Why baby steps are the way forward, with digital content creator Shilonite Simon-Mathurin
Baby steps: that’s the career advice that has proven fruitful for digital content creator Shilonite Simon-Mathurin. After graduating from UAL, Shilonite completed a creative placement with The HudsonBec Group, which she says boosted her confidence and knowledge of what was available in the creative industry. She then landed an internship with The Photography Foundation, where she gained enthusiasm for combining digital media and photography. Later down the line, Shilonite turned this into a permanent role by being vocal about wanting to work in social media and proactive in picking up work after her internship ended. Here, Shilonite tells us how practice and patience can go a long way, and why you “shouldn’t hold back” from making your ambitions and interests known to your employers.
Digital Content Creator, The Photography Foundation
Communications and Projects Intern and Assistant, The Photography Foundation (2021-2022)
Freelance Graphic Designer and Content Creator, Leaders in Community (2021)
Thrive Placement, The HudsonBec Group (2019)
Place of Study
BA Media Communications, University of the Arts London (2016-2019)
What I do
How would you describe your job? And specifically what you do at The Photography Foundation [TPF]?
I manage TPF’s social media platforms. This includes planning and creating content, creating our monthly newsletters and producing digital and physical assets for the Foundation.
The skills that I tend to use daily in my role are definitely research, time management and planning, creative thinking, collaboration as well as design skills. Content creation requires you to communicate a lot with your team members.
I tend to work closely with our events and engagement coordinator to make sure our events are well-promoted and communicated with our online audience, as that is the main way people keep up with us and what’s going on at TPF. We also create content together to promote our guest speakers for our monthly events series, TPF Talks.
I also work with our trainees, alumni and wider community – asking them to create content on their experiences. We have many more fun things to come in this area!
What’s your favourite thing in your workspace or studio right now?
Our collection of polaroids from all our friends and visitors at TPF. They range from trainees and alumni, to mentors, guest speakers, workshop tutors and more. It’s just really wholesome to see how our community has grown and how big our network actually is!
I also really love our magazine rack, which is a really big collection of various zines and magazines over the five years TPF has been around.
What recent project are you most proud of?
It’s not my most recent project at TPF, but one that I am most proud of is producing our Black History Month Zine in 2021. This was one of my first big projects at TPF as an assistant.
The project gave me the chance to explore print and connect with so many Black photographers who’ve showcased beautiful work on the theme of Black representation, as well as work from their wider portfolios.
I really enjoyed this project as it gave me the freedom to curate a zine and do something positive for the community. I’ve always wanted to work on a print project so that was really cool.
I’m also really proud of a recent photography project I completed as part of a mentoring programme with The Kusp. It was my first experimentation with fashion photography and working with a wider team that I had put together, which was very scary at first. I am super proud of how the images came out. Ultimately, I’m grateful for the team that I worked with, the guidance of my mentor and for The Kusp for giving me that opportunity.
How I got here
What kind of skills are needed to do your role?
For both content creation and photography, I think that having a detailed eye and strong visual communication skills is important. Also, being able to bring creative ideas to the table – knowing how to explain these ideas and how you want to carry them out is key.
I don’t believe you need any sort of training or a degree to do content creation or photography. In these fields, most of us are self-taught, with Google or YouTube teaching us the ropes to land us where we are.
If you want to complete some training to make you feel a bit more confident, or get more guidance, then I would definitely recommend completing a short course or setting yourself tasks to practice a certain thing.
For example, try creating a reel or carousel post a week. Practice and patience go a very long way; what you’ve created can eventually be used in your portfolio to impress potential employers.
“If you want a job in content creation, try creating a reel or carousel post for yourself once a week. What you’ve created can be used in your portfolio to impress potential employers.”
How did you land the job?
When I was a trainee at TPF, I had been vocal about my growing interest in social media and design to the head of Foundation. This came about after completing my client brief with Innocent Drinks (below). I really enjoyed it and started to think about how I could do something similar after graduating from the traineeship.
