When it came to choosing what to study at university, my choice was between business and English literature. I had a real passion for both, but when I started to consider what course would prepare me for a future career, business had the edge. I’d always been entrepreneurial; when I was a teenager I would make a bit of spare cash by buying and selling things, such as printer cartridges, and a business degree seemed like the best way to develop this instinct. I chose a degree course that included the opportunity to carry out two six-month placements in order to gain as wide a scope of experience as possible. I wanted to keep an element of creativity in my career, so chose to explore marketing.
That first placement was with the digital marketing team at L’Oréal, and at the end I was invited to complete a further threemonth internship in the general marketing department over the summer. Throughout my time at L’Oréal I was allowed a lot of responsibility and ownership over projects. I found that some of the most important skills to have were determination and assertiveness, as I needed to find new opportunities and drive forward my own projects. For example, I read an interview with the creative director of Selfridge’s in the Evening Standard in which she mentioned that she would really like to be able to offer 15-minute blow dries on the shop floor. I went into the shop the next day and to say that L’Oréal could help to set up a blow dry bar. They agreed and the blow dry bar is still there today.
A style that suits me: what I learned working at L’Oréal
During my work experience with L’Oréal, I gained a sense of how meritocratic the company is: it didn’t matter how experienced you were, it was whether you had good insights that was important. It’s essential to not just show an interest, but also offer an opinion and show you have an idea of what next steps to take.
I also learned that, for me, seeing tangible results of my work is really what motivates me. For example, on my first placement, I was working with what at the time was still called ‘new media’ and doing work that was helping to change how the company’s marketing operated. Previously we had to wait six weeks for legal clearance on a Facebook status. I believe that a lot of the work I was involved in helped to justify the importance of digital marketing to the business leaders.
Shaping my career
During my second placement I realised that I wanted to start my career at L’Oréal. I was very lucky, then, that recruiters at L’Oréal got back in touch with me towards the end of my final year at university and offered me a position on their management trainee graduate scheme. The scheme was made up of three four-month rotations, each in a different marketing or commercial discipline. My first rotation was in the digital marketing team, where I did my placement.
During my internship I, maybe quite cheekily, asked a senior general manager whom I found particularly inspiring, ‘what do I have to do to get to your position as quickly as possible?’ Her advice for me was to gain as broad a range of experience as possible. This advice came to mind during my second rotation in field sales, which was my first experience of commercial functions outside of marketing. Of the three rotations this was my favourite; I travelled around 100 salons in the south of England and worked with small business owners, and was able to see how my help directly influenced their fortunes. After my final rotation in a marketing discipline, I chose to become a sales consultant.
I was in this sales consultant role for a couple of years, before I moved back to a marketing role as a product manager, working on the same brands that I’d previously sold. One of the highlights of my career so far was in this role, when I launched Pureology on the ASOS website, as I spotted this opportunity to bring these products to a wider audience and built up a relationship with the website in order to make it happen. Eventually a national account manager job role opened up and it was suggested I apply. I started in the position two months ago. It’s the biggest step upwards in my career: I’m the youngest person in this position in the company.
One piece of advice that definitely helped my career progression, and that I make sure to pass onto interns and graduates, is to make sure you’re networking with a purpose. Look to build a small group of people who can each offer a specific insight that makes your job easier. Know, too, what you can offer people in return. More personal relationships can build over time.
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