Violeta Todorova graduated from King's with a degree in Film Studies in Summer 2014. Eight months on, she talks to us about her graduate role of Digital Executive at advertising agency and 'Human Experience' company Starcom MediaVest Group.
What does an average day look like in your role?
An average day in my current role will consist of two different job titles because my time is split 50/50. For my role within digital display advertising, I will pull daily reports to track conversions (or a desired action such as selling nail polish) to monitor the performance of our digital ads. Then, I’ll e-mail publishers and networks to coordinate delivery and possible optimisations. For example, if the data suggests that women 25-45 are less likely to buy nail polish after school hours (because they’re spending time with their children) then I would tell AOL to spend less money in the afternoon so that my client’s budget is better spent. The second part of my job is around pairing tech start-ups with brands to solve specific business problems as well as doing event management. A typical half-day in that role would require me to attend brainstorming sessions on how new technology can help our client’s phone launch at the next World Cup, then going to Shoreditch to meet a new start-up in order to assess their offer, and finally, sending out invites to an innovation summit next month.
How did you get into your current role?
During my time at university, I completed an internship in marketing because I thought I might enjoy that line of work. I felt that advertising incorporates communication, creativity, and business in a fun and exciting way. I had also tried to do internships in film as that was my second career choice of interest, but found that type of work incompatible with my desired lifestyle as film roles are typically outside of regular working outs and mostly unpaid internships. Furthermore, during my second year of university I kept researching post-graduation opportunities and was drawn to the entry-level work schemes that eases young grads into a company. So with the decision to do a graduate scheme in advertising, I set out to apply for all the possible schemes during my final year of university by referencing industry journals and websites - such as the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. I was hired by a media agency by that February. Their graduate scheme lasts 3 months with a guaranteed position based on your performance during the training. And based on my demonstrated strengths and weaknesses, I was given a digital role with a focus on technology and innovation.
What was your career path up to this point?
My career path has been quite short as I just graduated 8 months ago. However, I do feel that marketing and advertising is a viable career path with a bright future; it’s more than simply a job or way of making money for me. Marketing is a career because there is clear experience to be gained and growth opportunities for those that stay within the industry. So much of my current plan is focused around the future and possible steps for progressing.
A career path is an interesting concept within the arts and humanities discipline (and especially in relation to our generation). Unless you’re studying medicine or an extremely practical course, there is a large chance you don’t have a ‘career path’ pre-determined by your degree. Instead, it’s something that you have to find organically and over time with trial-and-error in different jobs. Especially in the first 5 years of gaining work experience, I see my peers experimenting with different career choices in order to see what skills and type of employment best suits them. That testing phase is completely natural, but equally, I think it’s important for students to take control of their own career paths and pursue work that is interesting and relevant to their goals rather than simply stumbling into job opportunities. Even young professions should be paving their career paths (and not letting the job picking them).
What are the best and worst things about your current job?
The best thing about my current job is the amount of responsibility and exposure that is given to me from the offset. When I started my role at the media agency, I was amazed at the level of trust that was given to young professionals. There were 26 year olds in charge of planning millions of pounds worth of media spend for global well-known brands. Furthermore, I greatly enjoy the fluidity and relaxed atmosphere of my company… I was quite shocked how easily and often you get to speak to the CEOs as there is not a strict hierarchy. Within my current job, I feel that my ideas and skills are valued.
The worst part of my current job is the pay. As an industry, media is not highly paid. That makes living in London after university particularly difficult despite having a full-time job. Although it doesn’t bother me at the moment, I don’t think this salary is sustainable for long-term investments such as property, post-graduate degrees, and having a family. It’s always a shame when you love your job and are good at it, but have to sacrifice the lifestyle you want due to the low pay.
How do you think your degree has helped with your career so far?
I did a very niche and specific course at university: Film Studies. A lot of the material and knowledge was oriented towards academia and therefore, not directly correlated to the professional working world. Nevertheless, my time at university helped me develop as a person and gain transferable skills within an ecosystem that fosters critical thinking and curiosity. I believe it’s too early in my career to see a direct impact of my university degree. However, I do think that my studies have taught me how to approach problems, time manage, write, and think - and that will become more apparent as I progress. Also, I want to get a post-graduate degree at some point that is more career-focused, but my undergraduate degree and marks from King’s will help me get into a top tier MBA program.
What do you think are the skills and traits that someone in your role needs to have?
I think the most important traits for success are being: curious, persistent, and organised. You need to be curious because my industry needs someone who is willing to be constantly learning, stay up-to-date, and change his or her opinions and skills. Secondly, you need to be persistent and determined in the long-term. There will inevitably be times when you need to fight for opportunities despite downfalls in your career, and only those that are tenacious will progress. And lastly, you need to be organised with your time, responsibilities, e-mails, and everything in between in order to be efficient. There are a million and one things that need to get done in an office. If you don’t learn to prioritize and manage tasks, the workload will burn you out and leave you feeling behind. Instead, it’s important to learn the difference between important, urgent, necessary, and banal assignments in an attempt to systematize work flow.
What do you think makes applicants / interns / new recruits stand out? What advice do you have for students?
My advice to future applicants is:
- Make sure that claims and examples in your CV are concrete - include percentages and exact numbers if possible. For example, “Leading a team” is less impressive and explanatory than “delegated bi-weekly tasks to 16 committee members”
- Get at least one proper work experience and preferably in the industry you’re interested in. You’ll gain contacts, examples for interview questions, and a CV booster. Unless you want to work in academia, understand that university skills are transferable, but not directly relevant or impressive to recruiters.
- Only apply for jobs you would happily accept, as genuine enthusiasm will show in the way you write your cover letter and application. Also, by spending less time on sheer volume of applications, the quality of the applications will increase.
- Very few people stay in the same job/career/company during the first 5 years of their career. It’s all right to find yourself and your path, but you still have to be proactive and hard working for good opportunities to arise.
- One of the hardest traits to master during recruiting is confidence - you need to show your potential and self-belief without massively overstating and overacting your abilities because over-confidence will easily ruin someone’s opinion of you.
- Be prepared – whether for the interview, assessment day, or application deadline. It’s not impressive to write an application 4 hours before the deadline. Read about the company and their leaders before an assessment day. And practice answering interview questions before going in.
- Being open-minded and proactive will make you stand out. The best trait to demonstrate is the will to take initiative and participate without being instructed to do so (within reason of course!) It shows that you’re interested in the work if you actively seek to be involved and go beyond what is merely required of you. This should also be reflected in your CV by having projects that you started, even if it’s just a blog. Having the discipline and determination to initiate something new is one of the most sought after employment skills.
- Go out and meet people. Learn to network properly. Ask professionals whose job you admire to get a coffee and have a chat. Use LinkedIn and Twitter to follow people.
- Research/Read. This generation has access to a hundred times more information than was previously available in local libraries. Once you’ve picked a career area, make an effort to stay up to date with industry news via trade journals and articles. Also, reading the newspaper daily means that you’re prepared for interviews without having to cram 3 months worth of knowledge into a week of research and you’ll be more likely to stumble upon work opportunities in your chosen field.
- Unless your chosen career requires a master’s degree, I would recommend getting work experience before getting a second degree. There are certain individuals that give up looking for a job by simply doing a post-graduate degree. A post-graduate degree should fit into your career path and not simply fill your time. Plus, it’s difficult to grasp what skills are employable and desired without properly assimilating into a company for at least a year.