'Is my degree going to work against me? Can I switch from stage to event management?'

American dream

Q. After a gap year in the US, I decided to study American literature and history. It's perfect for me, but I find people saying what a failure I am to be on that course. I have thought about advertising or journalism and have experience in publishing and local papers, and I am applying for work with ad companies. I also plan to do a Masters. But have I ruined my chances with the degree I've taken?

A. No specific degree subjects are required for entry to either advertising or journalism. Don't worrywhat others say - your reasons for choosing it were considered and well thought out. Indeed, your choice shows maturity and originality of thought, which employers should value. If you enjoy your studies and are likely to get a good result, that is often more important to employers than the precise subject studied. What is also of interest to employers is a range of experience of the kind you describe. In competitive areas, this often makes more difference than your degree subject. The other important thing to remember is that you need to develop contacts. Find as many people as you can already working in roles you are interested in. The more stories you hear about different roles, the easier it may become to work out which direction is best. There will be jobs out there you don't know about yet. It is probably too early to be thinking about a Masters - that is usually best left for when you know for definite where you want to end up after it. By then, if you have talked to enough people, you will have discovered if you need another degree and if so, which one is most highly respected by the people who will be looking at your CV. Use your university careers service and look up www.ipa.co.uk/ and www.skillset.org/.

Tired of touring

Q. I am a touring stage manager but I am becoming tired of only getting home once every three weeks. I have been looking at event management but have no direct experience - no interview. How can I break the cycle whilst paying the bills?

A. It's frustrating - I'm sure you have the skills needed to organise live events as successfully as you do live theatre shows. But paid work experience, while possible to find in event management, is not offered in any structured way. But making contact with people involved would give you the opportunity to network with those who could tell you about jobs coming up, or others you could go on to contact. Getting yourself known can prove successful in the longer term. You have to demonstrate interest and motivation in sufficient quantities to convince a prospective employer that your lack of direct experience is not an issue. Timing is crucial - contacting companies a few weeks before a show, when extra help is needed, is a good idea, though expect to find any resulting job is on a short-term, low-pay basis. But it could lead to permanent employment. The best way to find out about events is to attend those in which you have an interest. You can get along to trade events for free by pre-registering on show websites. For events, visit www.exhibitions.co.uk, and to find companies, look up the Association of Event Organisers' website, www.aeo.org.uk. This has careers advice, a jobs board and lists trade publications.

Careers advisers: David Winter, careers adviser, the Careers Group, University of London; Margaret Holbrough, Graduate Prospects careers consultant.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk