A Degree Just Isn’t Enough

a degree isnt enough, Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels

Does this video ring any bells? If so it’s time to give yourself a little pep talk. As GradTouch rightly says “Don’t Do This”.

But it’s hard, when you feel like you’re stuck in a rut. You’ve applied for loads of jobs that sound great on paper and you know you can do everything they are asking for in the job ad.

I know exactly how it feels because this was me back in 2002.

And it wasn’t pretty…

After three years of studying (partying) hard I graduated with my 2:1 in Media. Great! I was mega chuffed with my hard work so decided to treat myself to an extended holiday –
– for a year.

Upon returning to the UK after a year of sun, debauchery and ridiculous fun I felt ready, even enthusiastic to embark on a career.

Three months later that enthusiasm waned and had turned into the doldrums.  I had no money, was living with my parents, and applying for 20 + jobs daily. I knew I could do them standing on my head if only I could get myself in front of the interviewer.

Why why why couldn’t I get an interview?

The harsh reality was that I just hadn’t put as much effort into my future career as other candidates. The career I had chosen, by the way, was marketing.

I desperately wanted to work in marketing. It sounded cool. I knew people in marketing jobs they earned well and enjoyed it. This is a massive confession for me, I’m actually embarrassed to write this, but I had very little clue what marketing was. I was happy to wing it.

I hadn’t done any research into the subject, I hadn’t done any relevant work experience and I, frankly, did not know what the hell I was talking about.

The wake up call

I took a reasonably well paid job in recruitment. It was dull, but got me out of the house and earning money and at least I could afford to meet my mates in town. Life started again, but I was restless. This was not the career I wanted. I was convinced I was destined for better things.

Then one day, six months later, I got a phone call from one of the many recruitment consultants I was registered with. I had finally got an interview for a marketing role. Yippee!

This was it. I was going to change my life overnight. I proudly told my Mum and Dad that I would be moving out soon.


Can you believe how naive I was?

I bet you can guess what happened next.

The interview was awful. I didn’t really prepare all that much, apart from look into the company a bit and learn what they did and who ran the company. I thought that was enough.

I left the interview feeling dejected, stupid and out of hope. It didn’t go how I had played it out in my head. But, like Adele, I called the interviewer, in the vain hope that I wasn’t the worst candidate she’d had.

The best advice I’ve ever been given

The lady who interviewed me was really nice on the phone. She let me down gently and suggested that I find myself some work experience in a relevant marketing role so that I have something relevant to offer an employer and also to see if it’s what I like doing. She explained that the other candidates had more experience than me.

Whilst I had a lot of work experience on my CV – I was a hard worker there was no doubt about that, having worked in a garden centre at weekends through school, bars in the evenings at uni and temping during summer breaks – none of it screamed marketing experience.

Applying for marketing work experience

I changed tack and applied for some work experience. I was fortunate enough to get a placement on Marie Claire magazine and I loved it. I decided that not only did I want to work in marketing, but I wanted to work for a publisher.

Next, I got a placement working for a large hair salon chain promoting the salon and driving footfall into the stores. Whilst this didn’t fit the publishing bill, I decided that I should get as much experience as I possibly could. And again I loved it.

The start of a blossoming career in marketing…

I was having such a great time working in London, from an office in Holborn; attending hair shows in the evening; visiting the upmarket salons in Knightsbridge and Covent Garden and even getting free funky haircuts.

I put the hours in and worked hard, and guess what, I was good at it. My confidence rocketed and I no longer felt like a failure. I could confidently say that I wanted to work in marketing and I had much more of a clue what I was talking about. I was believable.

After two months of free work, my boss offered me a job. I started working for £12,000 a year. A fraction of what I was earning in recruitment, but I was living with my parents and it was ok, because I was enjoying myself. At the end of two years in this role my salary had increased to £25,000 and I honestly felt like I had made it. Now it was time to get the job in publishing.

Fast forward 12 years

I’ve had a great career thus far; largely working in digital marketing for publishing businesses, but I’ve also worked for a start-up app business, promoted events for large multi-nationals, fund-raising for a charity and even set-up a logo design and web design business.

Now it’s your turn and graduates have got it even tougher today. I don’t envy you.

Most of you are told at school about the importance of work experience and so it’s something that most graduates that I’ve interviewed have an abundance of. Recruiters have far higher expectations of graduates, and so the task of making yourself stand out from the other candidates is infinitely harder.

And it gets worse.

There are even more of you. More talented graduates for each job. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. It’s bleak. But don’t give up hope. Not yet.

If you can learn anything from my experience…

  • Going travelling is great! I’d recommend it to everyone. But, try to do something (apart from partying and sunbathing) that you can proudly put on your CV. Volunteer. Write a blog. Fund your travels with work.
  • Don’t take a full time job in an industry that you don’t want to work in just for money. Use your time working on something relevant whether that’s work experience, digital marketing training, an internship at a digital marketing agency, or build a website for a small business. Use your skills.
  • Think about how you can make your CV relevant to the business and the role you are applying for. The trick is to put yourself in the shoes of the business and think about what the company wants you for. Don’t simply use your CV to list what you are good at and what you think you can do for them. Your perspective will almost always differ to that of the recruiter and so you will lose out.

We will be posting practical advice here every day to help you kick-start your career in digital marketing. It’s absolutely worth it when you get the job of your dreams. Hang in there.

About post author

Hello. My name is Lucy Smith. I recently quit my full-time Marketing Director role at a tech start-up in London, (after 13 years hard graft getting there), in favour of starting up on my own. Why? The journey from graduating with a 2:1 in Media and Cultural Studies to Marketing Director hasn't all been plain sailing, but is has been challenging and tremendous fun. A career path that I heartily recommend to anyone who will listen. Digital Marketing For Graduates is my brain-child. I'd like to give something back, as well as have the experience of starting my own business. I will give it my all. Provide and source the very best information I can, but I know I can't do it all alone. For Digital Marketing For Grads to evolve I will need some help. Please get in touch if you'd like to be part of the idea.
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