Emily Glen

Digital Marketing Manager

As a student, on off days, you’ve probably thought about the fact that Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are all college dropouts.

Why should I bother finishing all this shitty coursework? All these super successful Silicon Valley billionaires never even finished University. And you’d be right. Dropping out is not the end of your education or the death of your employment prospects. University isn’t for everyone. Many people express regrets about their higher education experience but there’s no question that, for now, it often creates better early career prospects.

Windows 95
Not everyone can be as smart and cool as this guy

Emily Glen, now a Digital Marketing Manager, left school in 5th year to study Corporate Communication at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen back in 2000. She explains why she decided to drop out:

“I dropped out mainly because I moved to Glasgow, transferred to Caley, and hated it. I hated the course and didn’t get on with anyone – which was mostly my fault. I vividly remember turning up one day straight from a house party and doing a presentation I hadn’t prepared for. I got something like 80% for it. I gave up on the course completely and took an entry level job in insurance. Eventually left that and went on to a job in the NHS which was the first one I used anything I’d learned in Uni for.”

Digital marketing is an area where people are more likely to come from different education backgrounds. While developers may have app development or computer science degrees and designers may have vis comms, graphic design or multimedia qualifications, marketing professionals often have backgrounds in law, English, journalism or even film and television. This is partially due to an increased demand for digital marketers over the last few years but mostly because of the nature of the work they produce being mostly strategic, content driven and prone to change.

“The first digital job I went for initially was entry level copywriting. I totally chanced it by going for it but I’d done a lot of comms training with the NHS and had samples of writing. The main thing that got me the interview though was that I knew someone who vouched for me. That got me in the door and that was that. Social media management and marketing strategy work got bolted on to the job pretty quickly along with some search engine optimisation stuff as well.”

This is arguably nepotism, but it’s a fairly regular occurrence. Having a friend, or even acquaintance, inside an existing business who can vouch for your competency is a huge benefit.

Work friend
The opposite of your problem

While it may be less important today, at the time, Emily’s lack of degree often proved to be an obstacle to job applications despite her considerable amount of work experience:

“I’ve definitely been turned down flat for jobs for not having a degree – which is partly why I’m working towards finishing it through distance learning. From my experience, in terms of having a decent career, the main benefit someone can have is contacts. If you have a contact and no degree you can still get in the door, if you have a degree and no contact it’s less likely.”

There’s no doubt Emily’s path to her first digital role took longer than it may have done had she graduated University but, after not really having any aspirations towards a career in digital, she now finds herself in a good client side senior role, largely thanks to her accumulated knowledge and experience.

It may be that you’ve gained as much as you think you will from your higher education experience and it’s time to rethink where you’d rather be. Maybe working your way up could suit you better. And even if you graduate with a degree related to digital, it’s very possible you’ll end up in another industry entirely. It’s up to you to discover what you really enjoy doing.

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