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Meet the Sunderland University Graduate Proving That Hard Work Pays Off

woman graduating university
September 2022
Reading time 4 Minutes

We caught up with Caitlyn McAdam to find out how her passion for content creation has bagged her a top job at one of the UK’s biggest fashion and homeware retailers

After missing out on a graduation ceremony with family and friends due to Covid restrictions, University of Sunderland fashion journalism graduate Caitlyn McAdam now has two reasons to celebrate. Not only was she finally able to celebrate achieving a First Class Honours degree, last month Caitlyn started her new role as Social Media Executive at Matalan’s head office in London.

Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 22 and I’m from Newcastle. I studied Fashion Journalism at the University of Sunderland for three years, before moving to London at the end of August to live my dream of working in the fashion industry and I am so excited to see where my career will take me.

What was it like to finish your degree during Covid?
I finished my degree during the pandemic, and like many others we had to do our final year remotely, which included doing my full final project which I completed at home. There were good days and bad days, to say the least, and it's not how I pictured my final year at university, but we all made it through.

I was meant to graduate last year as part of the Class of 2021, but due to Covid we never got an official ceremony but I’m so happy that we finally had a catch-up graduation to celebrate. One of the main parts of university life is to graduate at the end of your degree, standing in your cap and gown surrounded by all your friends, family and academic staff. It officially closes the chapter on your time at university – so even though it was a year later, it was still a special day.

Even after everything that had happened, I managed to be awarded a first-class honours in Fashion Journalism and get a level 3 in my National Council for the Training of Journalists diploma. I am also proud to say I was shortlisted and commended for Best Student Project at the NCTJ Awards for Excellence for my final project Noelle, which was an A4 Christmas magazine filled with fashion, beauty, interviews and more. To create a magazine during the pandemic wasn’t easy, but as cliché as it sounds, it’s so important to not give up because it goes to show hard work does pay off.

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What did you get up to while you waited to finally graduate?
When I finished university last year, my mind was in a bad place. The only way I could describe it was that I felt completely lost. I didn't know what to do job-wise or where I wanted to go in the industry. My mental health had taken a setback. It felt as if although we’d finished university, there was no closure due to Covid, and it was heartbreaking.

I decided to apply for the mediaHUB Graduate Intern position, which the University of Sunderland offers to recent graduates in the Arts and Creatives courses. I did the interview and got offered the position the same day, which was amazing. The role involved me adapting the skills I’d learned during my academic career, such as media law, producing social media content, writing and being an active support for the students. I can only describe the job as so rewarding. It helped me learn a lot about myself and practise everything I have learned at university, not to mention making friends for life. It was the year I needed and I don't regret it for a second. 

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How does it feel to know you’ve got a job at one of the UK’s leading retailers?
It still doesn't seem real, if I am honest. I still can’t believe I’ve moved to London to start such an exciting new job. It is crazy, but it is a chapter I am very excited to embark on. My new job title is Social Media Executive at Matalan’s head office in London. As part of my job role I will be researching and creating content for their social media platforms, scheduling content, attending campaign photoshoots, press events and more. I grew up shopping at Matalan, and we still shop there to this day; it has always been such a well-known retailer, so to know I am going to be working with them is crazy.

It just goes to show even when times are hard, remind yourself how far you came and believe you can do anything you set your mind to. Trust me when I say hard work does pay off, and with a determined attitude, being organised, and passion, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. 

How did the opportunity come about?
I saw the job advertised a while ago, and I knew I wanted to apply for it after reading the description, but I was too late. It had expired. I was disheartened as it seemed such an incredible position. But the job got posted again, and it felt like fate, that it was a sign I had to go for it. I had no idea where it was going to lead to, and I didn’t think I had a chance, but I had to try my best. I got invited for a first interview, followed by a second where I had to create a presentation for a Matalan summer campaign which then led me to being offered the job.

I have always wanted to work in social media because I have such a passion for content creation. I love being creative, so when I got offered the position, it didn’t seem real. I knew it was going to be the start of a whole new chapter in my life.

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Tell us more about your presentation for the summer campaign .
As part of my second interview I was asked to create a presentation based on a Matalan Summer Campaign and I decided to base mine around having a family self-care summer. I wanted to host a competition across their social media platforms where customers and users could tag the company in their picture of how they are styling their family summer outfits. I also designed some graphics and made some reels and TikToks to present which centred around my idea. I was so nervous to show the team what I’d created but I got a phone call a week later and got offered the job. It was such a surreal moment.

What are your plans for the future?
As soon as I met my new team it felt like I had known them forever; they welcomed me with open arms and were so lovely. There are some exciting projects in the pipeline, and I am even more excited to get going now.

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