Sam. History Graduate. University of Newcastle.
1. Tell me how your career journey has gone since you graduated
A journey is probably the right way to put it to be honest. I started off fresh out of university having studied a year of fine art and then changing and doing a BA hons in history, getting a 2:1 at Newcastle, which is a great result but actually having to idea what I wanted to do, everything was wide open. My parents, my mum and dad, were both in sales so I was thrust into the idea of sales because there’s earning potential and quick cash basically. So I started a career selling advertising media for Reed.co.uk, did that for 18 months and I’d say that was, well it was hard graft, telephone calls, cold calling, lots of learning on the job and targets. Essentially it was hard graft for 18 months really. I decided I didn’t want to be in direct sales or as direct and I wanted to use my history degree and get more into content and writing but use the commercial skills that I learned in the first 18 months at reed. Took a job as a conference producer and I did that for two and a bit years and ended up leading project teams on conferences and exhibitions, one for a big company called UBM and after that for a start-up version of UBM essentially called global transport forum. Which was great because having gone into a career in sales or starting my career in direct sales and telephone sales, I’m still using those skills to this day and I’m not afraid to pick up the phone and get shit done basically which I think was the lesson I really learned in that job but I was actually using to an extent by degree you know putting together agendas, writing letters, really carefully crafting emails and content which was great and then totally randomly got offered a job working for a magazine as a publisher. Which again isn’t too dissimilar to a producer job in conferences and exhibitions just with the added complication of a magazine and again it’s all about hitting deadlines, making sure stuff done on time because a magazine goes to print and if you don’t have anything in it you’re gonna have blank pages so again it was another notch on my belt of experience really using the same skills I had learned on the job or been taught over the last three and a half years leading up to it. From there, it was a tech magazine, all focused around start-ups in London really engaging content, I absolutely loved it and it think that was a turning point for me, I guess I found my tribe, I wanted to be in this tech industry this media industry especially in London cause it’s a really kind of thriving, buzzy industry. I started going to loads of events, started networking, instead of being behind that phone I’d be able to go out and using the same skills; drinks events, panels discussions you know I was going to three or four events a week when I was at the magazine and I bumped into the founded of a tech company and started working for them in sales and for the first time heading up a sales team and working directly with the founder of a start-up which grew massively, had a load of funding and essentially kinda dominated the market. But again all working in sort of the tech sector and the media sector and not here I am working for a charity so I’ve properly zig-zagged around. So I was there for two and a half years with the start-up and then again at an event met the director of Nabs which is the charity actually for the advertising and media industry and what I’m doing at the moment is working in the partnerships team as a senior manager. Partnerships in plain English really is fundraising and accounts it’s almost like account management so my role is to ensure that the charity is funded by corporate partners. So we work with companies like Google, Facebook, pretty much every marketing advertising agency in the UK as well to make sure that they give us cash every year so we can put on an amazing rage of career coaching, wellbeing training, mental health support and all kinds of amazing services like that.
2. What was your motivation for choosing this career?
I think the industry for me is really important. You know when I found myself in the media industry and media and tech are so close together, they’re so ingrained with each other. I think the reason I was so enthused by it is so much has happened in the last decade and most companies, if they haven’t already go through it, are going through a complete digital transformation, you know going from old ways of working and old ways of dealing with customers to where we are now where everyone’s got an iPhone in their hand or a smart phone in their hand and they can buy things instantly and make decisions really quickly and share their views instantly as well and I think that’s what really got me interested. Personally having the sales background and the history degree and then before that having done the the art degree, I’ve got a bit of everything really you know I haven’t really honed in on a specific skill. I’ve picked up on creativity from my art degree which you still need in every job whether it’s sales or marketing or administration you still need an element of creativity in everything you do. The sales training, almost every single day I use some of the sales training I learned in my first job even though there are times, looking back on it, where it definitely wasn’t the right job for me there are elements of it that I still use every single day which is what I think was super important.
3. In the beginning did you use your degree knowledge and skillset you got from uni?
The degree certainly gave me a good platform to go out and find a job, history degree is a really good example because there’s no solid skills, I don’t think it’s a very practical degree in terms of a job, it’s not like graphic design and then you go on to be a graphic designer, it leaves you totally open. But what it does it leaves you able to understand how to put across arguments, how to write, I definitely think it helps you be a balanced person and I think if you are going in to marketing and sales especially you need to understand both sides of the coin so that you can be totally transparent and actually understand why the other person thinks that and why you think what you are thinking and you can help the conclusion come to a conclusion.