During the gap between leaving TPF as a trainee and looking for other work, I managed to develop my skills in my free time and through freelancing as graphic designer and content creator at east London charity, Leaders in Community. The skills I developed along my journey definitely helped when applying and interviewing for a full-time intern and assistant role at TPF.
The role I applied for allowed me to assist and take on responsibilities in different areas such as education, workshops, events, comms and social media. I ended up becoming interested in the social media management and content creation side of things. Out of this, we decided to create a role focused on this area to support our online and digital growth – and here I am now!
If you know what you want to do or have a particular interest in a certain skill or role, make it known to the people and networks around you. That really helps put you at the forefront of their mind for when an opportunity opens up.
Don’t hold back when speaking about your aspirations or reaching out to people. Someone along the line will reach out an open hand and support you in getting there.
“If you have a particular interest in a certain skill or role, make it known to the people and networks around you. Don’t hold back.”
What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
After graduating, it was really hard and competitive to get internships or junior roles. All I knew is that I really enjoyed photography, video editing and being creative.
Completing the The HudsonBec Group Thrive Placement really helped me out early on in my career. The teams there definitely helped me realise that I wanted to work in the creative industry, and gave me the confidence to keep looking for similar schemes or junior roles.
Once I did manage to find my bearings, opportunities began to naturally lead from one to another. I guess it’s been the right place and right time in some instances. But this takes time. It also takes actively being around the right people who can help direct you and recommend you for these opportunities.
I feel like I’m still starting out on my journey and finding my feet. Every day is a journey for me to continue my learning and to find my voice.
“To find creative opportunities, you need to actively be around the right people who can direct and recommend you for roles.”
If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work, what would they be and why?
I’m currently feeling very inspired by photographer Andrew Jackson. I really love his approach in his work and how he captures his subjects alongside his storytelling.
I recently picked up a book called Home Is Not A Place by Roger Robinson and Johny Pitts which I’ve been indulging in. I’m always inspired by different photobooks and magazines.
Both of the above have really motivated me to focus on producing a full photography project.
And finally, Later’s blog, for social media and content creation!
What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
100% my imposter syndrome and the fear of taking up space.
Also, the fast-paced nature of the creative industry and social media can be really hard to keep up with at times!
What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Saving and investing in my craft. This can definitely be hard to do sometimes, so I do it in small steps. I think it’s really important for my growth to be able to put money back into my equipment – from cameras to software and other digital assets.
Also, having transferable skills that could be used to make other streams of income. Learning transferable skills to make other streams of income has helped to support me financially where I’ve had gaps in work or employment.
“Learning transferable skills to make other streams of income has helped to support me financially where I’ve had gaps in work or employment.”
Have there been any courses, programmes or access schemes you have found helpful or would recommend to get into your sector?
In 2020, I completed a web design and social media course at BCE [Big Creative Education] which built my digital knowledge. General Assembly has loads of interesting intro courses too!
For the photography side of things, I recommend the training programme here at TPF (trainee applications are opening very soon), the workshops run by The Colour Balance and the photography community UKBFTOG. The combination of these organisations and groups have definitely supported my growth and networks in photography.
Creative Lives in Progress’ Opportunities Board is a godsend. Run The Check and Creative Access are great as well.
What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Baby steps. Everyone has always told me to take baby steps when completing a task, project or a general wider goal. I can get overwhelmed by tasks and deadlines, so I always have to remind myself to break things down.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Research is always a great way to start – watching Youtube or TikTok videos and reading different blogs and articles. I think this is a great way to initially build your knowledge.
You can go a very long way by self-teaching and having the confidence to try things out, even if you’re not great at first.
I would also really recommend finding a mentor. They are so helpful in supporting your journey early on, and keeping you accountable for goals and projects. They can also provide pointers on how to get certain roles or navigate your early career. Being in a mentorship keeps you grounded.
Interview by Frankie Faccion
Mention Shilonite Simon-Mathurin