Lauren Milden graduated from UBC with a double major in English and French. She completed a law degree at Wolfson College, Cambridge, before joining the London-based political lobbying and media relations company, PLMR, in 2011. We interviewed Lauren in October about her past undergraduate experiences and current work.
After double majoring in English and French at UBC, you completed your law degree at Cambridge and are now working in political lobbying and media relations in the U.K. Can you describe a bit about what led you to where you are now? Were there any central motivations? Any defining choices or experiences?
After setting myself up for five potential majors during my first year at UBC, I stuck with English and French simply because I enjoyed the classes the most. At some point during my undergrad, I began to think that I could go to law school and then perhaps get an interesting bilingual job with the Canadian Government.
Having romanticized England since elementary school (perhaps a result of having read too many Agatha Christie novels!) I went on exchange to the University of Nottingham. That year cemented my desire to live in England.
My main motivation for entering into lobbying/PR was an interest in learning how to instigate change in society. I’ve spent years working with women’s shelters and progressive groups, and being able to create positive change is of the utmost importance to me.
What are the best things about your current job? The most challenging things?
The best things about my job revolve around variety and learning how to influence society. I get to work on a number of accounts spanning several sectors in a fast-paced environment. The work also often depends on the ever-shifting political landscape.
In terms of challenges, like many job, it often feels like you can never know enough – how well do you know the history of what’s happening in the news, how well do you know any given sector, how much time do you have to attend the countless relevant events taking place in the city…The flip side of this is that there is always something new to learn.
A familiar question among undergraduate students is how a degree can lead into a career. How do you think your experiences as an English and humanities student developed skills or set the grounds for where you are in now?
An English degree provides many transferable skills such as analytical thinking, critical thinking and the ability to construct a logical argument. These all served me well in law school and in the work world. Never underestimate the value of being able to express yourself clearly and eloquently!
Over your four years at UBC and two at Cambridge, you’ve worked in what would typically be characterized as a “cross-disciplinary” intersection of English, French, social justice and public relations. How did the study of English overlap and integrate with these other areas? How did this interdisciplinary approach inform where you ultimately took your English degree?
English is a very useful major in that, as previously mentioned, it lends itself to fostering numerous transferable skills. I think that I have benefited from having an English degree in that I knew there was no set path for me to pursue, and I have been ready to constantly assess and redefine the direction of my career.
There’s a lot of anxiety circulating among undergraduates nowadays about finding a job after graduation. What’s a piece of advice you would offer a student facing the current job market?
It is a very difficult job market (don’t worry – that’s not the advice!). Growing up, I never thought I’d have peers and friends who would be unemployed for dozens of months or who would move across the Atlantic to find employment. I would say treat job hunting as you would a job – put in a solid 9-5 but make sure you take time for fun in order to keep your spirits up. I would also advise that you give each job interview your all, even if you’re not particularly keen on the job. The worst-case scenario is that each interview is great practice for the next one!
The usual response we have to anyone getting into Cambridge is awe and admiration! What was it like?
Cambridge is visually stunning. The students I met, much like students at UBC, were intelligent, motivated and intimidating in that they were fiercely talented in a variety of areas. I very much enjoyed my time there – there were always stimulating and inspiring events in which to partake. I did have surreal moments, such as formal hall dinners complete with mandatory gowns, port and a butler!
The factor that had the biggest impact on my day-to-day life at Cambridge was the college system. Each student is a member of a college. You live at your college and, because it is a small community, you get to know a cross-section of the university very well and have a strong sense of belonging.
Also quite different was the supervision system. We had 2-3 sessions a week of in-depth work with a supervisor and only a handful of other students – very useful!
Any particularly memorable experiences as a UBC student that you’d like to share?
There are so many things to appreciate as a student from UBC, from the beautiful campus featuring wonderful sports facilities to the diverse student body.
I had some wonderful, passionate and thought-provoking professors and was terribly privileged to be able to read fabulous novels and write essays on topics that interested me.
I also very much enjoyed my time with the UBC Debate Society – check them out!
Finally, of course, I met some awesome people – including one girl, in a history class, who, without knowing me well at all, let me print my term paper at her home so I wouldn’t miss a deadline! Thanks!
London photo by Gary Knight