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January 27, 2013

Thinking of a career in marketing or advertising…

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Light bulb...then you're not alone: marketing, advertising and PR are seen as attractive career options for many students, and this appeal shows no sign of abating. Katy Edwards, second year history and politics student, popped along to last week's 'Marketing and Advertising Event' to find out more.

As an undergraduate tentatively exploring the “real world” that exists out there and wondering what my career options post-degree might be, I ventured through the snow to the Marketing and Advertising Event hoping to find divine inspiration. Here’s some of what was highlighted by the industry experts.

You don’t need a relevant degree

Marketing and advertising are not sectors closed off to those without a strictly relevant degree, so don’t panic if you see yourself working in these areas but are studying something completely different. At the event there were graduates from disciplines as diverse as Medical Microbiology, Drama Studies, History, and English Literature.

Relevant work experience IS important

Marketing and advertising are no different to the general trend in graduate employment that you need relevant experience to secure that dream job. The industry specialists had gained invaluable experience in related sectors prior to graduating, working for creative media agencies, advertising agencies, and PR companies in order to understand what a future career might entail and whether it suited them.

Set yourself apart

Another obvious point, of course, but with a stack of CVs and one job, offering a unique selling point is vital. Extra-curricular activities and earning a First Class degree are two ways of achieving this, but there are other options to consider. Two Warwick graduates had taken an extra business module to improve their credentials, and there are initiatives like B-Hive which give undergraduates an opportunity to showcase their skills to a panel of experts in order to secure a paid internship. If this sounds tempting then find out more in My B-Hive experience: from creative brief to the NEC.

There are a wide range of job options

Marketing and advertising companies employ a wide range of people who undertake different roles and possess different skill sets. Don’t be put off if you think designing an ad campaign wouldn’t be your forte, you might be ideal for liaising with clients and organising a broader project.

Don’t expect an easy 9 to 5

Many were keen to stress that neither marketing nor advertising are 9 to 5 jobs, and invariably involve much longer hours particularly when crucial deadlines are looming. The Marketing Executive for EAT noted that his working day quickly became 8 to 6, and while preparing recently to launch a new initiative, 6 to 10 (‘the bad way’).

“The Recession” hasn’t destroyed all job prospects

Some spoke of a perception that the current economic climate signalled the end of graduate employment opportunities in these career sectors, but it was stressed that this is not the case. While there may be fewer graduates being employed than there was at the peak, there are still plenty of opportunities for the ideal, committed candidate who has all the requisite skills and experience.

The industry is evolving and adapting with the times

As one expert remarked, ‘Who’d have thought five years ago that we’d need a social media team?’ Both marketing and advertising have had to change with the times, utilising digital media, the internet, and social media to stay effective, and campaigns are now run across a variety of mediums. Those looking for a career in these industries need that same flexibility and the ability to role with the punches.

January 18, 2013

Build your brand to find a job

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Bottle Wouldn’t it be great if you could make yourself different to all the other students that are going for the same job as you? Make your target employer aware you’re looking for a job? Make your skills and experience even more attractive to potential employers? How can this be done? Well, the answer lies in building your personal brand.

People as brands

When we think of brands companies like Nike, Apple and Starbucks come to mind. These huge corporations build brands to obtain certain benefits. To make themselves different, to raise brand awareness, the attract customers and charge premium prices to name a few. Can you see some parallels between your objectives and a brand?

The next time you’re in the supermarket look at the row jammed packed with bottled water. Water is a commodity but the good branding folk at Evian get you thinking about ‘youth’ whilst at Volvic they’re all about ‘volcanicity’ and volcanic energy. It’s water. Yes there may be some subtle taste differences but for the most part water is a very standardised product that has, via branding, being differentiated (oh and priced at a premium too). Humans are not standardised. They’re all wonderfully unique. If you can brand water you can brand people. No question about that. Just look at Richard Branson, Barrack Obama and David Beckham. They all have very strong personal brands.

What's your brand?

  1. Grab a piece of paper and draw a table with two columns. The left column should be titled “Words that describe me”. The right column should be “Words that describe my (target employer)”
  2. In the left column note down about five words you would use to describe yourself. Don’t rush. Take your time. This is important. Are you caring, creative, competitive, bold, daring, analytical, meticulous, adventurous, inquisitive? Branding folk call these types of words ‘brand values’. Nike, Apple and Starbucks all have brand values. They lie at the heart of all great brands and provide the foundation for all their brand building activities.
  3. Think about your target employer and conduct some research on how they describe themselves. You’ll be able to find this on company websites under their ‘values’. Write down their values in the right hand column of your table.
  4. Now here’s the crunch. Do at least three of the five words you’ve noted in the left column vaguely resemble words in the right hand column? If they do you’re in a good place because values inform beliefs and beliefs inform behaviour. If your values are aligned with your target employer there’s a good chance you’re going to behave in a way that fits with their culture. You’ll probably connect. Good times.
If the words you’ve used to describe yourself and your target employer don’t vaguely resemble each other then you need to think about the accuracy of the words you’ve chosen to describe yourself OR think about how much you really want to work at that company. You need to be brutally honest with yourself at this stage. It’s very important. Seek advice from a careers consultant if you’re struggling. Or some objective friends.

