Q&A with a Marketing Communications Executive
Ella, a Business Management graduate, has been exploring different careers in marketing since graduating from Nottingham Trent University three years ago and now works as a Marketing Communications Executive in the energy sector. Ella provides us with her insights into the marketing industry and gives her top tips for the job search.
Photo by Alessandro Bianchi on Unsplash
Can you describe your path since leaving university?
The final couple of months of my course were quite stressful as I completed my dissertation and other assignments whilst working full-time on a placement. When I finally finished in May, I was fairly burnt out, so I decided to take the summer off and travel for a while. I travelled around Asia and volunteered in Bali for three weeks as part of an arranged scheme, helping to look after children in nurseries. After a refreshing break, I started applying for jobs and have worked in marketing ever since.
My first job was a Marketing Assistant and I learnt SO MUCH throughout my time at that company. Some good, some bad, but mostly I discovered what my skills are, and what I needed to look for in my next role. I had gained experience across a lot of different areas of marketing which was very helpful, as it gave me a good idea of where I might want to go to next. However, the leadership was very ‘top down’, which meant I had little flexibility to lead on projects or to think of my own ideas. I felt ready to take a step up and take on more responsibility. I started my current role around two months ago.
Did you know what you wanted to do after uni?
I wasn’t completely sure. During my placement, I enjoyed my few months supporting in a project management role, but without specific experience and qualifications, that is quite hard to get into. I knew I did not want to do a grad scheme, simply because my course was really intense, and I didn’t fancy a further two years of ‘training’. As I had mainly marketing experience and did enjoy that, I decided to apply for marketing roles.
How do you think your degree has helped?
I studied Business Management with two years in-company at Nottingham Trent University. I chose this course specifically because it enabled me to gain two years of placement experience within a three-year course (compared to the typical four year sandwich course with a one year placement). It was essentially a fast-track course and is recognised by the Chartered Management Institute as a Master’s level 7. For my placements, I worked for a financial services company based in Manchester, rotating in different departments before securing an official role within their marketing team.
How did you find the job search?
Having the two years’ placements when I graduated really helped me. I had a reasonable amount of experience to put on my CV. However, at first, I did struggle to find any jobs that appealed to me. A lot of entry-level roles can seem uninspiring, but you just have to keep going until you find the right one for you. I signed up with a recruitment agency and used LinkedIn, Google Jobs and Indeed, where I found my first job.
Tell us about the day-to-day in your role as a Marketing Communications Executive
I work for a global energy company, but within an emerging sector, as part of a really small team. I report directly into the Marketing Director, so I have quite a generalist marketing role. My days are varied, as I am involved in anything comms (communications) related, including managing social media and PR, website content, or developing a CRM plan.
What is CRM?
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system helps manage customer interactions and data, with the aim of improving customer service relationships, building consumer loyalty and driving sales growth.
Communications are mostly external to customers through core channels such as email, social and the website – to both business customers and end consumers. But I also work in some internal communication initiatives, such as helping to increase team engagement, informing people within the business about new partnerships or other announcements.
I’m also the comms lead on specific projects and campaigns, which involves creating and delivering a comms plan across different channels. I really enjoy being part of a small team, as I have a lot of autonomy to come up with my own ideas and problem solve. It also means that I’m involved in many different areas of marketing, each day is different, and I never get bored!
What are the best things about your job?
Definitely being able to lead on projects with my own ideas. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone and has undoubtedly improved my confidence. Plus, everyone in the business is very supportive, so if you have an idea, you can likely run with it.
At the start, I really struggled with presenting, but I have done numerous presentations in this role, which has been great for my personal growth!
I also like the culture which is refreshing. Everyone is very friendly and passionate about their work. They work hard but also value a work-life balance. Working from home definitely helps with that too, even though I do miss going into an office.
What are the main challenges?
I’d say working from home is the biggest challenge as it can be difficult to know who to speak to and it is definitely harder to build relationships. Because of the pandemic, I’ve not actually met anyone in my team yet! I’m working completely from home and communicating with everyone through Microsoft Teams. It does the job, but video calling isn’t quite the same. However, I’m in close contact with my line manager and tend to work with others around the business depending on the project.
