On the Monday morning commute this week I picked up a copy of Glamour magazine and found myself reading an article on landing a job in today’s cut throat world of recruitment. It was so refreshing to see a feature on job hunting that spoke more about personality and extra curricular activities than qualifications and how many buzz words you could squeeze in to a CV.
I love my job in retail marketing and for my age I think I’ve managed to progress in to my role quite quickly, but hell, its been a bumpy ride! I’m not a direct line manager as such but I do in a sense have an amazing team of girls who are all of a similar age and mindset. I oversee a lot of activity for busy retail destinations and have eyes on a lot of social media accounts, which at 27 I think is quite an achievement and something that I’m really proud of!
It hasn’t all been fun and games getting to this point though, and as the Glamour article rightly pointed out, nowadays a glowing list of qualifications isn’t everything. I’ve been given opportunities in my career, past and present, because of things such as my blog, my love of photography, putting myself out there and sometimes just personality rather than a bunch of qualifications. Now with university costing so much, so many people are choosing to skip degrees too, but doing so doesn’t have to mean that you can’t succeed in a career you love.
I’ve had to apply for my fair share of jobs in the past, having been made redundant twice before the age of 25 due to companies folding or having to make cut backs, so I’ve been pretty desperate to find work in some instances. Through that time I’ve learnt what to write on my CV to make it stand out, what to talk up the most and what to delete altogether. I’ve also been on the other side of the process too, and have had to read through hundreds of cvs and interview countless candidates for marketing roles, and acting as a recruiter with an inbox of over 150 CVs for one role is a daunting task, let me tell you! This experience made it even more clear how important it is to make yourself stand out and sell not only your skills, but your personality. It’s what Simon Cowell would refer to as the ‘likeability factor’ I guess.
For me, I would say it’s all about just putting yourself out there and making sure there’s something on your CV to grab a recruiter’s attention and make them want to find out more.
When I got my first marketing job outside of uni (which took a good 18 months after graduating to find) it was a lot about being in the right place at the right time, and having the right things with me during the interview. I spotted the position online, sent an email to see if it was still available and got invited in to meet the brand manager. I just happened to take my styling portfolio with me just in case they wanted to see what I did at uni (I have a degree in Fashion Promotion & Styling) even though it wasn’t exactly relevant to the role. Just as he started to flick through my portfolio, the company director walked in the room and asked to see it too, and it’s at the point when the both of them agreed I could add something extra to the role and not only run the marketing channels, but also work on the upcoming campaign shoots, something completely unrelated to the job in question. In my interview, we barely spoke about my qualifications and instead chatted about my blog, my personal style, how I manage my own social media channels and what opportunities this has brought me. It came apparent to me that this was a topic I could talk much more passionately about than anything I’d been taught at college or university, and I’d like to think that helped my personality come through.
I was taken on as a freelancer to start with a few ad-hoc briefs, but after a few of weeks of proving myself, they offered me a full time role, and I’m pretty sure my CV was barely looked at when they made that decision. At that point in time, over 50% of my styling portfolio was made up of shoots that I’d taken on in my spare time or work I’d done with photographer friends to bulk out our books, and my blog was a completely personal and independent venture of mine (as it still is), so you could even say to some extent that my degree wasn’t even necessary in bagging that role.
That role was what I would class as the beginning of my career, and a huge learning curve. I was tasked with doing a lot more than the post originally advertised, but keen to learn and make a difference, I took on extra work to broaden my knowledge of the sector, flew overseas for trade shows and put in a lot of hours outside of the office too. I built up my backbone and toughened up as I learnt quickly in that environment that I had to be able to voice my opinion, but also know how to take constructive criticism. Looking back, it was a tough role for someone so fresh out of the education system with very little experience, but its where I learnt the most about myself, honed my skills and brushed up on everything to do with retail marketing from PR, social media management and blogger outreach to organising trade shows, ordering POS and promotional materials and working alongside creative designers and retail sales agencies. It was a huge eye opener and only made me want to further those skills.
When it came about that the company was to cease trading, I was on one hand completely gutted as I’d built up a lot of the brand’s online audience myself and had great fun working on all of the projects, but it also forced me to try and spread my wings in to another area and try some more new things.
After looking around for something else, I then managed to secure a roll in a small family-run business specialising in jewellery for both consumer and business retail. It only lasted six months or so, but it was a great role and allowed me to have a lot of freedom in creating blog and social media content, practise my photography for e-commerce, manage the upload of new products and deal with large business orders, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and after a short time at the company I had to find alternative work due to cut backs.
At this point in my career, I felt so deflated and down. I’d got on what felt like a ladder to something great, only to have had two knock backs in such a short space of time, but looking back I should have really seen this as an opportunity. What was common in both of those roles was the sheer amount of skills I learnt whist on the job – nothing that university could have taught me. I went in to both of them, particularly the first one, not really knowing anything about the sector and never having worked in an office environment, and I’d come out the other end with a list of skills that could have suited roles across marketing, PR and e-commerce, but I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to think about it that way. Hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing!
Again this is where I believe that being in the right place at the right time is so important (everything happens for a reason etc etc) as on the exact same day I’d been given the bad news, a job that I LOVED the sound of popped up online at a place close to home and somewhere I’d always liked the idea of working at, so much so that I’d actually called up a few times in the months leading up to this point to see if they had any roles available. I spruced up my CV, sent off my application and crossed my fingers and toes, and eventually got offered an interview. Again, my blog was the main topic of conversation, as were the skills I’d learnt at previous roles, but very little mention of degrees, qualifications and grades. The skills I’d built in blogging and e-commerce meant I would be able to manage their upcoming website relaunch with ease, and my social media experience was perfect for the new marketing direction they were about to embark on.
The rest here is, as they would say, history. I was offered a role on the same day, worked for a year before being promoted to do the same thing on a field based scale with a small team, and I’ve been doing this for the past two years. It’s challenging and a lot of hard work, but its fun and I get to use a whole range of skills, meet loads of new people and travel around the UK every week. I can honestly say though I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for this little blog or my social media channels, and the fact that I’d put myself out there to learn new skills and take opportunities from a young age.
I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if you’ve just left university and are having trouble finding something you love, don’t worry. I spent 18 months after graduating serving customers in a fashion retailer and absolutely hated it, but everything I did there, and everything I did in the two roles following that have amounted to a skill set I could have only dreamed of when I left the education comfort zone. That degree might look great on paper, but the things you learn and the skills you hone look even better, and those ‘extra curricular’ things? They’re solid gold on a CV! Love photography? Write a blog? Budding artist? Travelled the world? Run your own market stall? Have a baking business on the side? DJ in your spare time? Run a Youtube channel? PUT IT ON YOUR CV! Those are the things that will set you apart from the rest, as those skills you’ve built from doing those things will be invaluable. They could be exactly what the company is looking for, without them (or you) even knowing it.
A hobby listed in the Interests section at the bottom of your CV can often get lost – so why not scrap the typical CV template and start off by talking about your passions and what you love to do, and instead of just listing the word ‘Photography’ for example, talk about why you do it and the skills it has taught you. Big yourself up a little!
This has definitely become a very long, very rambly post and for those of you that have made it to the end, thank you! Hopefully reading about my bumpy ride up the career ladder can help some of you who are looking for their first job, or looking to take a step in a new direction. Put yourselves out there and contact them rather than waiting for them to contact you, shout about your skills rather than your daily job duties and when you do bag that all important interview, win them over with your amazing personality so they just can’t say no to having you on their team!
What would you say to someone who is about to embark on a job hunt for a creative career?