To put it bluntly, my journey into something I like doing was longer than it had to be. So many perceptions around work and education can often make it difficult for young people, and adults to be honest, to find the right path. I went down some of the same routes that are still there today and, whilst good for some, it’s not for everyone.
Attending university in the early noughties was a different experience than before. It had opened up substantially for everyone as the Government of the time finally woke up to the need for an educated society. However, this meant pressure for everyone to go at the cost of other options that may be better suited; apprenticeships are the most obvious example.
Had I been born ten years earlier, it’s unlikely that I would have gone to university. I possessed average intelligence back then – and that’s being generous – and little interest in learning, but I had an opportunity and nothing else to do; the barriers around cost have risen considerably since then.
So, after I graduated, I still had nothing to do, but now I had student loans to pay off and the awareness that, as a graduate who hadn’t worked in some time, had to do something. So, in the absence of any plan, I went to work for my father’s village shop and, for the next seven years, not only made no use of my degree, but turned my mind off to any form of learning whatsoever. I had, somehow, come out of university with less of an appetite to better myself.
After a while, I looked for work elsewhere, but my main criteria was to have weekends free again, it wasn’t through any deep thinking. So, I got a sales job and sold audio visual equipment to resellers for the next eighteen months to a large company that, due to the nature of distribution, few would have heard of outside the industry.
Such a large office comes with its own challenges, but it’s important to find your niche in the world of work; something that can carry you through bad days and where you can put your skills to good use and, ideally, move up the ladder. Sales was not that avenue for me; I was decent and, given time, I may have earned a lot more money, but I didn’t feel like my skill sets and interested were being used effectively. The problem was, I didn’t know what could.
That’s where marketing comes in
It was during a night out that I met somebody who provided the answer. She was doing a CIM marketing course and I was instantly intrigued. I looked at my options, saved a bit of money and was able to start three months later.
Completing that CIM course allowed me transition in to marketing after I left sales. It gave me a foundation that allowed me to do the job well, because I had the theoretical knowledge to put into practice when asked to do so. I was open to learning from others and I suddenly had the sort of environment that suited me and my learning style.
After this, I came to work at the Chartered Institute of Marketing itself, where I am practicing some of my skills and learning others. This includes writing content for Exchange, where I am finally using my English Literature degree, and helping present and create webinars for our membership. I am also openly going on the training days and presentation classes CIM run, because it is not just marketing that they specialise in.
Ultimately, what I have learnt the most is that you have to find the route that suits your learning style best; and that can be wildly different from even the people you are closest with and, superficially, most like. My friends thrived at university, but I was not ready for that style and hands-off contact; I needed specialised training days and smaller class sizes that drew me out of my comfort zone.
That’s not to knock university – at CIM our graduate gateway scheme allows marketing degree holders to gain a qualification or award alongside our studies – but students have more access to other types of learning.
Marketing is open to all types of learners and CIM is open to all types of marketers. We hold graduate gateway because degree learners are important to where we go as an industry, but we run one day training events and our own long-term courses because we know that learning needs are based on the person involved. We also work closely with selected partners in dealing with marketing apprenticeships, because our industry is one strongly based on being open to all talents and all routes.
So, my advice is simple if you want to avoid the near decade long wait that I had before I finally hit on a career that suited me; be open to possibilities. Do not assume that university is the only route because many industries, like marketing, are giving access through more paths than ever before; pick the right one for you.
Adam Pyle - Chartered Institute of Marketing