Graduate Stories: Michael Hurcum, Marketing Manager
Next up in our #GraduateStories series we hear from the talent Michael Hurcum. Michael graduated from the University of Hertfordshire with a degree in Media Design and Production in 2007, and is now working as a Marketing Manager for a development agency in Essex. Previously Michael has worked in marketing roles for the fitness & leisure sector, NHS and local government. We were lucky enough to steal a bit of Michael’s time to ask him some questions about his marketing journey so far. Check it out:
How did you get into marketing in the first place?
I studied Media Design and Production at university, because I wanted to do a course that gave me the chance to be hands-on and creative. During my degree there were marketing modules which I really enjoyed, and I soon started to think about how I could get a job in that field.
After university I got my first graduate job with the NHS as a Health Improvement Practitioner; essentially helping people give up smoking. After a few months I discovered that the service I worked for didn’t really have anyone internally to handle the marketing for them, so I expressed an interest in managing the website, working on the press adverts, coordinating the printed brochures etc. The more marketing tasks I worked on, the more I was trusted to take on more.
I soon got approval to spend two days per week sitting with the head office communications team, learning from them and assisting with the marketing and communications work for my service. After a year or so I found my first full marketing role as a Campaigns Officer for Medway Council, and from there I’ve progressed to Marketing Manager and have worked in that role in a few different industries over the past 7 years.
Did your university degree/experience help you when it came to your first marketing job?
Having a degree went someway to helping me get my first marketing job (at least to getting an interview), but I think it was also the fact that I had some proven, demonstrable experience of working on marketing projects. Even though my first graduate role hadn’t been a purely marketing one, the experience I’d gained from assisting with marketing elements gave me something to talk about in the interview and some examples to show.
How did you identify which area of marketing you wanted to get into?
I initially wasn’t sure which area of marketing I wanted to get into when I came out of university, as I hadn’t spent enough time involved in it to know which area I would most enjoy and be most effective in. It was only when I started assisting with a variety of marketing activities in the NHS role – from design and print, to website content management and PR – that I discovered I really enjoyed the combination of it all. I liked having an involvement with everything. So to now be a Marketing Manager where my job is to essentially juggle a range of marketing channels as effectively as possible, I can look back and see that the variety of experience I got really helped me get on that path.
Is there anything you’d have done differently starting out in your career?
I would have done a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) course earlier in my career. I did the CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing five years into my career, which was really beneficial and has helped me get interviews for roles since then, but if I’d have done it straight after university it may have helped me achieve the role I wanted quicker and given me more confidence as a marketer.
What advice do you have for graduates looking to get into marketing?
I think that it’s definitely worth broadening your search to not just purely marketing jobs. Firstly, trying including keywords like “communications”, “campaigns” and “social media” in your job search criteria as there is often a lot of overlap in these roles, and companies can call them different things when essentially the core of the role is marketing.
I also think that a lot of companies may need marketers, but they don’t necessarily have marketing roles in their current structure. They may be doing a lot of it themselves or outsourcing without realising that if they created a marketing role it would be a huge benefit to them. When you think about it, almost every company nowadays does (or should be doing) some kind of promotional activity, whether it’s managing their website, having promotional materials designed and printed, posting on social media, or even just having promotional merchandise like pens created. All of that has a creative element to it and it often falls under the responsibility of the marketing team, so companies need someone to do those things if they don’t already.
If there’s a company you like the sound of working for, it’s always worth getting in touch and seeing if they have any marketing roles coming up in future, or even applying for other graduate jobs at that company that you like the sound of, with a view to hopefully getting involved with the marketing side of things once you’re working there. When you’re starting out in marketing, any experience is good experience.
What advice would you give graduates who are currently searching for their first marketing job?
I would say to not get disheartened if you interview for marketing roles and don’t get them (as there's a lot of competition), or if it seems quiet on the marketing front when you’re looking on job sites. The industry can sometimes go through spells of that as some sectors can see marketing staff as a ‘nice extra’ to have, rather than something that is essential. But it often picks up again.
I’d also recommend doing some additional courses that might help expand your marketing knowledge, like the CIM courses I previously mentioned, or there are plenty of affordable/free marketing courses out there that you can do online, even Google provide a free course through their Digital Garage.
Try to get some hands-on experience too, maybe through writing your own blog, starting a podcast, or helping friend /family with any marketing needs they might have. Basically, do whatever you can to give yourself more experiences that you can talk about at interviews. Being able to back up your degree with some demonstrable experience should hopefully help you score well in an interview.
If you could give your post-graduate-self any piece of advice, what would it be knowing what you know now about the industry?
I would say to keep an open mind and to keep learning. The marketing industry is evolving so fast, things that you learnt a year ago often aren’t quite as relevant now as they were then. So, to keep relevant in this industry, you need to always be improving your skills and getting as much experience as possible. Oh, and I’d also tell post-graduate-me that when it comes to marketing, everyone has an opinion, so not to be too protective when people want to critique your work or tell you how they would do it!
This is definitely an article you should bookmark if you're currently searching for your dream marketing job. Some brilliant advice from Michael, and we have more where that came from! Each journey is so different and there's no "set way" that professionals get into marketing. From the conventional to the unconventional, our graduate network share their stories for your benefit, so get reading our #GraduateStories series for your next dose of inspiration.