Case study

Marketing student — Gemma Russell-Abbey

Gemma is studying BA Marketing at the University of Huddersfield, while also serving as the social media coordinator for the marketing student society and working part time

Why did you choose to study marketing? 

Marketing is an ideal path for me to pursue due to its diverse career prospects. I really enjoyed my marketing modules during college and the field also resonates with my creative and strategic thinking, so I wanted to explore the subject further.

I enjoy learning about consumer behaviour and how organisations can use those insights to formulate effective marketing strategies. It's interesting to explore the psychological and sociological aspects of consumer behaviour.

Tell us about your course. 

The course covers subjects such as digital marketing, consumer behaviour, creative marketing communications, and services marketing. In my first and second years, I had around nine hours of lectures and seminars each week.

My course provides the opportunity to take a placement year in the third year to apply my knowledge and develop key skills. I applied for many placement roles that were advertised through the internal placements site, as well as searching for roles myself. I secured a role as an external engagement and marketing assistant at Huddersfield Business School, part of the University of Huddersfield.

What does your placement year involve?

During my interview for the marketing role at Huddersfield Business School, I completed a short task that assessed my prioritisation skills, before being informed I was a successful applicant.

My 12-month placement involves assisting in the delivery of administrative, marketing, and events support for the school's external engagement activities and associated initiatives, such as executive education, employability, and student-led clinics.

I have had the opportunity to design a variety of promotional materials, including flyers and social media content. I also write copy for our social channels to promote blogs and events, and I have written a couple of blogs myself. In addition, I have worked on the newsletter that we send out to businesses.

I have also supported the delivery of events, such as our business breakfast networking event and our student consultancy project presentation week.

My advice for students seeking a placement is to start applying early, persevere through rejections, and not give up. Prior to applying, I sought the expertise of the placements and employability team, who refined my CV and tailored it to the specific roles I was pursuing. This helped to ensure that my CV resonated with what the recruiters were looking for.

What are some of the rewards and challenges of being involved in a student society?

I find my role as social media coordinator for the marketing society rewarding, as I get to exercise my creativity by creating social media content and communicating with our members. However, being on the committee of a student society can be challenging due to time management.

When I'm busy with university assignments or work, it can be difficult to find time to have meetings with the other committee members, plan activities, and create content. As it's something I enjoy, I've had to learn to balance my time well.

What advice would you give to other students who are interested in getting involved in societies?

Go for it. Find a society that interests you, or even start your own. Societies are a great way to make friends, pursue hobbies and have fun away from studying.

How do you balance your studies, part-time work, and extracurricular activities?

This can be a challenge, but having strong organisational and time management skills is key to ensure I keep on top of my assignments and maintain balance. I've also sought support from my academics and manager when I've struggled to balance my responsibilities.

Some advice to other students who are struggling to manage their time is to learn to say 'no', whether that's to your employer or friends, if you are struggling to meet your deadlines. Keep track of your workload and stay organised by using a planner.

What are your career goals, and how are you preparing for your future career?

I'm passionate about live music, so my career goal is to work for a live music company in a marketing role. My marketing degree and work placement have provided me with a deeper understanding of marketing strategy and tools, while my role as a ticket office operator has given me an insight into ticketing, which is useful in the live events industry.

I've also proactively worked to expand my professional network. I've connected with people on LinkedIn who are in my desired field of work, and I actively network with professionals at events I attend during my work placement to foster valuable connections.

Engaging in activities outside of my studies - such as being on the marketing society committee, volunteering at the Academy of Marketing conference, and writing a blog for Huddersfield Business School, providing advice for first years on their assignments - has also helped prepare me for a career in marketing. Across all these activities, I have gained technical and transferable skills that will benefit me when I graduate.

What is your advice for new university students?

  • Manage your time and assignments effectively - be honest with yourself and others about the amount of work you can take on.
  • Utilise available support from your university - I strongly recommend accessing the resources from your institution, such as CV and mock interview support, to ensure you're a strong candidate and are well-prepared for prospective interviews.
  • Get involved in as much as you can - these experiences will not only bolster your skill set but also distinguish you for a future in the competitive job market.

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