1 August 2014

Property, pirouettes and a perfect cuppa: Wildfire Work Experience pt. 1

Hello lovely people of the world, or should I say bonjour? It turns out that this little blog is apparently frequented by France and Canada, according to google stats - pretty exciting! In this post I plan to do an overview of my work experience placement at Wildfire Comms, so expect literary puns galore, dance quiz delights and some rather euphemistic ploys for property selling! 

Situated in Paintworks, Bristol, Wildfire publishes a range of titles, predominantly for the Education sector, but also Bristol Property Live and the rather brilliant Irish Dance Magazine. The the people, the place, the publications themselves and the work I did - I can honestly say that it exceeded all expectations.

During my two weeks I worked on four different publications in total, which one of the editors shrewdly pointed out meant that I could put it down as four separate experiences on my CV - and of course you're always keeping that holy grail in mind! The sheer range of tasks, which included property and lifestyle features, statistic spreads, some gold old proofing (Exeposé won't know what's hit them next year, I'm quite the whizz now!) and culminating in an article that could have been made for me - a response to a survey on the next Generation's political concerns. I of course can't forget to mention that I also became a writer of quizzes and horoscopes for Irish Dancing enthusiasts; in a world exclusive, I can reveal that, if you are a Virgo, "special dance day" in September is the 6th - my birthday. Got to keep things cool. I came away after two weeks feeling I had been there far longer, and although exhausting part of me wanted to just stay there and work for good!
The middle was the entrance to my office;
the top is a building that wasn't my office,
but looked rather 'blog worthy'; the bottom =
a seriously cool diner on wheels & a coke straw. 

On day one, I admit I was apprehensive. I haven't had a full day like this in over a year; Uni never necessitated getting up any earlier than 8:30, and that was often a struggle! Suddenly here I was, waking up at 7am and working 9-5 - oh the hard life…  Still, it was a far cry from my taxing 3 hours a day in Sixth Form. The X39 bus goes from my village right next to Paintworks, which at first was a huge blessing, only to become my nemesis in week 2. I did look slightly like a meercat peering out the bus window to check I didn't miss my stop, but so far so good - i survived the bus! For people who know me and my general ditziness, this is no mean feat.

Paintworks is just lovely; contemporary and quite artsy, the office was refreshingly modern, spacious and... Mac technology! The latter made me realise that having a Mac at university may have hidden benefits for later. Many sectors, particularly publication companies, will likely use them; I can say for a fact that, if I didn't have a Mac myself, it would have taken me a lot longer to get started with the actual work! The woman overseeing my work experience was simply lovely. One of those people who always has a smile on her face and throughout my time was so positive and encouraging! 

She started me off with the Irish Dance magazine, where my first task was…. writing horoscopes! When I told this to both my sister and best friend, their response was unanimous: "what?! I TRUSTED THOSE!" It was quite amusing. This involved giving horoscopes relevant to 10 year old kids with a penchant for irish dance, giving a special dance day and their "month characteristic". Virgo was very positive, naturally! I tried to keep things simple, but also used my own knowledge and response to horoscopes. For example, write something like "you know that dance competition you've been considering entering?" Well, if they weren't thinking about one, they will now! I will admit I do read horoscopes - never trust them, but it always keeps me amused. After finishing this in an hour, I moved up in complexity - a quiz! It was one of those where you have to answer a) b) or c) and add up your score at the end - you are then assigned one of three types of people. The topic? Irish Dance fashion - right up my street!

To be fair, I did suddenly find that my accumulated knowledge from several series of "Dance Moms" (don't judge - just watch!) came into its own. I now know that the world of pre-teen dance is no laughing matter, including outfits! So with a bit of google research and some sporadic initiative, I came with my three types
1) No-nonsense Nancy: she won't compromise, everything must be perfect or it is not acceptable!
2) Rational Rachel: she recognises the importance of good presentation, but is a bit less fanatical than Nancy.
3) Cynical Celia: she just doesn't understand this world! Isn't it about dance? 
In Dance Moms, Abi Lee Miller and Celia would not cooperate well… 
In addition to writing the quiz questions and so forth, I decided to replicate the layout in the existing magazines, so I could see how it fit and so forth. I just did this using word, bit of text boxing and you're good to go! When I finished, T (the woman overseeing my placement) came over and was really surprised - she asked me how I had done the template! When I said word, she was impressed and seemed to think I had some penchant for design… you learn something new about yourself every day! 

The Irish Dance magazine was definitely a great way to start, the tasks were fun and got me into the swing of things! However, my work on Bristol Property Live was possibly my highlight. I've always enjoyed flicking through property sections in papers - my sister and I 'used' to flick through them and do the "bagsy your favourite house on the page"… maybe this is just us, in which case that is quite awkward. Back on point, I always thought it would be fun to do property selling - as a Lit student, I love a good adjective or five, and it took me right back to my halcyon days at school open mornings, where my old head teacher commented that apparently I'm good at selling! 

During my time at wildfire I wrote three property features, and will stress on the off that some of these properties weren't exactly as modern and vibrant as the place in which I wrote them! I was given a brochure for the property, or a website listing, and from that had to write a 3-400 word feature on it, sounding as if I had actually visited. I also had to come up with a title and caption, which was an often pun-derful experience (sorry, couldn't resist). I did two featured rentals, and one property; the fruits of my labours could be found a week later in Bristol Property Live, which provoked the same childlike excitement as when I saw my first Exeposé article in print - ah, it never gets old. 

One property involved me spending a good 200 words talking about the "postcode paradise", trying to detract from the less than Edenic interior! Another one was "bags of potential", the latter word said a lot. I have to say though, it's got to be a good sign when, by the end of one, I actually quite fancied living there! I also felt quite like Kirstie Alsop at one point, offering various suggestions such as the ingenious turning of the fourth reception room into an extra bedroom… let's be honest, where is the logic in having more reception rooms than people? Unless the dog was given its own sitting room, which in our family wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility… 

One thing I did discover from this work experience, is how adaptable jobs can be. I realised that, for a future career, it's not so much what I am doing as how I do it. So I would not pick Irish Dancing, or even property, as my top choices to write about! Yet those first few days at Wildfire were so enjoyable; I really got into it and I think it gives me faith that I could enjoy an array of writing careers, and don't have to be as prescriptive as I maybe thought before doing this placement! I have also been given the journalism bug again, but still think sports journalism is one avenue I can never go down - unless shopping is a sport. 

Mostly, however, it was the environment. The people I worked with were so lovely, by the end of the first week I felt so at home and the overall atmosphere was very relaxed, but at the same time focused; it is definitely a place I would be more than happy to work at. if nothing else, I now have renewed faith that my body is capable of doing a 9-5 job and getting up before 9am! 

More to follow in another post; as ever I have rambled, but I will definitely try to work on keeping my thoughts more concise! 

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