Graduate Stories: Emily Gates, Marketing Manager
There is no better advice for marketing graduates than the advice of those who have gone through the process and successfully landed a marketing job. Next up in our #GraduateStories series we have Emily Gates. Emily graduated from London Metropolitan University in 2014 with a degree in Fashion Marketing and is now Marketing Manager for UK General Insurance. We were lucky enough to steal some of her time to hear about her marketing journey and what she recommends to fresh grads who are searching for roles:
How did you get into marketing in the first place?
Before heading off to university I knew I wanted to go into business, I just wasn’t sure which aspect. I spent time researching the different areas that were appealing, but it quickly became apparent that my interest in language, both writing and communicating, and my creative flair are both attributes that lend themselves to marketing. The more I looked into it, the more I knew it was for me!
Did your university degree/experience help you when it came to your first marketing job?
A degree in marketing teaches you the theory behind procedures alongside practical frameworks. It’s worked in my favour as I often reference these tools to carry out various projects. That being said, a degree is not the be all and end all for success in the industry. My degree provided me with knowledge which has helped me build up my toolkit but I often have to adapt these tools to make them applicable for the task in hand. Ultimately, although my degree has taught me valuable skills for my role, it’s important to remain open-minded and flexible. Think practically and use your initiative as often as you can.
How did you identify which area of marketing you wanted to get into?
From a young age I have always been good with language. English was one of my strongest subjects at school and naturally I decided it was something I wanted to use across my career. In my current role, I’m fortunate to be involved in multiple aspects of marketing ranging from events, to traditional copywriting, right through to social media and SEO. For me it’s important that I recognise where my strengths lie and identify where I may need to develop.
Is there anything you’d have done differently starting out in your career?
For me this question is very interesting, my academic background is largely marketing-focused however, once I graduated I really struggled to get a marketing job. Instead I started off in sales. At the time I remember thinking how frustrated I was that I had been unable to find an entry level marketing role. At that point it would have been very easy to lose confidence in my ability and ultimately give up however, I stuck to my guns and was determined to learn what I could from the account management role I was in. In doing so, I learnt valuable business skills and developed a working, commercial acumen. My communication skills improved, I got used to working with stakeholders and understanding customer mindset became second nature. After 18 months of hard work and determination, I finally got my break in marketing and have continued to progress ever since.
So would I have done anything differently? Probably not! I’m a big believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’ and at the time I trusted my decisions and actively worked to obtain transferable skills. Still to this day I am an advocate for ‘trust your gut’. It often forms the basis for the ideas I put forward and the decisions I make.
What advice do you have for graduates looking to get into marketing?
The marketing industry is rich with talented people. Do all you can to gain experience and set yourself apart. Don’t be naïve in thinking that what you like doing is the solely the area you want to work in across the rest of your career. Whilst you may love working on social media you may find that analysis of analytics and strategy development is better suited to you. Be open to giving all aspects of marketing a go and review your skills as you become more experienced.
What advice would you give graduates who are currently searching for their first marketing job?
My biggest piece of advice would be to be realistic when job searching. Remember that upon graduating, your practical experience will not be as extensive as someone who has worked in the industry for years regardless of whether you have done a placement, internship or work experience. Research jobs that are of interest and benchmark yourself against the skills required. Where possible look to fill those gaps. Be practical in salary expectations and be honest in applications and interviews.
If you could give your post-graduate-self any piece of advice, what would it be knowing what you know now about the industry?
The marketing industry will never plateau. Although cliché it really is fast moving so don’t assume your education will stop once you finish your degree. Self-learning and development is a key part of progression. Additionally, never underestimate the value of a skills rich network. Surround yourself with individuals of all experience levels, be prepared to bounce ideas off one another, ask advice and learn all you can from them – even if the truth can sometimes be hard to swallow!