Unravelling the mysteries of media

john dawsonMedialand’s newest employee is John Dawson, who joins Mindshare in a few days time. He shares the story of how he got into the industry, and offers his first impressions.

Approaching the end of my uni degree some months ago I faced the fact that I had no idea what I was going to do when I graduated. Well, not quite no idea. I was fairly sure I wanted to be involved in the media industry and thought I’d like to give media and advertising a go but I had questions: How do you get a start? What did the industry look like? What jobs did people do? Was there a future?   

It’s incredible that university does so little to actually provide answers to the many practical questions that I imagine many students like me face when finishing their last exams or handing in their final essays.

During those final months, it was especially annoying that an industry like media seemed only accessible if doing a prescriptive media degree or by having a contact who was already working in an agency. Majoring in politics and Spanish, it seemed graduate opportunities were out of my grasp.

m grad projectConfronted by this impending graduation, I emailed Mumbrella: “I would appreciate an opportunity to talk to you and hear your thoughts on the industry and any advice you might have for me.”

I received a reply within five minutes with suggestion to register for The M Grad Project which was about to take place at the Mumbrella360 conference. What luck!

The M Grad Project was curated by WPP’s Group M media agencies and across the day explained what agencies do, and how they work.

m360 student streamThe week before the event, I was consumed by researching GroupM and the people who would be presenting. To be honest, by the time I got to Mumbrella360, my ignorance had been replaced only by a slightly more-informed confusion.

At the end of the day though, having met the people working in media agencies, I was inspired and felt reinvigorated – I was sure that this was for me, even if at that stage I didn’t really understand what anyone did.

The next morning I went through the business cards I had been given and emailed them all. By that afternoon I had an internship at GroupM and could not wait. Again, I was incredibly excited but also incredibly unaware of what I would actually do.

What a learning curve it’s been! I’ve worked across GroupM, Maxus, MEC and Mindshare, and whether at construction sites in Sydney promoting Ford’s new ute, or running around an agency helping with a pitch, it’s been an exciting and challenging time.

Refreshingly, the industry and the people in it are dynamic and filled with unending enthusiasm. As media is evolving, the people I’ve met at GroupM are too, which means opportunities abound and youth is not a disadvantage. Far from entering a stagnant corporate hierarchy, working in media feels far more collaborative and supportive with a mutual respect holding the teams together.

ngenI’ve attended a few MFA ngen events and have been blown away by the sheer number of opportunities to learn from the best in the industry regardless of whether they work in your specific agency or not.

Further to the talks and workshops, I’ve had a party to attend every week (amazed as I was, everyone says this is standard). With my student ‘$10 dinner’ mindset, the only problem with attending these events is knowing when to say no to the free food and drink on offer. At every event though, the hospitality of the industry continues to surprise me.

During the months I’ve been at GroupM, talent seems to have become one of the industry’s watchwords with both attracting and retaining it, major talking points. Having been given an insight into media agencies, their work and most importantly their people, I’ve decided that this is where I want to work. Unfortunately not all students will have the same experience I have had because media agencies will remain a mystery to them – this obviously needs to change.

If you’re finishing up uni and feeling similarly adrift, my advice is simple: be proactive. Send emails, introduce yourself and don’t sit and wait. There’s nothing to lose by getting your name out there.

I’m sure you’ll be as surprised as I was at the willingness of agency-folk to offer their time. Ask for advice, read about media, get excited and develop a passion. The last few months have taught me to be prepared for the opportunity – you can never predict when things are going to fall in your favour but you can certainly be ready to take advantage of it when it does.

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities so far and am excited to start my career at Mindshare next month.

  • John Dawson starts as a media assistant at Mindshare on November 10.

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