4. What new skills have you developed?
Oh tonnes. Always learning new skills. I would say something that you don’t learn before the world of work is actually how to manage individuals. Before you start working you’re in quite a small bubble, you got your friends and family, at university if you go to university you might encounter different people, different personalities in your seminars or you lectures but ultimately you don’t spend that much time with them. I think one of the main things you learn is actually how to deal with people who are very different to you and actually that can be good; it doesn’t have to be scary. You will have times where you come across tricky colleagues or tricky clients that personally you might be a million miles away from but professionally you have to learn to deal with. I’d say in my first three or four jobs, and even in my job now, there are personalities that I wouldn’t want to be around but you have to learn to turn that into a positive and learn to deal with them. I think that’s probably the biggest lesson.
5. At this stage are you where you’d hope to be in that time frame?
That’s impossible to say. I think when I first left uni and I was on a mates sofa job hunting, going to interviews, running around London with CVs I would have been quite happy in 7 year to be living in a nice place, cycling in everyday, being able to afford holidays and earning money really. So yeah I’d say probably I am.
6. Did you have a career plan?
My career plan back then was get a job. My career plan now, I think as I said the turning point for me was getting into the industry and I think that’s when I career plan of sorts started. I want to be in this industry but I want to have purpose within it. I then turned the key on not just having a job and earning some money but actually what do I want to do here, why do I want to be in this industry, why do I want to be working do I want to make a difference, do I want to make a difference to a certain aspect of the industry and I think that ultimately how I have ended up at the charity.
7. How did you make it happen?
Being politely persistent in everything I do. Everything I do I try and get done, don’t just ask, don’t just send an email and leave it, chase it, chase it twice, pick up the phone and call people. One thing I have noticed because I’ve got a cousin who is looking for a job, as a graduate it can be incredibly scary to pick up the phone or walk into a room or go for an interview with someone that you don’t know. I think one thing I’ve learned is to understand that actually everyone is a human, everybody has insecurities, everybody has anxieties, and ultimately you know we are all in this together so we are all on equal playing field. In fact more often than not if you are going into an interview or going into a meeting you’ve got all the information they need, you’ve got more information than them on the topic so actually you can totally relax knowing that you can tell them something new.
8. Job hunting strategy?
I looked for specific recruiters when I started looking for a job. Definitely dealing with recruiters because they can do a lot of the hard work for you, recruiters will have the relationships with companies that get you into the door and its getting into the door that can be the difficult part. I think my strategy was half that and half companies that, off the face of it, looked like the kind of places that I’d wanna work. Then ultimately if I can’t get there tell the recruiters, tell you recruiter these are the kind of companies that I think I wanna work for and tell them why and then they’ll help you try and find similar companies I guess.
9. Who did you take advice from?
My dad. Yeah parents are a big one, but then again be wary of that because times have changed. Keep an open dialogue as well with mates, if you’ve got friends that are all leaving university or finding their first or second jobs you’re all in this together, everyone will have different ideas of how to do stuff whether it’s using social media now, or following people on twitter and tweeting them. There’s so many ways that you could possibly make that in now, chat about it as much as possible and open up and it won’t all sit on your shoulders.
10. What advice would you give a fresh graduate – a 20 something version of yourself?!
Not to worry, because there are lots of jobs out there. Also having now become a hiring manager I know how difficult it is to find people and find the right people. Theres so many roles out there and as a graduate I think you probably build up the worry where are these jobs? But theres so many out there the power is actually in their hands, it’s down to them to find the right job. And they won’t find the job the first time anyway, maybe it won’t be the right job second time, third time, I met someone from an ad agency the other night and this guys got a double first from Cambridge and it took him 9 jobs to find the first job he liked so it’s the same for everybody.
11. Any challenges during the transition from uni to work?
Yeah I mean for me I moved to London from Newcastle which was a big culture shock. For those moving to London from somewhere that isn’t London it can be a very intense and a very expensive place to be. Again it’s the same lessons that you learn at uni hopefully about money management and essentially being careful rather than just making silly decisions. As a grad you tend to jump into things and jump into jobs and my advice would be, especially for anyone in London, try to get as many offers on the table as possible before jumping into a job.
12. Advice for first week and few months of a new job?
Be totally open minded. Again don’t worry, don’t be too anxious I know it’s easy to say but everybody, whether you’ve been in a job 2, 5, 10, 20 years you go in everyday with new challenges and you’ve got to meet new people and that’ll be the same in your first week or in ten years’ time. You’ll always face the same challenges and just keep an open mind about everything.
13. Anything you would do differently if you could start over?
I can’t imagine doing anything differently, things happen for a reason I guess.
14. One final top tip?
As a graduate if you haven’t had a full time job before, just go into the interview and be yourself. Someone has invited you into that room for a reason; they have obviously seen something in your CV or in your cover letter that has made you jump out amongst the crowd which has already put you in an amazing position. Bearing in mind they are taking time out of their day to sit down with you, you are already in pole position so make the most of that opportunity really, ask as many questions as you can, be super curious, genuinely be interested in what they say, try and understand it and if you don’t understand it ask questions.