By Janita Pulami Magar
I am currently a second year student studying BA Advertising and Marketing at University of Greenwich. Through the business school’s weekly bulletin email, I saw an advert for Empowering Futures, an organisation that helps you partner up with an entrepreneur to help lead a project in their business for 3 months. I decided to take this opportunity since I was not doing any work at the time and the advert said it was perfect for marketing students. However, I reluctantly decided to go. I was apprehensive as the advert also specified it was ideal for future business leaders and truthfully, I do not see myself as a leader. Nonetheless, I forced myself since I needed experience in marketing. Prior to this, I had no marketing experience which put pressure on me to quickly find marketing part-time work experience or an internship so this advert about Empowering Futures was great timing and the result? An experience that I would definitely recommend.
After signing up and meeting with Empowering Futures founder, Laura, she had already picked out partners that would be suitable and for me it was Joanna, the founder of Footprints Africa, an organisation created to find a sustainable method to help support local emerging business in developing countries such as Ghana.
It was an amazing 3-month experience collaborating with Footprints Africa. From the working environment, tasks, responsibilities, connecting with Joanna and working with other professionals, it was a very welcoming organisation and I enjoyed my time there.
There were of course difficult times. For example, I didn’t understand certain topics and language. Speaking out loud was intimidating as I am not very confident however, Joanna, Khalia and other individuals that worked with Footprints Africa were kind enough to thoroughly explain and support me. Another way this was done was by encouraging me to make a presentation about my ideas explaining all my thoughts, this made me sure that not only did I understand the topic but also gave me practice to better my speaking skills.
What have I gained in terms of marketing and overall skills from working at Footprints Africa?
Due to the heavy research when I first started Footprints Africa, it made me more attentive and detail oriented in my researching skills. Later in the project, there was a change in structure of collecting information meaning adapting to alterations which is important to every job. Another skill that I learned was working with people who you don’t know. In marketing, it is important to meet new and different people because marketing is a very profession about understanding people. Therefore, for me to warm up and also to experience this (I had never experienced it before) was a lesson to be more confident (work in progress!!). It is certainly hard however I am trying to live in the mind-set of not worrying about people’s judgements but just focusing on what you are saying, as suggested by Joanna!
Other valuable digital marketing skills that I picked up were, navigating my way around graphic design websites to create logos for Footprints Africa and learning what certain images and design to use in order to convey the organisation’s image and intention.
As if the experience in Footprints Africa was not enough, Joanna and Khalia were kind enough to help me talk to 4 start-up organisations to ask them for career advice.
The first company was Second Home, which is an open space co-working environment for small businesses to work at, where Footprints Africa is based. I met with Mita, the general manager. Mita advises that today working with start-ups is very useful, because you can showcase more responsibilities in a smaller company. I agree since the skills I learnt working in Footprints Africa definitely covered a variety of areas, not just for marketing professions. Currently, I am looking for part-time work in the summer holiday before the final year and this made me reflect on the type of organisation I should look for in order to increase my experience to a wide range of skills. I can see that offering new skills different from those typically expected in a job role will definitely help you.
The second company was Words of Colour, which is an organisation that helps promote writers of colours and give them the chance to appear more in the British media. For this I met up with the founder, Joy. Her number one advice was, when looking for employees, they have to make sure they are good at communicating and building a relationship with her and clients. I very much agree and it has helped me re-evaluate the impact of my confidence expressing myself. Putting myself in Joy’s shoes, I would also want my employees to be comfortable and connect well. Without clear communication, tasks and projects are going to go wrong. Applying this to my own life, I have decided to talk to more people such as when going to parties, and be more open, as a way to practice.
The third company was Saffron, a brand consultancy that helps create and revise brands. I met up with Brand Strategist Alejandro. His advice was not to limit yourself, meaning take opportunities even if they are not related to your study or career. This goes back to Empowering Futures, because if I hadn’t taken the chance to look twice at that email, if I had just ignored it…. Instead I stepped out of my comfort zone to take on this new journey, which I have thoroughly enjoyed and has taught me so much!
The last company that I talked to was Spacehive, which is an organisation helping projects and ideas get funding, with the goal to make a positive impact. I talked with Community Manager, Harriett. Since I had no marketing experience, she told me that creating my own portfolio would be the best option because it shows that I am dedicated and what I can offer to support the marketing of a company. This is a great idea that I would never have thought of and one that can support students who struggle to find work experience in companies. There is a lot of advice and templates that can be found on the internet and since I am short on marketing experiences, having an eye-catching portfolio may help get a job. At the very least, it gives me the opportunity to create experience for myself and take control of my own development.
Overall, taking the risk to do something was definitely a good idea. If I had not joined Empowering Futures, gained experience in Footprints Africa and heard professional advice, then I would still be stuck in the same mind-set I was 4 months ago where I was not motivated enough. I can use this helpful advice to help me build a way to get to my future career.
Janita Pulami Magar
BA Advertising and Marketing
University of Greenwich