10 Years Late to the Party
Be brave. Take a chance on people. Look past the paper. Try to envision what the person sitting across from you has the potential to achieve.
My parents tell me I was a relatively shy baby. I wouldn’t react well to new people. I would cry at playdates and I was terrified of the villains in all of the Disney movies (particularly the Queen in Snow White).
But upon my graduation from babyhood, something changed. I started developing confidence. Throughout my school and university years, I made some great friends, joined some teams and put myself out there as much as possible.
Although I studied Media and Journalism at University, my ability to speak and engage with large numbers of people saw me fall into the world of education and teaching.
I loved teaching. One of my fondest memories of teaching came from my first ever class in mainland China. A grade five class made up of around 55 students. All of whom were looking at me and giggling as I was their first foreign teacher. The topic for that day was learning simple words like “good, bad, yes and no”.
To give you some background. I’m from just outside of Newcastle in England. A place which is known for its strong (yet friendly) accent. So, in this class, I had the students repeating after me.
“Good” I shouted. They repeated.
“Bad” I shouted. They repeated.
“Yes” I shouted. They repeated.
“No” I shouted. Now I’m not sure if you have ever heard 55 Chinese children shouting “no” in a broad Geordie accent, but I can assure you, it is one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard and certainly something I’ll never forget! I like to think that somewhere in China, there is a small community of people with a Geordie accent.
That’s just one of the fond memories I had from my six years of teaching across China and Australia. However, something wasn’t right.
I was comfortable. I enjoyed my job. I had the opportunity to meet people from around the world. But still something wasn’t right. I was too comfortable. In a routine which meant I wasn’t learning, pushing myself or being as creative as I once was.
Ultimately, I knew that I needed to leave the industry and pursue something bigger. And I knew it would need to be in the media industry as that’s something I’ve always had a particular interest in.
I’m almost 30. I’m not old. But in the world of employment, time makes a huge difference. A university degree is often not enough. I have a master’s degree and even that felt insufficient. As I started to read job ads online, it dawned on me that “three years’ experience” was the norm. Companies were asking for proficiency in platforms which I had never even heard of.
And I can honestly say that for the first time since being a baby, I felt that same daunting feeling I had had when staring into the eyes of the Queen from Snow White. My confidence took a hit. How could I, a 29-year-old teacher, compete with others who had spent the majority of their 20s developing skills that I didn’t have?
I often see people blaming companies for wanting five years of experience plus a master’s degree and working knowledge. But in my eyes, if I was hiring someone, I would most likely be asking for those things as well. Those people are easier to train, they can get up to speed faster and they generally require less effort. These are the people I was up against and I knew it would be no easy task to make myself more appealing than those applicants. The ball was in my court.
So, I devised a plan of attack. Online applications were out of the question because I’m instantly defeated on paper. I needed to be seen and heard for any chance of this brave career switch to happen.
Step one: I would make sure that I would spend every day in a location which had media industries nearby. Maybe in a café, or a relaxing seating area. Putting the odds in my favour on the very slim chance that I may meet someone.
Step two: If I did do an online application, I would call or drop by to introduce myself and once again make myself memorable. My personality would need to play a key part in getting a job.
Step three: I would study. I would make up for lost time by learning about the industry. Reading, watching videos, downloading platforms which employers were asking for.
Step four: Use any connections I could possibly think of who may be able to at least get me an interview or give some advice.
I gave myself three months to find a new job and develop a working knowledge of the media industry. In my first week, I managed to arrange meetings with two CEO’s which were set up by a good friend. They gave me some fantastic advice about taking opportunities and reapplying my existing skills. I also applied for some jobs and followed those up with some positive and friendly chats.
In my second week, fate stepped in. I was sitting in a café when two people sat down beside me who clearly worked in the media industry. They were discussing a potential campaign which sounded so exciting. I was trying not to eavesdrop, but they were pretty close, so it was almost impossible. I leaned in and told them that what they were talking about sounded so cool. I wasn’t intrusive, but I did want to get the name of their company so right before they left, I asked. They told me and that was that.
I knew that I could reach out and apply for a job with them later in the week. But would they remember me? Probably not. I didn’t want to intrude on their conversation, so I wasn’t too memorable. In my mind, I had a window of opportunity to show these people the type of person I am.
As soon as they left, I got to work on thinking up some ideas for their campaign. I have always been creative, and I wanted to show this company what I was capable of. Within two hours, I had created five separate ideas for their campaign, found their company email addresses and emailed my ideas directly to them.
I got a reply a few hours later saying that they loved the enthusiasm and that they would love to meet with me. Two interviews and one task later and I was employed.
I have now been working in the media industry for three months and I can honestly say that I have learned so much. But I also feel that I have offered so much too. I genuinely feel like despite my lack of experience, I am making a real and authentic difference to clients and my colleagues.
Of course, there are other people around me who have been in the industry for longer. But I know I have other attributes which are vital to our team. I have the confidence to know that what I lack in experience, I make up for by being eager, enthusiastic, driven and creative.
I think the moral of my story is:
For applicants – Believe in yourself so much that others can’t help but believe in you too.
For companies – Be brave. Take a chance on people. Look past the paper and try to envision what the person sitting across from you has the potential to achieve.
Also. The Queen from Snow White can do one.
Words by Garry Dawson, Senior Account Executive