Simen Moen is a 22 year old working with data analysis in media planning at the7Stars in London, after having graduated from Southampton Solent University with a BA in advertising this year. He did some work in radio and journalism during his education before settling on his current career path, most notably a correspondence mission on Iceland, covering a meeting of the Nordic Council, as well as six months of being News Editor at Bergen Student Radio. Being born and raised in Norway, he is reasonably proud of his country whenever he’s not there to remember why he left.
Describe your journey to where you are now
“I took the Central Line from Leytonstone to Tottenham Court Road. About a 25 minute journey, it’s alright, but extremely crowded.”
A few years before that, I started studying Media & Communication back in Norway when I was 16 (Don’t know what to call the institution, since the Norwegian education system differs somewhat from the British one), with intentions of going into journalism, until I discovered that field to be a lot more boring than it pretends to be. Instead I got a strong interest in advertising, and studied that at The Norwegian School of Creative Studies (NSCS) in the lovely but rainy city of Bergen, before completing my BA at Southampton Solent University.
In one of my units we went to London to visit the media agency the7stars, and I was very impressed with them, so when I heard about their graduate programme from one of my lecturers, I had to apply. Luckily, I was successful, and have been working there for a month now, really enjoying myself in the process.
When did communications become something you wanted to pursue in life?
It’s always hard to pinpoint these things, I suppose, but when I was 17 I had a very inspiring teacher with a past in advertising. He had some lectures on the subject, and really triggered my interest. He actually recommended that as a career for me personally. The more I learned about it, the more excited I got about working in communications.
Were you parents supportive of you following this path?
Absolutely. I think my father secretly really wanted me to follow in his carpentry-trodden footsteps, but in my early teens it became clear that I would never learn what’s up and down on a nail, so he embraced the choices I made. Although when I was 18, he did give me a toolkit for Christmas, I suspect in a subtle last attempt to see if I could be swayed into a career of physical labour, but I was always encouraged to make my own choices. I don’t think not supporting those choices was ever an option for either one of my parents, and I’m very grateful for that.
You’re originally from Norway, why did you decide to finish studying advertising at Solent University?
There’s several reasons for that. I always wanted to study abroad, but preferably a place where I knew the language. I also wanted to get a degree, which wasn’t possible at NSCS at the time. But there are several universities around the world that recognise the time at NSCS as the first two years of a BA, and to me Solent was the most impressive of those.
The unis would send people over to promote themselves, and Solent did a very good job with that. I remember a Swedish guy from a university on Hawaii with a presentation that very much resembled a holiday slideshow, with nothing but pictures of sunny beaches, and barely a mention of the actual uni, accompanied by the slightly annoying set of silly noises that is the Swedish language.
How did you land your first role at the7stars as a media planner?
I was determined to get a job in London, as the media market here is a lot more exciting than that in Norway (Or anywhere else in Europe, for that matter). After my tenancy in Southampton ended, I went straight to London, checking in at a hostel where I stayed for about a month, applying for several positions without too much luck. I was at an interview for an internship at another agency early on, but completely blew it, knowing about halfway through that I wouldn’t get the position in a million years. That was disappointing, but helped me in terms of improving as a job interviewee.
the7stars launched a graduate programme in late May, and as mentioned, I already had a very good impression of the agency so I was dedicated in my application. The process was actually a lot of fun. I expected it to be just sending over a CV and a cover letter, which was the case for all the other positions I applied to, but it included a set of challenging tasks to solve in order to prove that you could do the job.
The interview was split in four parts with different interviewers, each evaluating different aspects of me as a prospect. The process as a whole did take a lot of time, leaving me with a lot of nerves over the start of the summer. I didn’t get the final confirmation until early July, and at that point it was of course a massive relief and joy to land the job.
“Chances are you won’t get a job tailored specifically to your own narrow set of skills. Broad competence is a good thing.”
Before starting the application process, I made a pretty cool interactive CV, including some rollover functions that would trigger little boxes with images and explanations to appear when the cursor was pointed at given elements, and disappear when the cursor moved away. I think that made me stand out and seem interesting, and I’m pretty sure that contributed quite a bit to me getting asked to an interview. Some employers seemed very unimpressed with that, so it might have hurt my chances in some cases, but they seemed to like it at the7Stars. I think it helped being a Solent graduate as well, as SSU has a good relationship with the agency.
