How I got my marketing graduate job at Johnson & Johnson

Ellie Brewer did a marketing placement year at Johnson & Johnson before joining its graduate scheme. Her secret to job application success? Being selective.
When writing your application, analyse the job description very carefully to mirror the language used by the company.

I have always known I wanted a business-related career; however, I wasn’t immediately sure of the exact role. I chose marketing, and brand management in particular, because I loved the sound of how varied the role would be. A brand manager oversees brand performance and develops and optimises advertising and marketing campaigns. I have worked on a number of different brands including Calpol, Neutrogena and Nicorette and repeatedly apply both analytical and creative skills to each role.

When working on a specific portfolio I manage budgets, undertake market analysis and work with cross-functional teams and different agencies to produce campaigns. Then, depending on the portfolio, I could potentially be involved in launching apps and websites, managing media campaigns, PR and TV development. The role I perform constantly changes as I manage different brands and this continually motivates me.

Managing my career

I knew at university that I wanted to work for a big blue-chip company. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) came to my attention in my first year after I saw a presentation by a placement year student at J&J. She was very passionate about what she had done – and she had had a lot of responsibility – so I started to look into the company.

In my third year at university, I completed an industrial placement year with J&J and I valued the diversity of my role and the responsibility I was given from the outset. I worked as part of the Neutrogena brand team and helped to manage campaigns across both the UK and Northern Europe.

Because of this, towards the end of the year, I applied to be considered for the J&J graduate scheme. I had an interview and was offered my graduate job the summer after I finished my placement – this was such a relief going into my final year! 

Choosing the right company

When I initially began my job search, I’d attended an interview with a company where the panel spent the entire time cross questioning me. I disliked like this style and decided I wouldn’t like to work in that kind of company culture. After that I began to look at companies in more detail and became more selective over where I applied. It’s important to focus on applying to companies you think you’d enjoy working for if you want to be happy and to progress.

From my research, I found that J&J harbours an inclusive and supportive environment. It impressed me that it places a lot of emphasis on corporate social responsibility, working hard within the local community, and this was a major factor in my initial decision to apply. 

I value that each employee is allocated an additional five days annual leave to undertake volunteering. I am also part of the charity committee, which helps coordinate fundraising and volunteering events, such as carrying out gardening at children’s homes and hosting an afternoon tea for the local elderly community. 

Dealing with responsibility

J&J doesn’t have a set structured graduate scheme; instead, it is tailored to each individual. I’ve gained lots of advice and guidance from the numerous managers I’ve worked with. For example when I started the graduate programme, I found presentations extremely challenging. I informed my first manager and she immediately organised external courses instructing me on how to prepare for presentations and how to present confidently. She then signed me up to deliver as many presentations as possible to enable me to gain experience.

Her belief in my ability helped me to build my confidence and earlier this year I gave a company presentation to over 300 people. As a brand manager, I have enjoyed the level of responsibility I have been assigned and have been promoted twice since joining. When I worked on Calpol I took great satisfaction in working on such a distinguished national brand. I was able to be involved in every step of the process, from creating the digital banners to meeting a lot of mums to conduct market research. I love that J&J gives you a huge amount of responsibility, but the expectation that you will deliver on these projects can be daunting. There are a lot of opportunities but you have to earn them.

Useful advice

When looking for companies to work for, be as selective as possible; choose a company that you really like and put additional time into its application process. Read the company’s website and analyse the job description very carefully to mirror the language used by the company when writing your application. Using the same type of corporate language helps to persuade recruiters that you could easily fit into their company.

When working in a graduate role, it is always important to seek guidance when you need it, but you will be in a far stronger position if you suggest your own solutions to issues or problems. Often you’ll have found the correct answer but you can demonstrate to your manager that you’re thinking in the right way and highlight your problemsolving skills.

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