How I Made It: Career Advice From Alice Levine

How I Made It: Career Advice From Alice Levine

Television and radio presenter, podcast host, designer, homeware creator, writer and supper club curator – is there anything Alice Levine can’t do? The 32-year-old has a lot on her plate right now, and she couldn’t be happier…

Having just teamed up with Huawei to give away a £10,000 bursary to help someone start their career, we spoke to Alice about her fruitful career in the entertainment industry, and her advice for people who are keen to shun a nine-to-five in favour of a new way of working.

You’re on Radio One, you’re a TV presenter, you have your supper club with Laura Jackson and you have your infamous My Dad Wrote a Porno Podcast. Things are going pretty well for you right now – but where did you get your big break?

After playing some very, very well received parts in some plays that my brother and I put on in the living room, a show called Celebrity Bites for MTV gave me a leg up. I interviewed popstars in a silver airstream in the middle of Battersea Park... That's where it all began!
Have you always known you wanted to be in the entertainment industry?

Not at all, I had no idea being a TV and radio presenter was really an option. It’s not the sort of job that a careers advisor tells you about. I just started by making videos and writing sketches for fun when I was a student and realised I wanted to try and make that my job if possible. 
You’ve obviously got your fingers in a lot of pies, work-wise. Was that a conscious decision, or a natural progression?

I think it just comes about by picking up passion projects on the side, which gradually become the day job. It was never a plan; it was just a way to try lots of things. 
How do you avoid burnout with such a demanding schedule? 

At the moment it’s really busy which is great. Like anything creative, you’ve just got to make sure you give yourself enough down time to rest your brain, otherwise you don’t have any decent ideas. 
You must get a lot of offers for new projects – how do you decide which ones to take on?

I think in the past, I felt an obligation to say yes to things. Now I say no far more than I say yes. I’m at a point now where I feel like I know what I like doing and I can read the signs about how much control I’ll have. Will I really get to ‘put that in my own voice’ or be allowed to rewrite the script? Does the tone of the project work with mine? If not, I might as well go and make something myself, and that’s a new confidence I’ve never had before.
You’ve been in the entertainment industry for a fair few years now - do you still get nervous sometimes?

Of course. I suffer from nerves a lot and I think I always will. Live TV and radio are a rush but it’s also petrifying at times. The more prepared you can be, the more you can cushion it, but I think the adrenaline means you will always have butterflies. 
The entertainment business is notoriously hard to break into. What are your tips for someone wanting to do just that?

Someone’s got to do it – even if it’s hard to get into, some people have. So firstly, try! Give it a go. That gives you a better chance than those that don’t. Don’t give up before you’ve even started. Secondly, enjoy the trying. Make stuff, write stuff, collaborate on stuff. If you’re having a good time doing it, it won’t matter what the outcome is. 
Tell us a bit more about the new Huawei New Working Order campaign – how do you think Gen-Z are considering their career choices compared to when you were younger? 

To mark the launch of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, I was lucky enough to get involved with a £10,000 bursary to help kick-start someone’s passion project. This is an incredible opportunity for somebody to get a great side hustle off the ground. People aren’t working the traditional nine-to-five anymore.  They’re going it alone, freelancing and starting new projects on the side of their main job. For these entrepreneurial Gen Zs, this is a chance to explore an idea that they might not have been able to otherwise. 

What advice do you have for young women who want to go for a portfolio career rather than a traditional 9-5? 

I think it comes naturally, you gradually realise you have a few plates spinning out of necessity to either be fulfilled or to be financially comfortable. I think it’s usually born out of a nine-to-five, which can show you what you do and don’t want. I found it really useful to work for other people and see how they do things to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. I discovered that I like part of my job to entail going to an office, I would miss the camaraderie and creativity it brings, so the careers you choose need to provide for you on a social level too. 
What about those trying to making a side hustle work whilst still working a full-time job? 

If you want to stay up late and put your weekend time into it because you love it, that’s the first green light – you have to LOVE it. If it’s a chore at the end of the day, then it’s important to realise that it isn’t the right project for you. So, I would say pouring your spare time into it is the most important thing you can do.
And when it comes to finding out what your passions are, what advice would you give those who have no idea what they want to do in life? 

You don’t need to know what you want to do to know what you’re passionate about. You can work out how to merge the two later. There might be lots of things you like doing and maybe one might become your job, or part of your job. Without exploring those passions in your spare time, it’s very hard to know if they will work as a career.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?

Find people who are passionate about the same things as you and form a team. Even if you don’t work directly together, as creative brains you can be such an incredible support to each other.

What is your coping mechanism for when things go wrong? How do you bounce back from failure?

I dwell on things too much, so I’m might not be the best person to ask! Talking things through seems obvious, but getting about of your own head is usually good advice for most things. What went wrong? Was it avoidable? How? Can you learn anything for next time? Did anyone die? Then it’s probably okay at the end of the day.

Who’s the coolest person you’ve met? And how have they inspired you?

Most recently we had Dame Emma Thompson on the My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast. She has created an incredibly varied career for herself: actress, screenwriter, author, activist. She’s done it all her way, never being forced into a box and she uses her voice so brilliantly. 

You’ve designed some blouses with Finery – would you like to venture into fashion more?

It was great, it felt like the most incredible fashion internship. I basically got to shadow all of these brilliant professionals and go to design meetings and brainstorms. So, who knows!
What’s next for you? Any exciting upcoming projects you can tell our readers about?

We are doing a comedy special of the My Dad Wrote a Porno live show for HBO, so we’re putting that together at the moment.
Find out more about the Huawei New Working Order campaign here.

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