBC Bank, I’d also seen inside numerous UK businesses and whether they were based in thriving metropolises or declining mill towns, they still relied on a pipeline of talent to help them achieve their business plans. I’ve always seen a glut of opportunity and plenty of need for workers to drive our economy, but with many of our jobs only coming into existence in the last five or ten years as digital disruption takes hold and transforms what we know, what skills do graduates need to fit in? And why are some graduates still keen to qualify in history?

When a colleague passed me the invitation to the History Society Careers Networking Dinner at Leeds University, I initially thought ‘what skills would history graduates have that we’d need here at Acceleris? Quickly followed by ‘what has history got to do with Public Relations?’ The answer to me quickly became ‘everything’.

At Acceleris, we deal in stories and use the power of a good story well told, to change opinions, win funding, stop hospitals from closing, fight misinformation and stop unsustainable practices. One of our most saleable skills is our detailed knowledge of the past and our ability to analyse the media and economic landscape to spot and tap into future trends and issues.

History is in our taxonomy and how we relate topics, themes and people to each other. Recently we’ve been appointed as project archivist for one of the UK’s oldest maritime charities, The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society. A role which required not only the conservation and cataloguing of images from 150 years of history, but also the authoring and preservation of a cherished story that would be told for years to come in a commemorative 106 page book produced by our Writers Inc. division.

The painstaking research and ability to deal with the minutiae of people’s personal memories, tall tales or vague reminiscences and the physical evidence had everything to do with the skills history graduates learn.

It’s the same with rapid fire news, features or copywriting, which are all based on the ability to listen and understand and to relate those pieces of information to the wider world, giving things context and meaning.

In addition to learning from a syllabus packed with relevant skills, the quality of the student-organised event I attended was also outstanding. The sit down dinner and the round-table approach, where local companies such as Deloitte, Irwin Mitchell and Teach First hosted around eight students each, showed a real razor-sharp insight into delivering the outcomes the group was looking for – so placements, internships and ultimately, employment.

prologue

The prologue to The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society 150th Anniversary book ‘Home from Sea’

These history graduates have certainly taken charge of writing their own life stories.

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