Career Inspiration: Kirsten Buchanan – Marketing and Communications Executive

Career Inspiration is a new series here on Prettygreentea. I’m spending my evenings interviewing and having a good old chat with inspirational and hard-working people from the blogging world. The aim of these interviews is to help those of you looking for career inspiration, change or a kick of motivation. I think that today’s interview is going to be useful for those of you currently in university.

It’s very hard to know what you want to do in life and I’ve always loved finding out about what others do and the journey they took to get there. So, I hope you enjoy today’s interview with the inspirational Kirsten, a Marketing and Communications Executive at Squareknot.

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What did you study at university and why?

I studied English Literature and Classical Civilizations at the University of Glasgow. I always knew I wanted to study English, as it can open so many doors and I think a few too many episodes of Superman left me idolising Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane a tad. I paired it up with Classical Civilisations, basically because this was a subject at school that I adored and wasn’t ready to give up. It was an amazing four years and I have to say that by the end I’d gained so much more than just a degree.

Aside from the obvious lectures, tutorials and hours in the library I managed to come out of University with more than just a degree. Getting involved with things like the Union and ski teams meant I gained the confidence to get out there and find ways to put myself ahead in the career game.

What is your current job?

I’m currently working with a crowdfunding company called Squareknot, as the Marketing and Communications Executive. I never thought I’d say I’d be working in the ‘financial-world’ but lo and behold here I am learning about equity and capital gains. However, this side of it doesn’t really come into my role much – I concentrate on social media, blogging, thinking up rewards and generally just keeping everything organized.

What experience did you gain in your jobs leading up to Squareknot?

I always tried to be doing something that would put me ahead of competition when I eventually went on the job hunt, during term times I took extra-curricular creative writing classes and volunteered to write for anyone and everyone. One summer I also did a course at the London School of Journalism and gained a diploma with merit. I even went back when I had a week off Uni to do a Magazine Writing Course there. This is all gave me the confidence and drive for what came next.

Once I graduated I jumped at any chance. I made the decision not to do another course at University, instead I wanted to gain as much practical experience as I could in the working world. This led to big changes and with a weeks warning I packed up and moved to London, unsure of where I’d be and for how long! I started off doing a seven week internship with an entertainment website, writing news stories and features. While there I also got the job as an intern again, this time with a magazine. Here I worked as an unpaid intern – now something I strongly disagree with – for three months, until they asked me to stay for another few months as the Assistant Editor until the run of magazines finished (it was a seasonal publication). Here I learnt a lot that led me to where I am today.

Next came a job back in the city that I love – Glasgow, this is where the social media work that I had picked up previously allowed me to shine. Unfortunately this role came to an end and I was back on the job hunt. However between hunting for a full-time career and working part-time I also did a part-time internship as a Digital Marketing Intern. All of these things combined and made up an interesting CV! I think the practical experience I gained in the year after university proved that sometimes people like to see that you can take on a real challenge in the working world and prove yourself by gaining a whole host of life skills that can’t be learnt from behind a desk.

What was your biggest challenge along the way?

I think there were a definitely a few big challenges along the way. I would say the first big one was when the novelty of London living had worn off and I found myself struggling in an unpaid position with a difficult work environment. However I can now say that it was worth it in the end.

The next biggest challenge was when I found myself out of work. I worked part-time in a local shop, which don’t get me wrong I actually really enjoyed, but it was never what I truly wanted to do. Constant job-hunting is not fun and neither is rejection, but in the end you just have to keep telling yourself that it’ll all come together.

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What is a typical work day like?

When I get in in the morning I usually make myself a big mug of green tea and go through any emails, adding to my to-do list. From then on it can be meetings with clients, organising events, writing blogs, scheduling social media, making up rewards for crowdfunding pitches and really anything that needs done!

What direction do you hope to take your career in 2015?

I’m really hoping just to carry on gaining a wealth of experience to help prepare for my next step up the career ladder. As I seem to have been moving in the direction of marketing I looked at some evening classes, however after speaking to my boss he had the idea of sub-contracting me one day a week to a marketing company. This was a great solution as potentially I can bring clients back and I’m also learning a whole ton more.

Now that my CV has been really built up and I have a range of experience in a variety of industries fairly soon I’ll start looking for the next step and progressing. Ultimately I want to end up working in the fashion industry in some capacity. But you never know, I love where I’m working now and never thought I could say I work in a finance/funding based environment! So who knows what’s next!

When did you start your blog, Letters from Marion and does it play a part in your career?

I actually started my blog when I found myself out of work after moving back from London. I’d been saying for so long that it was something that I wanted to do, but always found an excuse to put it off. However, when I had the time I made myself sit down and get on with it! It was a great way to keep me occupied and gave me a project to look forward to doing when job hunting got too much.

I’m not sure if it’s played a huge part in my career just now. Although some of the practical skills help and the practice of writing on a regular basis is always good. Perhaps it will play more of a part in the future, but for now it’s something that I enjoy doing, about things I love after a long day in the office.

What motivates you?

I recently read an interview where Ralph Lauren was asked about the ‘American Dream’ and this is what he said –

“I’m not sure why people call it the American Dream; it’s everybody’s dream to want a nice life, the freedom to do what they believe in and the ability to have a great career as well as having a nice home and a nice family. Everyone wants to look good, be healthy, to afford the things you see and say: “I’d love that”.’

I think that pretty much sums it up for me and keeps me motivated!

Do you have any tips for people who’re unsure what to do after graduation?

I think before you graduate put yourself out there and try to pick up bits and pieces of experience. Get involved with things at University so that when graduate interviews come you have more to say than ‘I sat in the library’.

It’s not always as easy as graduating, going away on an amazing summer and then walking straight into a job. Try out some internships if you find yourself in a rut. I used Adopt An Intern to find opportunities when I came back to Glasgow and it really helped me. It also means that you can try out different roles for a short amount of time in different fields and it could help you decide where you want to go next.

Just say ‘yes’ take a risk and get out there, you never know it could massively pay off!

Thank you so much to Kirsten for taking part in this interview. I think this is an excellent example of how you really must make the most of your time at university. Taking on internships can help you to figure out what you want to do, or even better, find out what you don’t want to do. You can find Kirsten over on Letters from Marion, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

If you would like to take part in my Career Inspiration series then just drop me a message on Twitter and we’ll get it sorted.