Jessica Leggett: BA (Hons) History 2012-2015 and MA History 2015-2018 Staff Writer at All About History

22 Dec 20

“History is a tough market so be proud of what makes you stand out. I think sometimes there is a pressure to enjoy ‘popular’ history topics - everyone seems to love the Tudors - but you don’t have to. You can be attacked for your historical interests but someone has to love it. “

Jessica Leggett went from working in catering to writing about queens. After graduating in 2015 with a BA Hons History degree, Jessica decided the best thing for her was to stay in the historic city of Winchester to further her studies in the subject. It was through doing this that Jessica found a job while still studying at university.

“I wanted to be a teacher up until my second year and then I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. I got a scholarship for my postgrad while I figured out what I wanted to do. During my Masters, I was on Twitter and saw that a history PhD student at Winchester retweeted a job ad for a Staff Writer position for History of Royals magazine.“

“I was already subscribed to History of Royals at the time. I got an interview even though I expected to get rejected. I wasn’t the ideal candidate because I had no writing experience outside of academia but I loved history, I knew I was passionate and I had ideas.  When I got offered the job I was shocked, happy and freaking out.”

Jessica was having to balance her Masters degree alongside starting this new job which was based in Bournemouth where she commuted every day. Doing this was a challenge but she says the skills from her undergraduate degree gave her the ability to manage this and develop even more skills once she started working.

“How did my course help? Well, aside from the whole History thing, through doing individual projects, my dissertation and independent studies, I found out my personal interests. I was helped by lecturers that could guide me forward. I was pitching ideas in my interview influenced by my studies and I knew what I was doing was cool and different. “

Jessica now works for All About History magazine which is a similar role to her previous job but focuses on more aspects of history rather than just royals. However, working for a historical magazine was not her first experience of work. During her six years at Winchester, Jessica worked for the Catering Department – this taught her a lot of extra skills on top of her knowledge of royal history.

“I started working for Catering in my first year right up until the end of my studies and I was given a lot of responsibility. It gave me confidence. It showed me I could do more than just write essays. It gave me the ability to take on new skills - I even got told once that I made the best latte in town even though I don’t drink coffee! Everyone can learn new things and employers can always train you if they are willing to take the time.“

Gaining new abilities was not the only thing Jessica got out of her time at university.  Some of her best memories were made while studying at Winchester.

“While studying History I had a lecture about queens with Dr Ellie Woodacre and it was a lightbulb moment that has guided my passion and career choices ever since. I also remember doing an essay for a second-year module and I tried really hard because I didn’t know what I was doing! I went to collect my essay when it was ready and everyone was mulling around in Meadcroft. I got a 2:2 before so I was worried, then I found out I got my first 1st.“

Jessica is currently very happy with her job as a writer for All About History magazine but has thought of what she could do next in her career.

“I really love what I do now. I admire people doing PhDs as you have to be so dedicated to one thing but I get to research all different historic periods and people. I don’t know what my path is but this is my passion - one day I might write a book though!”

“One day I want to move forward and an opportunity to do that will come along, but there’s always a lot of pressure to look for the next move. I like where I am now and that’s OK because sometimes you are good exactly where you are. Please buy my book if I write one though! “

“In terms of my current job, I have recently started taking more responsibility when it comes to digital and social media content (follow All About History on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!) but all still in the basis of getting to write about history. My job is to bring history to everyone, regardless of whether they have ever studied history or not because interest is all that matters. In a way, I feel like I am actually teaching history!”.

Now that Jessica has experience working in a role that uses both her undergraduate and postgraduate expertise, she has advice for History students and all students looking for work during this difficult time.

“A lot of people can limit themselves when it comes to finding a job. Sometimes people don’t apply because they don’t meet all the criteria or they believe they are overqualified, but just apply! I didn’t have all the experience but my employer saw my potential and took a chance on me. I personally believe that you can always work towards what you want and it doesn’t matter if you don’t land your dream job straight away. Pandemics happen in history and can mess with you in lots of ways. It might make things more convoluted, but it shouldn’t stop you.”

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