It's been two and a half years since I graduated from university. Gradhood has been an interesting experience, with ups and downs and highs and lows and all that's in between. Over the years I've oftentimes found myself looking at my peers and thinking fuck, how the hell did they get that amazing job? Or how have they managed to travel to those amazing places? Or simply wondering what others from my course are up to now...
Thus the idea for the Gradhood series was born - talking to graduates about all things grad, in hopes of inspiring and educating others on the realities and possibilities of it all!
So here to start, we've got the amazing Sophie Cliff...
Hi Sophie, I’ve been reading your blog for absolute yonks! It’s so lovely, and I feel like you’re always posting amazing, thoughtful pieces of writing on it. For those that don’t know you, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
Hello! That is so lovely of you to say, thank you. By day I sell toys for a living, and by night I run my little blog, sophiecliff.com. I've been writing it now for over two years and starting it is honestly the best thing I have ever done. In my spare time I love to travel and I am a real foodie, so I'm always on the lookout for new restaurants to try.
Talk us through a typical day in the life of you.
My day job is working as a sales manager for a very well known entertainment company. I work directly with one of the UK's biggest retailers and so no two days are ever the same. One day I might be influencing a product range and the next I might be running sales reports and pulling together forecasts. We're a small team so I cover a whole range of areas, including marketing, sales and brand management.
How did you get into blogging? How do you balance your blog and side hustles with your job?
I started my blog two years ago - I had been spending so much time reading other people's blogs that I thought I should give it a go! I was hooked instantly and I have learnt so much from it. I love that my blog gives me a creative outlet that balances perfectly with my professional career and I find it really helps me to switch off after a long day at the office.
Where did you go to university, and how did you find your experience there? Best bits, worst bits, funny bits, proud bits, regretful bits?
I studied Economics at the University of Leeds and I had an amazing experience. In hindsight the course probably wasn't the best fit for me (it didn't leave any room for creativity!) but I had an absolute ball. I met some of my best friends at uni and I feel like it's the period of my life where I really started to feel like myself. I was also lucky enough to have some fab part time jobs and internships that have been invaluable for me in my post-uni career.
How do you find living in Leeds as a graduate/young professional? What’re your favourite things about it, and what brought you here?
I absolutely LOVE IT. I studied in Leeds and loved it so much that I didn't want to leave, but I wasn't sure that I'd enjoy the city as much when I was no longer a student. I needn't have worried - I think Leeds is the perfect city to be a young professional. It's affordable and there are plenty of opportunities, but the city is small enough that you can really make the most of it. Plus it's on the doorstep for visiting lots of other great places which is perfect if you love to explore.
Were there any organisations or websites or people that helped you figure out what exactly you were going to do after uni? How did you make the decision of what would be the next step – did you feel prepared?
The careers service at Leeds uni was actually really great for helping me understand what sort of opportunities where out there. Because I studied within the business school I had access to lots of resources that helped me prepare for interviews and applications, but I would say that the best advice was not being afraid to draw on your network for help.
What would you say has been the most beneficial thing for you post-graduation in terms of getting you to the point you’re at now? Would it be internships, or travelling, or your blog, or all!?
For me it was definitely all of the extra things I did while I was at uni. The job market is so competitive these days that just having a degree isn't enough, and being able to talk about the internships and part time jobs I had in interviews was invaluable. Plus having those extra contacts outside of uni meant I had even more people to lean on for advice and support.
What have been your favourite travel memories? Where would you recommend people go?
Unlike some people, I've never taken a gap year or gone travelling for longer than two weeks, but it's still so important to my life. I like to travel as regularly as I can and I especially love city breaks. I have got so many happy travel memories, from beach bar hopping in Hamburg with the girls, to parasailing in Ibiza, to getting engaged in front of the New York skyline. Travel is what I spend most of my disposable income on and I love how getting away for a few days can change your mindset. I would definitely recommend it to anyone!
What would you love to be doing in five years’ time?
In a dream world I would love to be running my own business - ideally it would be something that blended my day job with my creative interests. I have also always dreamed about writing a book and to do that in the next few years would feel like such an achievement!
What advice would give you to impending graduates who have studied your subject/ students in general?
Build your network and do your best to nurture it. So many of the opportunities that I've had with my blog and in my career have come from people I already know and I wouldn't have found out about them otherwise. Networking doesn't have to be forced or cringeworthy, it's just building authentic relationships with other people.