Taking the first steps to a career in advertising: a 2012 graduate’s story

Name: SophieSophie
Degree: BSC (Hons) Management (Marketing), 2012, The University of Manchester
Current job: Marketing Assistant at The University of Manchester
About to start a new job as: Junior Planner at advertising agency BJL

Looking back over the past year is quite surreal…It’s gone faster than any year before, yet so much has happened.

Pre-graduation I definitely had real-life fear. People I knew were getting jobs, onto grad schemes, planning elaborate traveling adventures, and I was going home to my mum and dad’s house to watch the Olympics and trawl the internet for employment inspiration.

So when I was asked if I wanted to write a post about my experiences since graduation I thought that hopefully I could inspire a little bit of optimism in 2013’s grads that are in a similar situation to the one I found myself in, and show that everything will come together in the end!

Finding my first job

I wasn’t certain of much career-wise when I graduated but luckily I did have something to go on: I knew that I loved Manchester and I was very interested in communications. Armed with these vague criteria I searched for related jobs in the North West and eventually came across a Manchester Graduate Internship Programme (MGIP) role that really appealed to me and after applying and interviewing I was hired as a Marketing Assistant Intern in August 2012. It’s important to note that at the same time I sent off what feels like hundreds of other emails and applications to companies all over Manchester without much luck, you get there eventually, I promise!

Focussing my ideas

My internship has taught me so much about working life and most importantly it gave me the opportunity to discover exactly what I was interested in, what I was good at and what I definitely didn’t like. Over the year I began to realise that my interest in communications was actually most focused on an interest in advertising. I tried to learn as much as I could about the industry through online magazines, agency open evenings and The Institute of Practioners in Advertising (IPA) Open Day to get a better understanding of what roles I would be suited to.

I was lucky in that my office was full of people with great industry contacts and a genuine willingness to help new graduates develop.  With their guidance I applied to attend a graduate open evening at Manchester based advertising and PR agency BJL and was successful. The evening provided me with real insight into the different job roles and we got the chance to do a mini brief in teams and present back to some people at the company. It was a great evening and really made it clear for me that this was an industry I wanted to get into but hearing how competitive it was, it felt near impossible!

Getting experience

After following up with the evening’s organisers to thank them, I was delighted to get a response asking if I’d be interested in a two week placement. Thankfully my managers in my current job were supportive and generously gave me the leave to take the placement on. At the time I was excited about the opportunity, but didn’t realise just how crucial a turning point it would be in my ‘professional life’ (inverted commas used here because I still don’t feel like a real grown-up just yet).

The placement gave me the opportunity to see the work of an Account Manager and a Planner and gave me an invaluable insight into how an agency operates and splits its clients and workloads. It left me feeling excited as I finally knew what career path I wanted to follow and understanding more about how the industry operated made me more positive that I could actually get in somewhere.

Applying for jobs again

I went back to my MGIP role  for the remaining months of my contract, began applying for Account Executive roles in Manchester and also got back in touch with BJL. With a little stroke of luck they were looking for a new Account Executive and a new Junior Planner. I interviewed for both positions as I knew I’d enjoy either. They felt I’d be most suited to a planning role as I’m very methodical by nature, a valuable trait when doing lots of research and analysis!

So, I have one week left at the University on my MGIP before I begin as a Junior Planner, a bittersweet feeling as I’m so excited to get started on my advertising adventure but I’ll be sad to leave a role that has taught me a great deal and given me a lot more confidence in my strengths.


If you have just graduated and aren’t sure of your perfect career path, (does that even exist), don’t put pressure on yourself! A job you take now doesn’t have to be, and probably won’t be, your ‘forever’ job. Any graduate level role that appeals to you will be beneficial. It could end up highlighting an area you grow to love or simply show you something you definitely don’t want to pursue any further – either way I’d advocate the benefits of short term internships to all new graduates, it really gave me the chance to see where I’d fit, as cheesy as that sounds!


Are you a Manchester graduate with a story to tell about your early career? Would you like to contribute your experience to this blog? Email careers.info@manchester.ac.uk FAO Holly.

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