From university into the workplace

Published on 14th December 2016

Life after University, for myself it’s an exciting time; all the coffee fuelled late nights in the library and countless essay drafts accumulating to that pinnacle moment. As I find myself 6 months into working at Purity, now seems a good time to discuss whether it is what I had imaged while studying at University.

There’s no doubt that studying for a degree is difficult, it requires commitment, discipline and some sacrifice. In many ways it can prepare you for working life, for example, managing your time effectively and working towards impending deadlines. It can also prepare you to work with different people, encourage independent thinking and challenge you to think outside the box. The modules I studied which have put me on a good path before joining Purity are the ones which focused on marketing concepts, experiential learning and strategic management. These are crucial learning points and have allowed me to gauge an understanding of the mechanics behind an experiential agency. University not only facilitates but encourages creative and strategic thinking and this is something I feel can puts Graduates at a great advantage.

Couple a relevant degree with experience and you’ve almost certainly got the attention of an employer, I studied a sandwich degree, meaning I worked in the industry for a year. I cannot stress the value of this placement year enough. It allows you to apply everything you’ve learned in 1st and 2nd year to the workplace and helps you to go further in your 3rd year as you have already gained an insight into the industry. For me, however, until I was working at an agency I never fully understood the scope of the industry and just how much there is to learn. University undoubtedly offers a great stepping stone and enables graduates to lay the foundations for the next chapter in their career, but the learning continues and the workplace offers a completely different set of challenges to University.

Tips for students looking to start their career in this industry:

  • Use the resources you have available at University – Universities offer a range of career advice such as help with writing CVs and cover letters, carrying out mock interviews and assessment centres and of course the support of the dedicated lecturers. I’d strongly recommend that you utilise these resources and most importantly ensure that you have a first-class CV on file.
  • Gain experience in the industry – A Degree sometimes isn’t enough to show you have learned skills which employers are looking for, they want evidence to support this. Experience in the industry can prove invaluable and ultimately set you aside from other candidates. There are plenty of opportunities out there that can be in the form of part time jobs, volunteering, internships, work experience and placements. If the skills gained are relevant to the industry and can be transferred, then it is extremely worthwhile and is a foot in the door.
  • Be pro-active and find your own opportunities – As a recent Graduate, you want to show employers that you are tenacious and can use your own initiative by going to them first. For me, this approach proved very successful. Shortly after my final exam I researched various agencies, I contacted Purity during this period with a speculative email. Fortunately, my timing proved to be good and I was invited for an interview.
  • Continue learning – Firstly, it’s imperative that you stay up-to-date with current industry trends and understand what competitors are doing. It’s also very important that you continue learning after University. During his speech at my graduation ceremony, Sir Lord Robert Winston said undergraduates use around 17% of their brain and those who continue their studies after use around 23%. The point he was making is that learning is a continual process and something which needs to be channelled. We must constantly challenge ourselves and learn new things because as soon as you stop using your brain you essentially stop being useful to people. Apply this wisdom to the workplace and you will most likely succeed.

Life is the work-place is more varied than I had anticipated, but that’s what makes working in this industry so enjoyable. No two days are the same and you have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and turn your hand to anything. Being able to think on your feet and work under pressure are part and parcel of what the job demands. Having a great team around you helps and as I said, every day I am learning.

Melissa Hannan graduated in Event Management from Sheffield Hallam University. She is an Account Executive at Purity working across a number of key accounts including BMW MINI, Stan James and UNiDAYS. View her LinkedIn profile here http://bit.ly/2hv4igH