Finding the fit

If your values don’t fit with your target employer it’s going to be an uphill battle. You may get to interview based on your great CV or insightful personal blog but during the interview the chemistry won’t be right. You’ll behave in a way that doesn’t fit with their culture because your values are different. Even if you do manage to get through the interview it’s doubtful you’ll enjoy working there. You’ll struggle to relate to people whose values fit with the business. Thinking about your values and how they converge with those of your target employer is crucial.

So, you feel your values and those of your target employer fit. Great. Next you can actually start building your brand. You do this by making the words you have used to describe yourself happen (“bring your values to life” use the brand marketing lingo). This is achieved through design, communications and behaviour to name a few. If you’re “creative” and one of your target employer’s values is “creativity” you need to make sure your social media channels ooze with creativity. You need to communicate in a creative and engaging way. You need to demonstrate how you’ve behaved in creative ways during previous placements or jobs by solving problems in unique ways etc. It’s important you get this right. If your target employer thinks creativity is important (one of their values) your brand screaming ‘creativity’ will resonate with them when they experience your brand. They’ll identify with you because they’ll have values that are akin to creativity. This increases the chance of them wanting to know more and this could, just could, get you through the door.

I hope this provides a start and the steps are crystal clear. Err, just like water!

Dr. Darren Coleman has over 15 years brand marketing experience and is the Managing Consultant at Wavelength Marketing. Wavelength offers brand advice, insight, education and design to service brands in the UK, continental Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia. Darren has helped hundreds of students and executives build personal brands. Darren tweets @onthewavelength, blogs and is LinkedIn.

*If you'd like to learn more about personal branding email 

August 21, 2012

My B–Hive experience: from creative brief to the NEC


This is a guest post by Kate Watson, who graduated from Warwick this year with a degree in Theatre and Performance Studies. Kate entered the prestigious B-Hive competition and won a top placement with the NEC Group. She recounts her incredible experience here...

I've always been passionate about theatre and chose my degree based on this, hoping to find an area of the arts that I could pursue as a career. After completing a marketing module and working in the marketing department of the Royal Concert Hall Nottingham, I knew this was where my future lay. Unfortunately - often due to misconceptions - theatre students sometimes get overlooked when it comes to business related jobs. The B-Hive competition was my way of proving to myself (and employers) that I was as able as any other degree student to succeed in marketing. And I did!

B-Hive - what's it all about?

For those of you who haven't heard of the B-Hive competition, it's an opportunity for students from universities across the West Midlands to put their skills in marketing, PR, Advertising, Graphic Design and Web Design to the test by responding to a creative brief posted online. The judges select the best responses, inviting students to present their ideas to a panel of industry professionals; last year's panel included representatives from Deloitte, NEC Group & National Express. It's a great way to get your name out there and offers a fantastic (and much sought after) opportunity to gain paid work experience, with some of the Midlands biggest recruiters.

Working at the NEC Group gave me invaluable experience of working for a large organisation - experience that I probably wouldn't have got otherwise. The NEC Group incorporates several large venues across Birmingham, including the NEC, ICC, NIA and LG Arena, as well as ticketing agent The Ticket Factory and catering company Amadeus. Consequently, the office is a fast-paced, vibrant place to work, full of busy - yet friendly - staff each making a contribution to a different area of the organisation.

Getting experience

My main role during my time at the NEC was in digital marketing. This presented both challenge and opportunity, as it was a not an area I'd previously considered working in. Amadeus had gained a large contract - catering at the Olympic park during the games - and consequently wanted to update their website to highlight the variety of events they cater for and services they provide. The main website template had been created and I was responsible for inputting visual elements of the website, ensuring the images used reflected the key themes and messages within the website copy. This task highlighted how important branding was to each strand of the NEC Group as each part of the organisation had to exist independently with its own key aims and messages, while existing under an umbrella organisation, the NEC Group. I think this gave me an excellent insight into marketing strategy and how to align the message and the delivery.

Working in a large organisation

I was introduced to the advanced and intelligent e-bulletin system the NEC Group used in order to target customers effectively with events. Due to the large variety of events taking place in each of the venues, it is important that customers are not bombarded with information about everything taking place at the venues each month. Consequently, a system is used which tailors an e-bulletin to each customer's needs, advertising Justin Bieber to previous concert attenders of his or similar concerts, while promoting car shows to automotive enthusiasts. While I have used segmentation previously to understand audiences needs and wants, I have never seen it used on such a scale - a direct result of working for such a large organisation with the financial resources to introduce such sophisticated technology.

Looking ahead

Working at the NEC Group allowed me to experience working for a large organisation. Having worked for smaller companies previously I have now had the opportunity to explore the pros and cons of each, and consider my options for the future when pursuing my career in marketing. During my placement I had an interview at the Town Hall, Symphony Hall Birmingham, securing a more permanent position as Marketing Assistant (maternity cover). Unfortunately this meant that I had to cut short my time with the NEC Group, but I am extremely grateful for the whole experience and know that it will continue to pay dividends in terms of the skills I've gained and the contacts I've made. In applying for the B-Hive competition I was determined to stretch myself and show that I could thrive in a fast-paced, commercial environment and thanks to the NEC Group, I've done it. Future employers will now see that I am an arts graduate with creativity and business experience and I feel confident that this combination will help me stand out when applying for more permament roles in marketing.

The final word...

I would certainly encourage Warwick students to apply for B-Hive. Not only will it give you fantastic experience in a creative industry environment, but potentially a great head start to your career. Submit that brief - you don’t know where it might take you!

* If you're tempted to have a go, check B-Hive for further info and dates for your diary

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