Gaining experience in your chosen industry whilst studying can be tough. If you’re not panic reading a 300 page book in the library, you’re struggling through crap-loads of boring housework or staving off a hangover in bed, regretting last night’s decision. Not only finding the time, but finding the opportunity (especially if you aren’t in a major city) can be difficult, so in time for PrettyLittleThing’s back to uni series, I thought I would run you through what I did to boost my marketing CV during uni.
If, like me, you chose to go down the more “traditional” degree route, pursuing English Lit, History or even Law, you might be feeling stuck when it comes to gaining experience without the year-in-industry that sandwich courses offer. On a similar note, you might be in the midst of a marketing degree itself, and wondering how you can give your CV that extra edge when it comes to post-graduation.
I always find the advice “go and get real life experience” the most unhelpful and unrealistic ever. It’s not that simple, and offering that as a serious piece of instruction is pretty narrow-minded. For those who can’t afford to take a whole summer off working for free, or don’t live in one of the major cities like London or Manchester where most internships are available, strolling out of your door and into a work experience placement is a dream at best.
There are ways to tackle these troubles, however. I broke down some of the smaller things I did that can make a big difference in the long run, to hopefully help you boost your marketing CV whilst studying.
Honestly, I “ugh” at this too, but bear with me. Being a person that wasn’t in any societies, didn’t go to any socials and just had a close group (read one-two) friends, I wasn’t the first to nominate myself for English Lit President. But, if you are a little bit more social (a.k.a. not so reclusive), seize these opportunities with both hands and make the most of marketing your club events and announcements in any way, shape or form. Keep a record of what you’ve done and what worked, and use this to your advantage in interviews. I was a PR Rep for my halls at my first uni for about two months before I gave it up, but I still call upon that from time to time, citing my experience pulling together leaflets and banners in Photoshop. If, like me, you don’t want to get too involved, you can still do things from a distance. Why not email the uni bar or some of the socials and ask them if they need some design work done? Or if they need a hand pulling together social media strategies? Any experience is a bonus, no matter how little.
2. Approach small charities and do small bits of free work
Knowing that I wasn’t in the position to take on a three month long internship in London for a mere pittance to nothing at all, I reached out to small charities and offered them my marketing services for free in return for the experience. This ranged from creating infographics advertising dogs for adoption, to creating an animal charity blog and uploading news stories and pictures. You don’t have to do a mountain load – unless you have the time – but showing willing and doing whatever you can will not only add to your experience in the industry, it will show your drive to succeed.
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3. Join an online student magazine
With the online magazine industry growing and growing and blogs now becoming more influential than ever, it’s well worth dusting off your writing fingers and getting some content published. Whilst getting your name in the Metro would be fab, it’s also going to be extremely difficult and – dare I say it – unlikely. There are quite a few websites that now cater to students, from students, allowing you to become a contributor and not only publish content, but manage how it’s marketed and even control a certain genre of articles. I took on the role of News Editor, which enabled me to big up my time management, team management and people management skills on my CV. The word ‘Editor’ also doesn’t hurt, no matter how minor.
4. Be proactive and reach out to local companies
After finishing my second year of university, I sent out a ton of emails to small, local marketing companies in my town asking them if I could come and do a few weeks/a few months’ worth of work experience. I had some money left over from my previous loan to tide me over, and was also desperately selling my belongings on eBay in the hopes of conjuring up some extra cash. Finally, one said yes. I joined a small team of 2-3 people, pitching ideas and pulling together social media schedules for a range of different clients. I worked for free for about a month and a half until I ran out of money, and then, coming clean to my boss, said I couldn’t continue without at least expenses to cover my costs. She was fucking wonderful and started paying me a wage. Long story short, that wage turned into a salary and I still work with my two wonderful bosses today. Local companies can change your life, so don’t worry if you either can’t get or don’t want the big name gigs.
5. Start a blog
This may seem like generic advice, but I truly believe my blog has given me the most valuable marketing experience of all. Building a brand from the ground up and being able to prove my ability to market it into success is a live representation of what I’m capable of, and having a certain number of followers shows that I can create (hopefully) captivating content. You don’t need to go from one follower to ten thousand in a fortnight, but just demonstrating your different abilities – from writing copy, to editing photos and sharing strategically across social media – will give your CV a worthy boost.
The most important advice I can give is to always make the most of what experience you do have – don’t be afraid to big yourself up on your CV, as employers want to know about what you’ve accomplished. Talk through which things have helped with what, and how this demonstrates your ability as a marketer. Oh, and when it comes to CVs, know how to market yourself – a traditional page by page might not cut the mustard, so get creative and let Photoshop be your guide!
I hope this has been helpful to you guys – if you have any further questions for me or would like to rack my brains about anything in particular, feel free to leave a comment down below or find me on Insta and Twitter @chloeplumstead.