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It’s no holiday: 5 pieces of career advice for university students

By May 21, 2019 Stories

Every year, I’m honoured to be asked by my university to lecture students studying new media about what it takes to ‘make it’ in a marketing world that moves faster than a Lamborghini on a speedway.

While my lecture focusses on innovative campaigns that use new media, I truly believe the principles that will make you stay current in the digital marketing space aren’t new at all.

In fact, most have nothing to do with creativity or technology, but mindset and just how willing you are to ‘do’ the work.

With 10 years marketing experience, my own business and an upcoming lecture to 400+ new media students, I thought it was timely to dish out some advice to my 20-year-old self.

If I was lecturing little(r) Hannah (I’m 154cm, yo), this is what she would need to hear … and maybe you need to hear it as well …. no matter what stage of your career you’re in.

1. Hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle

I don’t know about you, but I was never the smartest in the class. I used to covet the clever cookies who seemed to do everything with ease while everything I did always felt like hard work.

I’ve always been working up a sweat, lifting the intelligence barbell a bit further with every task assigned to me.

It probably took ten years too long for me to learn one of life’s great lessons (not ironically the hard way), that hard work will always trump lazy talent.

I know this more than ever now that I run my own business and build teams, stacking them with the hardest workers I can lay my hands on.

The lesson: It doesn’t matter what job you land, where you work or what the work culture is like – success boils down to outperforming your competitors. How do you outperform them? You work harder than them.

2. If you don’t go for it, someone far less talented than you will

Over the course of my career I’ve seen people far less talented than you or I go for and land roles I could have. Sound familiar?

How many times have you read a job description and thought “oh, I don’t have 3-5 years’ experience” and not applied?

Or “I don’t know how to build WordPress sites” so I just won’t apply.

Now that I’m on the receiving end of hundreds of resumes, I see that other people don’t have my kind of self-doubt and are happy to throw their hat in the ring– when people like me would have been too scared.

The lesson: Kick self-doubt to the curb and get on with it. If you’re not qualified for that position, let the employer decide that, but for goodness sakes don’t NOT apply and take yourself out of the running. Take it from someone who hires staff, so often you don’t know what you’re looking for until it walks through the interview room door.

3. The learning never stops

When I left university, I ran out so fast I didn’t let the door hit me on the way out. Little did I know, the learning was only just about to begin. Uni had prepared me for theory, but I was well short of practice.

With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I’d started devouring podcasts, books and eNewsletters about the industry sooner.

I was three years into my career before a (very kind) colleague pointed out that if I wanted to get ahead in marketing, I should probably sign up to eNewsletters from the peak marketing bodies and read daily news of new campaigns and their pitfalls and triumphs.

Since you’re not always going to have the luxury of working on big, mega-bucks accounts, you might as well read about them and take inspiration.

The lesson:  Listen to podcasts like Contentious and read more books related to your field of interest and sooner. I waited until I was running my own business to start my obsession with entrepreneurial books, and I wish I started ten years ago. It makes me wonder how much more I’d know now. Click here for my top reading picks.

4. Your network is your net worth

I was the kind of student who was more interested in working my part-time job and earning money than getting to know my peers. Sorry guys!

When I look back at it, I missed the opportunity to network everyday with some 400+ marketing students who are probably all now in roles I would like Media Mortar to contract to.

Take it from me, never turn down the opportunity for networking no matter what phase of your career you’re in.

The lesson: You never know when you’ll need the people sitting next to you in the theatre – so get off your phone and meet people IRL.

5. You have more time than you know what to do with

We have a joke in our office – I wish we had the commitments of a uni student!

Sure, balancing part-time work, internships and studies is hard – but it’s got nothing on full-time employment.

The lesson: Get on with it. Get an internship, get some experience and show your worth. The sooner you start your internship, the sooner you can build experience to start the next phase of your career journey and resign from your part-time job altogether.

Cliff Notes from the post: Do the work

If you’re sitting in a lecture theatre and I am coming to speak at a university near you, this post is your spoiler alert. My session won’t deliver the silver bullet you might have been hoping for. My biggest piece of career advice for people starting out, boils down to work hard, talk less, listen more.

Armed with that, you’re unstoppable!

For other tips like this, check out our post about how to intern like a boss.

By Hannah Statham

Hannah Statham is The Boss at Media Mortar. She’s a heavy weight wordsmith, punching with puns, analogies and metaphors that leave readers wanting more. When she’s not refreshing her Instagram feed, you’ll find Hannah walking her rescue greyhound Olivia.