WFH means it can also be hard to stay motivated, without the buzz of people around you.
What key skills or qualities would be beneficial to your role?
Good communication skills are obviously a given. To break that down, specifically being able to build relationships with your internal team, but also clients and suppliers. It’s likely that you will need to present your ideas, so being able to deliver the message effectively is really important. You wouldn’t believe how many times I have used PowerPoint in my career to date!
Whilst you do need to be creative for a role in marketing, I also think you need to be able to problem solve and think pragmatically. My projects often stem from a business problem or proposition launch; for example, if customers seem to be struggling with an issue, I might need to produce guide content for the website or create a series of help videos. Or, if we’re launching a specific offer, I would develop the core campaign messages and manage its communication across all channels, including social, website content and email.
You’ll be managing several different tasks and projects at one time, so as cliché as it sounds, being able to manage your time effectively and prioritise is crucial – especially when working virtually, as it can be easy to get distracted.
Do you have any tips for job applications?
My biggest piece of advice would be to adapt your CV to the specific role and job advertisement. That is SO important. When I applied for this role, I pulled out the key points from the job specification and included those on my CV. My previous experience was very relevant which did help, but even if the new job is different, there will be certain aspects and skills that are applicable.
What tips can you offer for interviews?
My previous job applications have all involved a presentation at some point. I actually prefer the presentation stage, as it gives me a chance to prove I have ideas and evidences my experience. It also means I feel more prepared, as I’m guiding the content rather than waiting for interviewers’ questions. If you are asked to present something like a campaign idea, doing good research into the industry is crucial. There’s no point thinking of a brilliant idea if it is not relevant. If you’re passionate and you prepare, you’re set to succeed.
Questions asked in marketing role interviews tend to be a mixture of experience-led and competency-based questions. A few examples:
- Tell me about yourself and your experience
- Can you tell me a time when things haven’t quite gone to plan, or you’ve missed a deadline? How did you handle that?
- Can you tell me a time where you’ve successfully delivered a campaign?
- Why does this role appeal to you?
- What do you want to get out of this role?
Some questions have been quite specific to a role, where they have explained a scenario and asked me how I would approach it. Those are harder to prepare for, but if you understand the job spec well, you can anticipate what they’ll want to hear, and draw from a relevant experience around that.
How do you recommend people approach their job search?
Be patient and don’t give up too easily. It took me a while to find my current job as I wanted to make sure it was the right role for me. I got a few rejections, but whilst that can be disappointing, you just have to keep going – the right job will be out there! It can take time to find one that suits your exact experience or values, but be patient, keep adapting your CV and you’ll get there!
What is the best tip you could give to new graduates?
Don’t worry about finding your dream job straight away! You learn from every experience, whether it’s what you enjoy or something you want to avoid in the next. I’d say decide on a role or industry you like the sound of and give it a try. Initially, I put pressure on myself to find the perfect job, but now I’m of the view that my dream role might change as I learn and get older, and nothing needs to be permanent. So many people change their careers at any age, so don’t put that pressure on yourself.
Can you tell us about your student mentoring role?
I wanted to give back to my university and gain new skills, so I decided to mentor students through the alumni programme. I mentor final year and postgraduate students around employability after university. I often mentor international students, helping them to learn more about different industries and potential roles within marketing. I really enjoy helping students with employability, as I valued the support I received through my course, so it has been rewarding to help other people find their post-uni role.
Generally, I mentor one student a year for a 4-month period. The university pairs us up, based on the industry and role they’re looking for. So I’m usually paired with students interested in marketing. We agree to speak about every 2 weeks, and they might send me their CV or a few questions via email.
What is your idea of success, and has this changed over time?
Definitely, when I was younger, my idea of success was to reach the top and earn an impressive salary. Now I’m more focused on finding a role I’m passionate about, but that also offers a work-life balance and has a good culture. We spend so many hours at work with our colleagues, so enjoying your job and having positive relationships is really important.
Ella is from Yorkshire and studied a fast-track style business management course at University. Ella has almost four years of experience in marketing in retail, financial and energy sectors. She has a passion for travel and mentoring and currently supports students from her university post-graduation.
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