A career in marketing can take many twists and turns. It's for this reason that we have launched our #GraduateStories series to give marketing newbies and experienced professionals alike a little inspiration when it comes to their careers. Marketing jobs come in all shapes and sizes, making it an exciting industry for the post-graduate marketeer. We were lucky enough to hear from Jessica Dodds on her marketing journey so far. Jessica graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 2014 with a Bachelors degree in English Language and Literature. With a number of further marketing qualifications under her belt from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Institute of Direct & Digital Marketing, Jessica has enjoyed a colourful marketing career, which has included positions in PR, editorial and communications. She currently works for thebigword as a Senior Marketing Executive and has kindly taken some time to answer our questions. Here is her story:
How did you get into marketing in the first place?
I sort of fell into marketing without realising. Whilst studying English at Sheffield Hallam University, I launched my own bespoke cake company and attended ‘get into business’ sessions at the Enterprise support centre. Through networking the room at the marketing session, I found myself in a very animated conversation with Faye Smith, Owner and Managing Director of Keep Your Fork PR in Sheffield. Before long I was freelancing with Faye and supporting on a variety of PR and marketing-related projects. If it wasn’t for her dynamism and enthusiasm for connecting people, I’m not sure I would be where I am today.
Did your university degree/experience help you when it came to your first marketing job?
As part of my degree I took modules in creative writing. Grammar, language use and tone of voice are incredibly important in marketing for positioning messages, developing a brand voice, driving calls to action or persuading someone to ‘buy now’. In my first post-degree role, I leveraged this expertise to write thought leadership articles for the senior leadership team, brochure content, emails and I even used it to be creative with social media. Skills that are not so closely linked, however, were also incredibly important. Being attentive, taking quick notes, being flexible and adapting to using new software are all skills I developed at university and brought to the workplace.
How did you identify which area of marketing you wanted to get into?
At university I was already experimenting with different career avenues, by launching a business and applying for internships in editorial positions. I was always keen on working in an industry where I could be creative. Initially, I worked in PR due to my experience in writing and the connections I had made, but my role quickly opened up to working with social and digital marketing platforms to address the changing demands of the audience. As a modern marketer, you have to play more of a hybrid role, bridging traditional marketing techniques with the advances in technology to create a more rounded, personalised experience for your audience. I would describe myself as a creative, full mix marketer, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to get stuck in with the science and data aspects of marketing.
Is there anything you’d have done differently starting out in your career?
From a young age, I have always been a writer from poetry to short fiction. When reflecting, I often think about whether I should have picked Marketing as my core degree subject, as I picked English as a safe subject. However, I tend not to regret it. I made the right decision at the time and no matter how many false starts, hurdles or barriers I face, I know they all contribute to my experience and perspective for making decisions in the future. I have since had the professional support to up-skill and have completed a Diploma in Professional Marketing with CIM.
What advice do you have for graduates looking to get into marketing?
Marketing is as much about technical skills as it is about building personable relationships and understanding the needs and motivations of others. People can develop skills and traits to become a marketer, but you cannot replicate personality and personal relationships.
One thing that has massively supported my career development is networking. Through seeking out strong networking opportunities, I have built relationships with key senior professionals who have not only provided valuable advice, but have given testimonials and recommendations to boost my career. I have been fortunate enough to build a base of connections who give me honest feedback and have supported me through mentoring and identifying opportunities when I needed it most. Nothing is stronger than a personal recommendation.
What advice would you give graduates who are currently searching for their first marketing job?
Be creative and put yourself out there. Design your CV, publish a personal marketing blog, take branded cupcakes to your interview, and attend a networking event with your dream companies in advance of applying. Use all the skills you have developed for your trade, to market yourself to the best of your ability. As with the question before, what sets you apart is your personality and the relationships you build.
Also, remember to be proactive rather than reactive with your career. Use tools, tutorials, webinars and platforms online to identify your weaknesses and build new skills in design, web development, and photography. Developing skills which complement the marketing function makes you more employable and provides you with more opportunities when searching. There are always new platforms and techniques being released, especially in the digital marketing space, so it is healthy and showcases your drive and enthusiasm if you try to skill up.
If you could give your post-graduate-self any piece of advice, what would it be knowing what you know now about the industry?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and there is a lot of advice I would give. Carrying on my point about building connections, I would say network internally at work. Not only is it incredibly valuable to have allies and ambassadors in all areas of the business, but it is also useful to understand how the marketing function interacts, impacts and influences other areas of a business. You never know when this insight and expertise might come in handy to support an upcoming campaign and how understanding the business operations may improve your ability to navigate challenges or address pain points.
Senior Marketing Executive at thebigword
International Ambassador, Yorkshire Board of the CIM
Owner and Chief Baker at Red Velvet Baking
What a fabulous set of answers for some really sound advice on how to progress your marketing career. Jessica makes a really good point about networking and gaining allies in all areas of your business. So many people neglect this but recommendations and word of mouth can turn into all kinds of opportunities in the future. For more #GraduateStories check out the series today and get inspired!