Strictly speaking, my job is really more data analysis than media planning, which suits me well, as I’m quite good at maths, but the7stars doesn’t work with job titles, and the agency is very integrated, with the departments working closely together and often overlapping, so I’d say “Media Planner” covers it.
Back home in Norway you used to be a radio host, what did this experience teach you?
That’s hard to say. It was for a station called Bergen Student Radio (SRiB) run by and targeted towards students. It was really something I did more for fun than for genuine career skills. But it did teach me a lot about radio as a platform, especially in terms of keeping listeners interested.
As News Editor I also lead a lot of debates, teaching me a fair bit about composure from every time some wanker politician wanted to put the nineteen year old behind the mic in his place. I found those experiences very useful for job interviews, for when the interviewers ask difficult or critical questions, and I could use the same techniques to remain calm and confident under pressure. At least to a reasonable extent. I suspect that is something that will come in handy when speaking with clients as well.
Where would you like to be in five years time?
A lot of people ask me that so I suppose I should try and find a good response soon. I don’t like making very specific plans about the future, because predictions are usually wrong, and the plans could turn out to be useless. Five years ago, I would never have guessed where I’d be now, and I think that’s the case for most people. I’m happy to go with whatever happens, but at the same time work to progress and become better at what I do. I’m really enjoying where I am at the moment, and I like the idea of still be living in London and working in media in five years.
Are there any projects you want to explore in the future?
It sucks to be boring, but I don’t have anything specific, no. I enjoy writing so I imagine I’ll keep doing a bit of that in my spare time. Not necessarily media related, I might try to get a bit more experienced in the field before I can write anything about that worth reading. At the moment the majority of my focus goes to doing my job as well as possible.
What books, films and music keep you going?
My reading patterns differ a lot from time to time. Right now, I’m really enjoying somewhat trivial and witty non-fiction, like Freakonomics-type books. But I’ve had periods when I’ve been obsessed with Hunter Thompson, Douglas Adams and other various great authors. I enjoy well-written fantasy too, A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter are among my favourite book series. I also love good books about advertising and found the Solent library very useful when I studied there. But those books are hard to come by in the “outside world” when you’re just browsing, which tends to be my book-buying pattern.
“People shouldn’t underestimate the importance of being good at things that seemingly have very little to do with what they want to work with.”
I really prefer TV shows over movies, to be honest. But I do like a good sports movie, preferably something based on a true story.
When asked about music, I often say to people that I’m likely to be one of the least musical people they’ll ever meet, although that might be mostly to make a pretty boring quality in myself seem more interesting. Still, it’s slightly ironic, seeing as I’m quite involved with a music account at work. Fortunately, you don’t need a sense of music to analyse sales and spending…. But I really don’t spend any time listening to music unless it happens to enter my sphere somehow. The Pogues are quite good, I suppose.
If you had an extra hour each week what would you do with that time?
That depends. Are there any good football games on in that extra hour? I’d actually like to be pretentious enough to say that I’d spend it on something constructive, like activism, charity work, meditating, or charity work for meditating activists, but I know I’d use it for recreation. Reading, playing Football Manager, or something similar. I might use it to write, but I consider that to be recreational as well.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in the creative industries?
I’d tell them to surround themselves with other people who share an interest in the field in question. During my year at Solent I shared a flat with a friend on my course. We frequently sat up late discussing advertising over a few beers. Then we spent Friday nights having the same discussions with other people on the course over a few more beers. This was incredibly helpful for me in terms of getting a wider understanding of what I was doing. In most creative fields, it’s important to see the various perspectives and those come across best through conversations. Without that, you might find yourself being stuck with the same impulses, even if you read lots of books, journals and case studies, because you’ll only be able to assess those in the context of your own perspective.
Also, people shouldn’t underestimate the importance of being good at things that seemingly have very little to do with what they want to work with. I’ve always been good at maths, and frequently thought during my education that it was a shame I probably wouldn’t get to use it, but I found a job that combines those abilities with my education. I had the same feelings towards my skills in visual software, but that’s what enabled me to create an interactive CV in InDesign, without which I might not have been deemed interesting enough to invite for a job interview.
I remember a certain culture among fellow students for not bothering to learn something if it was not directly relevant to the specific job they imagined themselves doing after graduating. But chances are you won’t get a job tailored specifically to your own narrow set of skills. Broad competence is a good thing.
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