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Stepping stones from uni into marketing: top tips from Polly at the Creative Careers Festival

At this spring’s Creative Careers Festival, hosted by Exeter University, our Account Executive, Polly, was invited to deliver a talk about her route into marketing and where she is now. Read on to learn about how she did it, what agency life is like, and what you can do to get into the industry too.

Polly, how did you decide to enter the marketing industry?

I started with an Art and Design Foundation course at Falmouth University, and moved on to do a BA Creative Advertising degree, initially getting me into the sector. What appealed to me about this course was the idea that it’d take me in a slightly different direction and broaden my scope for a career, while still having creative elements to it.

Did your University degree prepare you for working in marketing? If so, in what ways?

With a course split between copywriting and art direction, I was in my creative element, and I had the opportunity to work on exciting brands with London agencies, like J. Walter Thomson. A majority of the course was based around the common route to London, which isn’t for everyone. But there are loads to take away from the process and transferable skills that can be used elsewhere. Though I didn’t follow the London route, the course did still prepare me for what was to follow. I think it’s important to remember that a degree is incredibly valuable, even if you decide to go slightly off course afterwards.

Your degree doesn’t have to take you down one specific path – you can divert!


What was the first job you had in marketing?

My first industry job during my third year was an internship in a social media marketing agency. This was arranged through Unlocking Potential, who offer support by providing career opportunities. I’d recommend them to anyone wanting to take that next step. As a student or new graduate, it’s a good idea to utilise career support resources as much as you can, as well as seeking an internship. Like me, it could gain you:

  • A step into the marketing industry.
  • Insight and experience of working in an agency.
  • New skills and interest in social media marketing.
  • Access and connections from networking events & business awards.
  • A job straight from University.

A career is about stepping stones, and an internship can be a big one. I’d advise students to gain as much experience as they can, however long, short or even regardless of the industry – it’ll show ambition and a willingness to put time into learning something new.

After graduation and starting the internship, I stayed on full time for a further year, completely skipping the new-grad worry that happens to most. This provided me with invaluable agency experience that led me to the next step.

If you have moved into work in the last 5 years, what was the recruitment process like? Are there any useful tips you can share?

Interested in another area of marketing, I started working at 3WhiteHats, but of course, that started with an interview. I was pleasantly surprised at how at ease I felt, it’s everything I could have hoped for from an interview. What made it so, was the stunning environment and the friendly atmosphere.

I’d advise interviewees to:

  • Do your research: stalk their social media, study the website and take notes of things that stand out to you.
  • What are their company values? 3WHs’ are honesty & transparency. Take note and apply to your interview.
  • Always have a few questions ready to ask – show an interest in the company.
  • Show them something visual: an example of your best work, portfolio or personal blog.
  • Do you follow a blog or social account that inspires you? Mention this, it’ll demonstrate your interest.
  • Always take a copy of your CV.

But most importantly:

Always be honest about your capabilities… if it’s not your strong point, show your enthusiasm to learn.


How would you describe the work environment at 3WhiteHats?

3WhiteHats is incredibly supportive. We all have a yearly training budget that can be used for personal development. We also have group training sessions, workshops and even the opportunity to gain qualifications, as well as using Friday afternoons for our own ‘research and development’ – whether that’s doing an online course or just reading up on industry news.

Attending events like brightonSEO is also a twice-yearly occurrence for us where we usually split off and visit talks on our sectors, making sure to bring back as much information as possible to share with the wider team. With four different sectors in the agency, Content Marketing, Technical SEO, Paid and Analytics, there is a significant merging of different disciplines, so we’re never without expert knowledge from all angles.

We also know how to keep things fun! With our own beach, naturally, we have company paddleboards that can be used for morning, lunchtime or evening paddles, or for the occasional meeting. With a healthy company ethos, many of us enjoy lunchtime swims, running club and often take part in charity runs. Some of us even have weekly lunchtime Spanish lessons. We always finish off the week with a team lunch and afternoon beers, just to make Friday even better! This agency is the true embodiment of the perfect work-life balance which is important when you spend a lot of your time at work.


Describe a typical day in your job role.

A typical day for me in creative SEO involves content creation, link building and account managing a wonderfully diverse range of clients. I spend a lot of my time working with publications and bloggers trying to lock down the best content angles and placements for clients. I also spend a lot of time writing blogs and articles, as well as proofreading content which I find very satisfying!


Make your skills known… they may be put to good use!


I’d also suggest always making your skills known even if they’re not completely relevant to the job role. Coming from a social media marketing background, I was handed our in-house social media on day one. Our aim with social is to showcase the company’s personality and culture so that our following can learn about life with us. My firm favourite platform for doing this is Instagram – go check us out!



What are the ‘best’ aspects of your job role?

One of my favourite things to do in my job is to create content, I’d happily write all day! I also love to see results from campaigns. An example is when a client was placed in the Independent, leading to a product selling success!


What are the biggest challenges you face in your job role?

As for many, ‘imposter syndrome’ likes to make an appearance from time to time. This is the idea that you often doubt yourself and your own accomplishments. To help with this:

  • Take constructive criticism on board and use it to your advantage – it’ll only make you better.
  • Remember praise and use it to fuel you.

An example of this is when I wrote website copy that I felt I couldn’t get right. A lovely reply hit my inbox: “Thank you very much Polly – beautifully done”. Now if I doubt myself – I simply remember this.

What skills and qualities do you think people need in order to succeed in your job role?

I think if you have an interest in marketing, it’s completely possible to succeed in it. Everyone at 3WhiteHats has come from different backgrounds. Matt is a Zoology graduate, but he uses his skills to successfully manage fast-paced paid ads. Rosita did a degree in English with Media meaning she has a good eye for creating content, and Alan’s background as a maths teacher means he is good with numbers, and of course a great trainer. Everyone has a unique background with skills that when put together make the perfect team!

As long as you’re enthusiastic about learning new things and willing to be part of an ever-changing industry, as well as being an open-minded person, you have the potential to nail it!

We’re currently looking for new members to the 3WhiteHats team, take a look at our current job opportunities!