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Markus Karlsson-Jones - Keelite of the Month March 2016
2006 International History and Philosophy
What am I doing now?
I’m working in alumni relations at The University of Manchester. My job is to work with our alumni clusters across global cities to create a connected, worldwide network for our 310,000+ alumni. It involves travelling, dodgy Skype connections and managing volunteers; I’m really enjoying it.
Photo right: checking out an unfamiliar ring on my finger
How did you get to where you are now?
I started working as a temp while I applied to do an acting course. I got accepted at a good school but decided that instead of going back into training and further debt, I’d start paying my own way. I was made permanent then I decided to move into a communications role. At the same time I’d been reading more and more about the growth in development (fundraising) and alumni relations as a profession. I was lucky enough to get a maternity cover post doing communications in alumni relations in 2010 and haven’t looked back.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Two things. Surprising my wife with a perfectly kept secret of a wedding proposal - she didn’t see it coming until the very last moment – the look of astonishment on her face made all the effort worth it. On our wedding day I surprised her again and sang to her a comedy lounge cover of ‘Creep’ by Radiohead. She definitely didn’t see that coming.
Photo left: The "Serenade"
After turning 30, getting fit was all important. I got into triathlons through fellow Hawthorns J-Blocker Dan Crompton (2004). I signed up to do two in one month in June 2014. I’m not sure I would recommend that to other people but eating a massive pizza all to myself afterwards was a treat.
Photo right: Victory pizza.
And your biggest mistake?
See above re: triathlons but also: doggedly sticking to a poorly grown ‘Movember’ moustache a few years ago. I kept it for a job interview (I don’t recommend this) and then a posh work dinner at the Churchill War Museum. For reasons I can never fully explain, I thought that if I shaved my moustache into a 1940s pencil ‘tache, and hired a 1940s style suit, it would all work. I can’t overemphasise how much it didn’t.
What are your ambitions now?
We are expecting a baby at the end of April so my big ambition now is to be a good Dad. After that I’m well past due learning the language of my mother’s country: Swedish. Professionally I’d like to develop some really innovative, successful programmes in alumni relations, then eventually I’d like to head-up that function at a top university.
Photo left: Markus and Alexis - wedding day.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
Dive in and be fearless. It’s a great opportunity to learn a load of skills you might never have seen yourself acquiring: communications, event management, project management, negotiation, leadership - the list goes on.
Take risks. If you keep doing what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. You’ll also take a bigger risk of stagnation and irrelevance if you don’t keep testing new formulas.
Look around and explore. Find other people who are doing interesting things and learn from them. Don’t leave anyone out. Everyone has a lesson to offer, whether it’s how to find the best venues in South East Asia or how to ‘light a fire’ in a potential volunteer.
What made you choose Keele University?
Number one was the course (Keele had a great reputation for philosophy which was well deserved - full credit to Josie D’Oro and James Tartaglia, I loved every minute of their courses). Number two was the campus environment - it was peaceful, beautiful and, I later found, had lots of oddities to explore. It felt like home straight away.
Photo right: Cast of Macbeth at Keele
What kind of a student were you?
I got into every society, sport and club going and yes, my studies definitely suffered for it. But I made lifelong friends and had some unforgettable, unrepeatable experiences. I’m still friends with many of those people today, from the first year J-Block boys to the Drama Society crew. I had one from each group as a best man. They were Dan Crompton and Chris Horner (2001). I need to mention Mick Cooper (2004) who crossed over both J-Block and Drama Soc – he introduced me to the Drama Soc. Those two groups really defined my experience. I’m proud of the things we did and the fun we had doing them. Well, mostly proud. Some of the things were completely bone-headed, I’m sure anyone who’s been a student will understand. One occasion involved rolling a bale of hay and sheer stupidity.
How has Keele influenced your life?
It’s influenced everything - I married a fellow Keele alumna - my darling wife Alexis Oxberry (2005); nearly all my friends are from Keele and some of the most formative experiences I had were had there. It built my confidence, allowed me to test every single skill I thought I had or didn’t know I had. Overall it’s given me a rich social and intellectual core to my life; both incredibly precious.
Photo left: All the Keelites at our wedding!
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
There are so many to choose from but playing Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Festival Park was pretty special.
What is your impression of Keele now?
I love what’s been done with the concourse and the Union. Talking to the people, faces old and new, who really care about the place, who are looking after it is really gratifying, too. It’s still got the natural beauty I enjoyed so much and it’s really important to know that the people working there will look after and make it the best experience possible for everyone who arrives for the first time.
Photo below: Rehearsing A Midsummer Night's Dream, in the Clock House Courtyard
Anything else you would like to add?
I tragically lost a very dear friend I made at Keele. He was in his last year of study at the time. We met through the drama society. We both loved Shakespeare (so much so he couldn’t bear to act in any of the Shakespeare plays we did because we’d basically ruin it, whatever we did). I carried on with some acting after I graduated and played a character in Hamlet who is given some advice by his father. When I heard these lines, it was my friend Cas I thought of. It is advice I would give to anyone and it seems appropriate here. The rest of the speech is well worth a read, too.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,