When I graduated a year ago, I was not prepared. I had planned to study a master’s course after completing my undergraduate degree. However, this was cancelled just before it was due to start, because of the pandemic.
As I was supposed to study for another year, I hadn’t spent my final year of university applying to graduate schemes or making connections with hiring managers. Instead, I was applying to my postgraduate course and researching the topics I would have been covering.
But on the plus side, what I had been doing during my third year of university and whilst waiting for my masters to start, was building a digital portfolio.
I had created a Wix site that had my CV on, a short about me section, and I had uploaded some examples of my marketing experience. So, when I found myself in a position that meant I had no idea what to do next, at least I had a way of showing people the skills I had learnt up to yet!
How can you gain experience?
When I unexpectedly found myself graduating without a plan, my university announced they were hosting an internship scheme for the class of 2020! I realise this was incredibly lucky. There were many different types of internships available, so I immediately applied for as many marketing roles as possible.
After a round of interviews, I had successfully secured a 4-week full-time internship and it was a brilliant way to gain experience and put my learning into practice.
If you're not already aware, an internship is an opportunity to do work experience offered by a company for a set period of time. They're beneficial to a company as they get an extra staff member to help but without the commitment (and cost) of a permanent employee.
For me, this was a brilliant opportunity to apply my university learning. It also taught me a lot. University is great for teaching you the fundamentals but working in the realm of marketing and being taught in a business context was extremely valuable.
Not only are internships good for gaining experience but, they give you a better understanding of what's involved in a marketing role. I did my internship with a small business. Therefore, I was creating content, doing community management, conducting market research, analysing competitors, designing graphics, organising video shoots, writing emails, blogs and brainstorming ideas for new products. Whilst it sounds like a lot (and it was), I wouldn't change it. It gave me a better understanding of the different marketing disciplines and allowed me to consider what area I would like to specialise in.
So, if you have freshly graduated from university and you're worried about what's next, I recommend trying to secure an internship, especially for a small business. You’ll be given the chance to experience a wide variety of different areas and you can discover which one works for you. For me, I was especially drawn to content writing, social media, and copywriting.
Expand your responsibilities at work
If you work for a small business - there is a major opportunity here! Put yourself forward and offer to do some marketing for them! Brief the idea to your manager and then treat it like you would a pitch:
● Justify what makes you qualified.
● Explain the benefits.
● Give a couple of examples of the type of marketing you'd be doing (e.g., if you're suggesting you would write their social media posts - draft a couple of posts to give them an idea of what to expect!)
This will allow you to put your skills into practice! Moreover, it will look great on your portfolio and CV as it shows you can take initiative and can make your own opportunities.
After my internship, I worked part-time for a cookie dough delivery company, and I managed their social media. It was extremely interesting to monitor the analytics and see the direct correlation between posting to social media and sales. And if you do decide to give this a go, who knows - you might generate enough leads or encourage enough sales that you create a marketing role for yourself!
After graduating, completing my internship, running the social media for the company where I worked part-time, I decided to freelance. I had a good amount of experience and a digital portfolio, so I took the plunge.
Freelancing is a great way to get experience, not just in marketing but in a wide range of skills. It helps you to develop your organisational and time management skills. And if you're planning on freelancing to gain experience to apply for a full-time role, it'll help you stand out from other candidates.
Even if you have no experience, I’d still recommend freelancing. Network, make connections and show people the difference you can make to their business. You can work with companies from a range of industries and get some extremely valuable experience.
Would I have done it differently?
Admittedly I think it would have been beneficial to volunteer when studying. I had the spare time, and it would have allowed me to gain experience. If you're in university, I'd encourage you to reach out to local businesses and offer to do some marketing for them as it'll help get that all-important experience.
Additionally, when I finished working part-time, I wish I knew about Lead Kinetics. Their mission is to give graduates experience. They pair you with a company who you can do content writing or social media management for.
Many of the grads who have worked with them have gone on to secure a full-time role which wouldn't have been possible without Lead Kinetics. Or some grads have secured some freelance work from the experience.
I would have contacted Lead Kinetics after working part-time as this would have been an amazing opportunity to gain more experience and I might have secured a client from it! It's a great initiative and it's an excellent way to get paid and gain valuable marketing experience for your portfolio.
Other than these two minor changes - I am happy with how everything turned out! If you are in a position where you are just finishing university and you’re not quite sure what to do next, just try to gain experience and have a digital portfolio – these two things helped me greatly.