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29 January 2014

Where are they now? Lizzie Allen, Managing Director, City Music Foundation

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I remember my first meeting with f1 very clearly. It was 2006. It was possibly the most challenging interview I’d ever had. It helped me to identify the skills and experience that I had, to focus on where I wanted to go in my career and to realise the opportunities ahead of me. f1 thinks of your career as a path, encouraging you to keep your options open, think about the company as well as the role, and to look ahead.

I’d been working in a small celebrity-focused PR company in the West End before moving to the other end of the scale to work for Credit Suisse in Canary Wharf. When f1 suggested I meet Emma Gilpin Jacobs at the Financial Times I hadn’t the least interest or inclination to work there. But f1 was right – we worked well together and for five great years. It was absolutely the best thing I ever did and turned my career round.

The FT led to a job running the Lord Mayor’s Appeal and setting up The City Music Foundation (CMF), one of the causes supported by funds from the Appeal. It’s been a very fast-paced role, establishing charity status of the Appeal as well as a brand identity and systems for it. The City Music Foundation has been started from scratch – everything from HR to online to brand strategy. It wouldn’t have been possible without help from f1 interns. I have had the pleasure of working with three of them in the last two years. It’s admirable of f1 to invest in people at this point in their careers, especially as it’s getting harder and harder at the entry level. I have felt a great responsibility to make sure they had good experience here. Thanks to the calibre of events we put on and the level of responsibility they had to take, they did. They have all gone on to find good jobs.

The CMF has made awards to eight musicians this year and is supporting 15 musicians to develop their professional careers through a programme of mentoring, skills workshops, performance opportunities and publicity support. We’ve also launched a record label and an international exchange programme.

My tip for getting ahead is not to be scared of trying different things to find out what you want to do. A career is a long time. And I’d say meet as many people as you can. Especially when you come to an uncertain time it’s easy to lose confidence and go quiet. Don’t. Stay out there. You can learn something new at every meeting. Everyone you meet is a mentor of sorts, even if they never know it. You can’t get enough advice.