This time last year, a really small startup company (that shall not be named, only heavily inferred so you can quite easily figure them out yourself) offered me a job as a “Campaigns and Communications Executive” in their tiny East London office. Playing the dogsbody for less than minimum wage was my first job, and ran me completely ragged – no matter how much you dress it up as white collar work, when you’re freelance earning just under a grand a month but working 55+ hours a week and managing shifts for a team of 20 staff, you’re not exactly making it rain. When I was offered this job, my would-be line manager mentioned in a roundabout way; “We tend to hire younger people… because they’re cheap.” No kidding. Take a graduate with £20,000+ debts and offer them a job – any job – in an economic downturn; and despite their aspirations to become the next David Ogilvy, they’re going to more often than not bite your hand clean off. Which is what I did.
I only lasted about two months in that job, before gallivanting around the country in an early 90s Suzuki Swift with folk-punk louts Let’s Go Nowhere – both the lack of people shouting for unrealistic deadlines and the lack of money were far more comforting than having a job which put me constantly on edge. All I had to my name was free time, and I was happier than I’d been in weeks.
Naturally, this gave me reservations about going for jobs in future – especially agency work. The sad fact about job applications in a recession is that a lot of graduates will find themselves plagued by recruitment agents (read: vultures), the prospect of “unpaid internships, because the experience is invaluable,” and – my personal favourite – “have you ever considered that there might not be marketing jobs out there? Digital marketing isn’t for everyone. I have a workfare placement here for Tesco on the Old Kent Road…” Much like the completely abysmal state of shark-like “music promoters” preying on naïve upstart bands, the current employment market in the UK has become littered with pricks looking to make a fast buck off desperate graduates who have felt the glamour of graduate schemes wear off, the excitement of campus life ebb away, and the crushing reality of low-paid retail work or unpaid “white collar” work beckon.
The crux of this sorry state of affairs is arguably the old catch 22 of no experience means no work, and no work means no experience. Nobody is willing to give anyone a shot at proving themselves at the bottom of the ladder unless it’s unpaid – I myself was turned down for several paid internships at small nobody agencies before finding a place at Render Positive. This is despite the growing issues of both old-school, more experienced marketers gaining more skills and subsequently demanding more money for their services; and bad recruiters hyping up and inflating standard wages for executives whose skill levels don’t match. There is a significant need for new blood to fill this gap. The fact is, scouting out and recruiting hungry, hard-working and highly-skilled entry-level executives isn’t only essential for agency growth and development – in a fast-moving industry like digital marketing, the inclusion of young, new thinkers will often provide you with an advantage over the dinosaur agencies of yesteryear. You can’t really teach innovation and creativity, but you can find someone with these talents and teach them digital marketing.
I graduated with a 2:1 in History in 2011, and everyone assumed I would go on to do a masters or become a teacher. Teaching snot-nosed kids something they probably didn’t want to learn didn’t really appeal to me, but selling people shit they wanted on the internet did. Something a lot of places I approached for a “no experience, so pay me anything” job didn’t understand was that History research and analysis skills can be applied to competitor analyses, keyword research, blogger outreach and PPC analytics, amongst other things. Creative writing is copywriting, drama and the creative arts lend themselves very well to innovation and so on and so forth; the point is, graduates are often diamonds in the rough with transferable skills that you’re only going to discover if you actually pluck them from obscurity and polish them yourself. Recruiting entry level workers can be an investment for your agency, just like setting a PPC budget or outsourcing web design work – only it’s a lot more worthwhile, and its potential ROI can hit astronomical levels. Plus, do you really like getting calls from recruitment agencies and paying them unnecessary fees for sending you shit candidates? Does anyone? Including the candidates?!
In an industry that’s only been hit by the recession in the sense that other businesses have less money to spend on digital marketing, many potential executive superstars of tomorrow are having their work devalued and are growing ever wearier – with each passing day comes another recruiter promising the earth and another unpaid internship that drops a graduate back at square one. I’m not saying you should take on mounds of ignorant Gap Yah pricks, but there’s an entire blank slate workforce out there waiting to be tapped, if only you’d give them a chance.
You don’t need to promise them the earth, either. Paid, valued work with hands-on training and experience is more than any would-be dole-scum 1-in-10 could ever ask for. Nobody at entry-level should be looking for the £25,000+ a year some recruiters seem to be able to conjure up, and if they are, they’re probably not the sort of candidate you want. What you need to look for is someone who’s simply willing to work: honest work for honest pay. Add some half-decent training to raw talent and you’ll get top-notch infographics like this one.
I’ve worked here for six months now. Since I started, three more entry-level executives have been taken on at RP+ HQ, and chances are, when they’re given a new, unfamiliar task; I’m the one training them. I’m also looking to take on my first large account in the coming months. That’s right – I’ve now garnered enough “necessary experience” to wear multiple marketing hats; and what’s more, through hard work, scrimping and living on beans on toast, I managed to afford my own second hand car last week. If that’s not an incentive to inexperienced, wet-behind-the-ears potential marketing heroes of tomorrow, I don’t know what is.
And it’s got leather seats. And it’s got a CD player. Player. Player. Player.
Get more great stuff delivered fresh to your inbox.