I must have googled this very same phrase at least a hundred times! Originally an optimistic lawyer (until it dawned on me how many years of studying that involved which made me have a swift change of heart) then a keen marketeer, I saw my life plan as going to uni, getting a job, then working my way up. I always had it in my head that I was going to go to uni, purely because it was the done thing. However, the more I started to question this notion, the more I had doubts – do I really want to be around 50k in debt in just 3/4 years, with no guaranteed job lined up? In the UK, university costs £9,000 a year tuition, then further costs for textbooks, accommodation and general day to day life such as food, transport etc. I had other worries, too – I’m a very hard worker when it comes to actual work, but I struggle to motivate myself to revise in an education setting. During my final year of A-Levels, I had to completely cut off my whole social life to revise hard enough to pull back my slipping grades. Was I potentially going to f-ck up uni by too much partying, not enough studying and waste tens of thousands of pounds in the process?
Doubts aside, I put in the effort with my final year of studying and was on a family holiday in France waiting for my A-Level results, desperately hoping I’d reached the grades to get into uni to study Marketing. As I saw my results, I was hit by two strong feelings – ‘YAY, I’ve somehow managed to up my slipping grades and get ABB‘ and at the same time, ‘great, this means that I can get into uni, but actually now I’ve decided that I don’t want to‘. I guess as soon as I knew I could get in, I realised that deep down it didn’t feel like the right decision. Still not 100% sure what I did want to do, or could do, I deferred my uni place and gave myself a year to find a marketing job, internship or something along those lines that would be the start of my career, and if I wasn’t successful then I’d go to uni. In the grand scheme of things, a year isn’t much time, plus I figured I could save up during that time to try alleviate my money fears. Challenge accepted! Less than a couple months later, I’d landed a job in marketing – no, not one of those ‘sales and marketing jobs’, a real life marketing job. Yay, I’d done it! Scroll down to read the steps I took to work towards my goal of landing a fab marketing job, and how you can too…
1. Jazz up your CV. Having worked in make-up for the past few years part-time while I was studying, I didn’t have any marketing experience to my name. That’s where the clever CV editing comes in! Obviously, it goes without saying that you can’t lie and fabricate anything on your CV, but if you dig deep enough you’ll be able to link certain elements of your previous jobs to your chosen career. For example, when I worked for Harvey Nichols they’d just launched a mobile app which we had to promote in-store to customers. On my CV, I ‘had an involvement with promoting their new mobile app in-store and understanding the marketing techniques used in this campaign to relay the key messages to customers‘. When I traffic-stopped with Benefit, I ‘understood the importance of the brand’s key messages and utilised this in a pressured environment, meeting group and individual targets‘. It’s all about being smart and thinking what skills are applicable to your dream marketing role that you’re already utilising in your current job.
2. Learn learn learn. I wasn’t going to uni, but what’s to stop me from learning about marketing? I found two fab courses from Shaw Academy which were 4 weeks long with a simple test at the end. I did a Digital Marketing diploma and a Social Media Marketing diploma, both of which were so helpful in giving me an understanding of key terms and marketing concepts so that when it got to the interview stage (I had faith I’d get there eventually!) I’d know enough to have a conversation about marketing related topics. I think it’s really important to have something like this on your CV as it shows you’re really invested in that career path – by going out of your way and using your own money (the courses were about £25 each on Groupon, but your prospective employer doesn’t need to know this!) to learn more about the topic, it shows employers that you’re motivated and eager to learn – great traits to have! When you’re adding the course to your CV, be careful how you word it – the courses I did were pretty easy, so it was easy to get 100% overall. However, this sounds slightly suspicious to employers who may get the vibe that it was easy and overlook their credibility, so instead I put ‘distinction’ which still highlights my high grade but doesn’t make it seem so questionable.
3. Get experience. I know, it sucks – nowhere will hire you without experience, but you can’t get experience because nowhere will hire you. It is a tough situation, but there’s always ways around it. Take experience wherever you can find it, as it is vital in getting a job in your desired industry – even if you have to be the coffee bitch for a week for free, trust me – it’s worth it! I tried applying for a fair few jobs after jazzing up my CV and adding my courses, but had no luck whatsoever. As soon as I interned (for free) for a week at a PR agency, I got an interview for the next job I applied for. Do what you gotta do!
4. Apply with confidence. When you think your CV is looking fab and you’re ready to apply, do so with confidence! Make sure your cover letter has personality while also having professionalism. Think, the person recruiting has probably seen a tonne of similar applications, so you need to stand out from the crowd, even more so when you don’t have a degree. Here’s your chance to persuade them to take a chance on you! Keep it short and sweet, explaining why you’re the right candidate for the job. They don’t need to hear why the job is so great and why you want it, they want to know why they should want you. Try go the extra mile if possible – if part of the job involves managing a brand’s Instagram, mock up an example of how you think their feed should look. If your application is successful and you get through to the interview stage, stay confident! Know your shit, be lively and enthusiastic and if the job’s right for you, it’s yours for the taking. Do yourself proud!
Obviously this isn’t a guaranteed ‘steps to success’, and if you’re trying to be a doctor with nothing past GCSE’s, there’s probably no advice other than ‘go to uni’ that’s gonna help you. However, I think with any creative industries there’s other routes in that don’t have to involve university. I’m now working for a fantastic digital agency where I’ve been a Digital Marketing Executive for over a year and a half – I have a variety of my own accounts that I manage and I feel super confident that I know how to do my job and that I’m actually pretty flippin’ good at it, too. I’m working towards a promotion to Digital Marketing Manager, which for a 20 year old with no degree, I think I’m doing pretty damn well for myself.
I personally love the buzz of agency life – meeting new clients, the whole social aspect and working under pressure to meet deadlines. The agency I work for is so wonderful – we have monthly socials, frequent nights out and they’re even taking us to Amsterdam (hotels, flights and party all on the house!) for the agency’s 10th birthday celebrations. I’m so glad things worked out the way they did, as I’d have been miserable worrying about money at uni, and although I’d have enjoyed the social side, I go out often during the week for meals, drinks and nights out so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I live in a beautiful flat in the city centre, travel as much as I can (this weekend will be my 8th trip this year!) and don’t worry about money – what more can a girl want? Humble brag aside, there’s always a few different routes to reach your goal – some of which will take less time and less money, so explore all your options before making a decision just because it’s the done thing. Uni may be right the right decision for some people, but it sure wasn’t for me, and if you’re having doubts like I did, don’t be afraid to go against the grain and make your own path.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you have any questions or queries, let me know in the comments below!