In the first of our ‘Team ITG: Thinking Out Loud’ series, Claire Roshanzamir reflects on an amazing week hosting work experience students at Team ITG, examining what the next generation think modern marketing actually is, and how we can better appeal to them.
Last month I got lucky. I got to press pause on a normal week’s shenanigans and host 20 sixth formers on work experience.
They came from a variety of schools (geographically and demographically) and all turned up with one thing in common. None of them really knew what to expect – they had a textbook understanding of marketing but nothing deeper and even less understanding about what goes on in a marketing agency to make it all happen.
I don’t know how you found work experience when you were at school, but for me all those years ago it was pretty vanilla.
My parents had a reputable solicitor friend and he seemed to be the perfect choice for a good, sensible week. So, off I went, fresh notebook and lunchbox in hand, to conclude very speedily that man-alive this was absolutely, 100% not going to be the road for me. Don’t get me wrong – absolutely cracking job if that’s your thing but it left me cold and slightly panicked that maybe all jobs were like that.
So, we planned the Team ITG week with a difference.
We answered briefs, we ran photoshoots, we played with state-of-the-art innovation, we talked everything from digital to client services to tech and we got into the head of a client. And we got the students presenting back to us, so they started to feel some of the adrenaline rush we get so used to.
And I have to say, it was the best bloody week!
Yes, of course it’s always lovely to pause on the day job (although I’m quite a fan of mine as it happens) but it was just so brilliant to get a different lens on all the things you make assumptions about or even stopped seeing years ago.
I thought they’d learn lots but wasn’t quite expecting (naively) that I would too.
Here are just a few of my ‘oh wow, I didn’t think about that properly until now’ moments:
1. They weren’t expecting people at work to actually like each other
Sounds weird, but I genuinely think they thought we did our job simply because we get paid and it’s got be done.
What they didn’t see coming is that there are genuine friendships made at work and that people can actually have a good time.
It made me reflect again on the importance of culture at work. Such a hot topic, and rightly so, but the things that the students were actually picking up on were the small things – the hug hello, the laughing, the nicknames…
Especially post-Covid, these small acts of warmth are the things that make a difference. Of course there’s a role for wellbeing programmes and team-building initiatives (and disclaimer: we have those too), but it’s often the small, everyday things that build a brilliant culture.
When we meet prospects and students, it’s so important to let that culture and personality shine through – we can’t let people second guess what it’s like to work somewhere.
2. It’s not just the sexy creative jobs that appeal
I fully expected them to be dazzled by our amazing creative director Jo Wilby (rightly so) but what I didn’t see coming was how it was totally horses for courses.
We ran sessions on CRM, strategy, client services, digital performance, sales and then a host of creative services – but as a team they all had different favourites.
The thinking that goes into data and CRM appealed to many of the students doing business or maths, as there was a science element to it that really piqued their interest.
Strategy appealed to the problem solvers in the room who could totally understand that you need to get under the skin of the challenge before anything can really get going.
Client services was an eye opener for the organised, talkative ones. They hadn’t really had a sense of what it was or why it mattered before, and it was a real lightbulb moment for many of them, understanding the glue that holds those all-important relationships together.
I was really reminded that the jobs that suit us are because we’re all different personality types.
Just because we all work for a marketing agency doesn’t mean we’re all the same type of people at all. No doubt we’ve got stuff in common, but there’s so many jobs in our business I’d be totally shocking at!
We can’t just talk to the kids about jobs, we need to talk to them about their personality and explore their strengths with them, so that we can help work out where they might fit best.
3. Sounds obvious, but most kids don’t know what they want to do at 17
Let’s face it – very few of us did (and maybe there are a lot of us who still don’t!).
We had many questions across the week about the career paths we all followed to get our illustrious titles and jobs. When we all started to tell our stories, it was so interesting to see that no-one set off to be where we are now. We’ve got ex-chemists, lorry drivers, translators, retailers…a real mixed bag.
There was rarely a big flash of inspiration which led to a career in marketing. Which is brilliant – as it means we have got people of all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. Marketing is fantastic for that as it doesn’t need a five-year specific course in something or other – it just needs the right attitude and if you have that in spades, you can often learn the rest as you go.
We have a responsibility to make it OK to learn on the job, to move newcomers around, to let people not like something, or even fail and for that to be OK.
Because tomorrow’s marketing directors don’t come in a mould.
4. When students think marketing, they don’t think tech
Admittedly we’re a very tech-led marketing agency, so when people don’t think about tech we always raise an eyebrow, but the core understanding of marketing for most students isn’t one that includes tech platforms to support everything.
Which I get.
I’m not (this will come as no shock to anyone who knows me) what could be called tech-savvy.
But I definitely understand the vital role that systems such as Storyteq (our own home-built platform) delivers now to marketers. From planning to asset storage to deployment to campaign sign-off – it’s all underpinned by tech.
For many students though, marketing is advertising. It’s what they get on their phone. It’s Nike, or Coke, or Gymshark. But understanding what drives all those campaigns, what is sorting out the brand compliance, the deliveries into stores, the email drop… that was a real eye opener for them.
We need to make sure that marketing becomes synonymous with tech, like so many industries already are. Not only because it makes the sector so much richer and more capable, but because it opens up so many more jobs and opportunities.
Stuck between choosing a career in tech or creative? No need any more…
5. Lastly, offices are seen as deadly-boring (well, until they met us)
Pretty much every student started the week thinking that offices were boring. Somewhere people shuffled in at 9am and shuffled out again eight hours later.
So, our set-up came as a shock. They hadn’t expected somewhere that felt homely or welcoming. The football table, cinema room and even the Costa machine were a revelation to them and genuinely the last thing they’d expected.
Post-Covid our relationships with our offices have changed. Hybrid working is the norm, although there’s definitely nothing that beats the feeling of being all together. But we have to remember that this new intake of marketers are joining us (and indeed anywhere) for the first time. Lessons are learnt in the corridors and over a cup of tea and impressions of a business are formed in the physical space as well as over teams.
The impact and importance of brilliant working environments is as strong as ever and we need to debunk the myth for kids that offices are beyond dull.
So, what next?
Over the next few weeks we will be grabbing all the learnings we can from this year’s programme and making sure that next year is even better – because the pool of talent we were lucky enough to meet was absolutely amazing.
They listened hard, they were brave and most importantly – they wanted it.
And with that attitude, the marketing of tomorrow looks set to be in good hands.
Claire Roshanzamir, Team ITG
For more details on the young people’s programmes we run, or to learn about Team ITG’s world-leading technology and award-winning services, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.