Author: Sirah Awan and Imogen Woods
Today (12th August 2019) is International Youth Day, an internationally recognised day organised by the United Nations to raise awareness of young people living in challenging environments. The theme for 2019 is ‘Transforming Education’, with a focus on the role of inclusive and accessible education in achieving sustainable development.
At AD we’re all fortunate to have had access to a good education and the career opportunities that brings. To mark International Youth Day, we spoke to our two youngest team members, Sirah (24) and Imogen (21), to find out how their educational journey brought them into the communications industry.
When did you decide to pursue a career in communications and why did it appeal to you?
IW: I did a week’s work experience in a B2C marketing agency. The dynamic nature of the work really excited me and I liked the fact that the industry was so broad.
SA: After graduating, I was intrigued by the world of comms. I’ve always had an interest in writing and the media, so I undertook a few internships in various PR agencies to get a taste for it. I enjoyed the tasks I was given and loved the buzz and variety that comes with working in an agency.
What’s your academic background? Did you study communications or a relevant subject?
IW: After my work experience, I knew I wanted to work towards a career in marketing. That informed my A-Level choices of English Language, Psychology, Business Studies and Media Studies. Business Studies was the key subject for my development but the others have still been useful. I took the route of not going to university and started off in an admin role at AD and trained on the job instead. PR is often thought of as a graduate career, and many agencies are quite exclusive in their recruitment, but not having a degree definitely hasn’t held me back.
SA: Growing up, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do. I studied English Literature and Language, Psychology and Sociology at A-Level and was torn between studying English or Psychology at university. I opted for Psychology as I felt it would give me a range of possible career paths. As PR is about influencing audiences, and Psychology is the study of people and behaviour, I’ve found it quite a useful background, even though it may not be the most typical route in. It’s no surprise to me that Edward Bernays, the infamous ‘founder of PR’, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud!
How did you imagine working in communications and how has the reality matched up?
IW: I didn’t even imagine that the world of B2B comms existed. I always assumed that working in a marketing/comms role was consumer focussed and revolved around marketing products. I didn’t envision the in-depth nature of the work, all the moving parts for individual projects and the steps taken to complete them, although that’s one of my favourite parts of the job!
SA: I didn’t appreciate just how much work goes on behind-the-scenes when it comes to planning and executing an effective communications campaign. It really is a team effort and each person’s input can make the world of difference to the end result.
I also think I didn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘busy’ until I experienced working in a comms agency! At university, I would stress about meeting assignment deadlines even though I had weeks to prepare for them and ample hours of free time each week. Working in the world of comms is a lot more fast-paced, with even higher volumes of work that need to be turned around in shorter time frames.
Do your friends and family understand what your job entails?
IW: They know I do a bit of social media, PR and event support but I don’t think they know the extent of the day-to-day work I do.
SA: I think they have a loose idea and their understanding grows the more they talk to me about it. But there have definitely been times where I’ve had to explain that, unlike Samantha from ‘Sex and the City’, I don’t plan red-carpet events and go out for fancy long lunches each day!
What are the best and trickiest parts of the job?
IW: For me, one of the best parts has to be that no two days are the same. I love the fact that my job is challenging and exciting and there’s always something new to get stuck into.
The most challenging part for me is developing my confidence and learning the ins and outs of our clients. Being young can also be a challenge because you want to be respected but also have to appreciate that you’re still learning. The best part about working for an agency like AD is the support I’m given, and access to so many training and development opportunities.
SA: Working in an integrated comms agency gives me exposure to all the various aspects behind a successful campaign, whether that’s PR, advertising, social media or visual content. It’s also really rewarding seeing the results of the team’s hard work, whether that’s in the form of client press coverage or seeing how social content is performing.
Balancing and prioritising my workload is inevitably challenging, but it’s also what I love about the job – there’s always plenty to do and no day is ever boring. I love the reward and sense of accomplishment that comes with it.
What’s more, I’m constantly building my understanding of the print and packaging industries we specialise in, and the changing comms landscape. Given the technologically advancing world we live in, the learning never really stops, no matter what industry you’re in or what level you’re at.