The Trick to 'Making It' In Your Chosen Industry
A small, but important difference has occurred in Ireland in recent years. We're beginning to develop a culture of openness around work. Whether it's being loud, proud and (some would say obnoxiously) ambitious in the face of challenges, or knowing when to ask for help, we're getting a little bit better at communicating honestly. It might be the influence the Internet, or us millenials just being so good at sharing our feelings... But it's a good thing. And it means networking events are no longer the clandestine corporate schmoozefests they once were.
Made It is part of that change, an event bringing together figures from different industries (this time it's 'How to Make It In the Irish Music Business', with a gig from Carry On Troubadours afterwards) to share the stories of how they got where they are today. It's accessible, informative and fun. I spoke to the team to find out why you should be there on Thursday.
So tell me about Made It, how did you start the series?
We all knew each other through mutual friends. When we all finally met up, our brainstorming led to discussing how helpful it might be finding out how people had achieved success in their various industries and, more than this, how their unique pitfalls and misadventures had led them to that spot. And Made It was born. We wanted our guests to speak openly and honestly, and give people with the same goals an opportunity to ask tough questions.
Is there a message behind the event?
A big message we'd like to get across is that you might not need tonnes of experience in an industry to have a go at it. A lot of our speakers just gave something a try and flew by the seat of their pants.
Each of our events have showcased people who came upon their success in very different ways, from the creators of the Lonely Beast, who learnt how to make an app on the job, to Paul Timoney, who self-publishes and collaborates with schools businesses to produce books, to people like Eibhlin at the Local Enterprise Office in Dublin.
The focus is on creating an open conversation about topics that may seem inaccessible, and making them a bit more transparent.
There's something so un-Irish about talking openly about careers, ambition, success… is it a reaction against that?
We all felt a certain amount of frustration seeing jobs and having ideas, but not knowing what steps were needed to get there. We wanted to make it a bit less scary for people to get practical advice.
As a nation we do tend to gloss over, or be self-deprecating about our achievements. I think all of us felt a bit frustrated that there seemed to be so much smoke and mirrors around the path to success in our respective careers. We wanted to see a professional event that wasn't exclusive to one particular industry or incredibly corporate.
Have people been reticent about sharing their stories? Ireland is so small, it always seems risky to speak honestly.
Surprisingly, we've never had anyone refuse on the grounds of being protective of their work or their story. It's mostly just been scheduling conflicts, unless that's their polite way of telling us to fuck off...
How do you feel about unpaid internships? On the one hand I think they're cheapening creative work, but on the other I can't imagine how my life would have been like without them.
Emily: I know my time working unpaid was what gave me the experience to get into an area that was. That said, I wish that internships were more closely policed. I think that paying some sort of stipend and covering expense should be the rule rather than the exception.
Mary: I don't agree with them, because if as a business you need staff you cannot pay, you have a problem. Interns may not do the most interesting or the highest level of work, but they still do work and deserve to be compensated for it.
Zoë: I started doing internships when I was 15 because I knew how competitive the publishing industry could be, and I wanted to get a head start. Some were paid, others were not. Some were great, some were terrible. I see no reason for healthy businesses to run unpaid internships (a lot of bigger publishers these days provide a stipend, at least), but I know smaller companies that simply can't afford this. It can be easy being exploited, and we need structures in place to guarantee this doesn't happen.
Ailbhe: I'm conflicted on this topic. Personally, I've only had negative experiences with unpaid internships, but I also know a lot of people who have benefited a lot from them.
Which events have had the most interest? And what industries would you like to address next?
One area that we had the most follow-up from was the app event, so we're looking to host another tech-based talk in 2015.
And we've had a lot of people asking us to do an event centred on food, so we've just been thinking about that. We try and keep our ears open about questions we hear being asked and industries that seem mysterious or out of reach.
A lot of young people emigrate, and it's not necessarily always a permanent thing. Do you view leaving Ireland or staying here looking for work as a political decision (We're Not Leaving come to mind)?
Emily went to Edinburgh and returned, Zoë moved to Ireland and never went back. It wasn't an easy decision either way, but for most of us it was a personal rather than a political one.
The job market here can be really frustrating. We've all spent teary-eyed evenings trawling through #jobfairy, being called in for interviews and not succeeding, then seeing the same jobs that you didn't get come up again and again.
Dublin does have its advantages, though. Because it's a relatively small city, there are big benefits to simply being a Nice Person. Acting like an jerk will get you nowhere here, and that helps keep people in check.
What's been the most useful lesson from the events so far?
Finding out that a lot of successful people are kind of making it up as they go along and constantly learning on the job is very heartening. It helped knowing that people had been in the same position as you an incredibly short time ago.
No one is going to shoot you down for asking questions as long as you have common sense.
We've all been learning to be less intimidated about putting ourselves forward.
And finally – the next event! Where is it on, what is it about, and why should we be there?
Our next event is 'How to Make It In the Irish Music Business', this Thursday at our spiritual home, the Twisted Pepper (tickets are still on sale!). Then we'll have 'How to Get Funded' on Thursday, the 12th of March. You should join if you're all ideas and no dollars, and curious about the way that other businesses raise money and stay afloat.