How do you want to make your mark?
It’s the question at the heart of a new creative project I’ve been working on with the University of Greenwich, designed to explore student stories of work, their experiences and expectations. It’s a tricky question at any stage of your career – and I have to admit that when I started my working life I didn’t really have a clue – but the project has been a joy to work on. And I love the idea of making your mark as a theme because it’s so open, forward looking and can be answered in different ways. It invites speculation, gives space and opportunity to stretch your imagination, dream a bit.
The student experience is a serious issue for many universities and Greenwich were keen to hear how students felt. Rather than using traditional questionnaires, they commissioned us to facilitate the students to tell their own stories in different creative ways – either writing fiction or via creative conversations, or illustrating their ideas and talents through images or designs they’ve created. The book is beautiful, but also unlike any I’ve been involved in before.
We love facilitating people to write but this time we had to be innovative about the process and introduce new ways to tap into different types of creativity – particularly for those that are story-tellers not writers, for those who express themselves visually, and for those that think in 3d (and the one student who dreamed of a future in 5d!) We found the most important thing was making a connection, individually and personally with the participants, understanding their thinking, preferences, talents and supporting them into a new place, the future they want.
So, the stories and conversations are rich, engaging and honest in a way that no case study could ever be. And the story structure adds meaning and clarifies where the real rub is terms of getting started in a career. Aspiration and anxiety jump off the pages in equal measures. The stories are as much about making a mark in terms of being a valued person and supporting the greater good, as they are about becoming world renowned.
The students themselves confound any stereotypes that are in the mainstream. Most of them are juggling work in non-graduate jobs, hard-working and focused (which sort of reflects the self-selecting nature of the project) and there are contributions from maths, computing, English, graphics, 3d design, animation, business information systems. The University are delighted and have gained some useful insights into how they can enhance their support for students in their work journey.
And more great news, we are chuffed that…
The book will be launched on the 22nd May at the Greenwich Literary Festival
Let me know if you are interested in coming and I’m keen to hear how you’ll make your mark? I’ve made some definite marks in recent years – writing a thriller and curating a book of fiction, and as a result of this project, also some tentative marks in charcoal and paint. I’ve been inspired by the students and it’s made me think about what I want to do for the next ten years, a compelling question isn’t it.