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Foot in the marketing communications door

6 min, 22 sec read
15:02 PM | 5 January 2012

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Everyone talks about utilizing your contacts and getting work experience wherever possible to get that all important foot in the door. And yes, they’re right, but advice on how to get there is sparsely available. Thank god for sites like futurerising.

I’m still fresh faced and learning but I honestly couldn’t imagine working in any other industry. I really hope I can provide students and recent graduates with advice, opinions and tips of breaking into the industry from my experiences so far and answer any questions.

I’m a third year student at Bucks New University studying Advertising Management & Digital Communications. To begin, it’s probably best I tell you about my 2011 and how I got that all important foot in the door. It’s an odd one so bare with me.

The first half of 2011, I was a timid 2nd second year with no idea where I wanted to be or if I was actually any good at my degree to make a career of it and probably the last person you would expect to be presenting in front of Mindshare and a client. By June, I was working in the digital department at Mindshare and found a clear vision of exactly where I want to be. So here’s how I found it.

An Alternative New Year

I’m not a fan of sob stories, but here goes with one anyway. I’d spent the Christmas period in hospital after complications from a tonsillectomy so I was feeling a pretty rough start to the year. Worse yet, it meant no Christmas dinner and New Year’s Eve passed out on the sofa not from alcohol, but medication. This pretty much sets the scene from being a 1st year in 2009 right up until May 2011. With countless strikes of bad luck and not really finding my feet within my degree, I began to question whether I was cut out for Marketing and my level of confidence was slipping. Of course it wasn’t all bad luck, I was a full on ‘fresher’ just as you’d expect, but I wanted more than that, I just couldn’t find it.

The practical part of my course really helped in understanding the industry and the process of planning and research. However, it was the step from thinking I had an understanding to confirmation of this by pitching live briefs that I really gained confidence in the work I was producing. We completed a few pitches and were praised on the way we pitched each one but I still hadn’t been part of a winning group, so there was still a segment of doubt. I’d also applied for a few work placements in anything slightly related to marketing with little success. Then came along a brief that would turnaround the next part of my year and give me the confidence boost I needed, the Mindshare pitch. It was working on the brief where I realised I wanted to be in media, and was flattered/horrendously nervous when the group trusted me as project manager.

Changing behaviour

As what I thought would be my only chance in front of a media agency like Mindshare, I got in the mindset that it wasn’t an assignment, and that it was work. From then on, I almost moved into the library in my regular workspace on the 3rd floor and booked studying rooms weeks in advance to practise in. I got into the regular routine in an almost military style of 8.30am – 11pm library, with some nights slightly less military 11.30pm, the SU or the one nightclub in High Wycombe, same again next day. No longer an assignment and becoming less like work, I was actually enjoying the long hours and knowing that I could manage a night out to relax and socialise and still get the work done the next day (a good skill to possess for working in media, I believe!). It was such a buzz bouncing around ideas with the group, waking up in the middle of the night with new plans and bringing out my competitive side. It was having a genuine interest and enjoying the work so much that made me want to put in the hours and finally, I realised this is what I wanted to do. So now I’d found it, I still didn’t know if I was any good.

On the day of the pitch, the nerves of presenting got to us all but I was confident in our group to do well as we’d all spent hours rehearsing and knew the pitch inside out. Like any presentation, things well went, things didn’t and unfortunately we didn’t win but I was still so sure that I wanted to work in media. After a deflated few weeks and just before an exam on data analysis, my course leader found me in my regular library spot to tell me that Mindshare wanted me to come back for an interview for 1 month’s placement in the summer along with 1 other girl from our group. My first placement. My reaction was something along the lines of shocked, emotional and very minimal words with the exception of “are you sure you’ve got the right person?” I’d always been the one watching others do well since primary school through to secondary school and into university so this for me was the first time anything I’d done had really paid off towards my future. All thoughts of data analysis had gone out the window and finally started to believe maybe I can actually work in marketing. Now, I’m working with Mindshare for my dissertation. What a year.

It was discovering both my strengths and where I had a genuine interest within my degree that led to the confidence boost I needed to get me through. Cliché as it sounds, passion and enthusiasm for what you do is crucial so it’s worth looking into areas of marketing broadly before narrowing down to the one particular role you choose to focus on. When I was first applying for placements, I struggled because of the fact I lacked enthusiasm and interest. Not because I didn’t want to work, but because I wasn’t confident in my work and hadn’t yet found my strengths to be enthusiastic about them. Once you have this it’s a case of finding what the industry wants from you as a graduate, making the most of opportunities and creating your own. I believe this is the best tool to breaking into the industry as it provides you with the right attitude in approaching the areas you want to work in.

Lessons I learnt 

  • Working hard for a long time with a bumpy ride along the way is worth it when it does pay off towards your personal goals.
  • Finding what you genuinely enjoy or don’t enjoy and what gets you excited about the industry is an important step to finding where your strengths are by exploring areas of the industry before settling to one. For example, I don’t enjoy PR, it doesn’t excite me. Needless to say, these are all important contacts to make.  
  • Having the right attitude can pay dividends in approaching the industry– something I will look at later in my blogs.

In my next blog, I’ll talk about what I’ve learnt from my placements and how I left a lasting impression.

Thanks for reading, hope I’ve helped at least a little and I wish you all a very happy and successful new year!

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