What we learnt from our first year in a media agency

University doesn’t always prepare graduates for the realities of a career in media and marketing, and often important lessons take place on the job. Group M mGrad participants at Wavemaker, Melissa Pont and Kerryn Josman, run through everything they learnt in their first year in a media agency.

From having no idea what a media agency does to loving every minute in a fast-paced industry – a lot of learning can take place in one year. Here is what we discovered and some tips for future graduates joining the industry.

As a graduate coming into the industry, you learn 10% from your uni degree and 90% on the job

Melissa: One aspect you learn quick smart when you first come into the world of media is that 90% of your learning is done on the job and a mere 10% is from either a university degree or third-party training. With technology and trends changing every other month, you’re always upskilling on the job to adapt and grow with these trends.

Universities need to better adapt to these changes. While I can appreciate the importance of having a foundation of industry knowledge, learning how to think is just as important when we are working in a fast-changing, dynamic industry. Students today need to be prepared with the tools to be adaptable and adept at continuous upskilling.

Kerryn: In an industry as rapidly changing as ours, learning on the job is the best way to do it. The question ‘What do you do everyday?’ is quite a hard one to answer. One minute you may be booking media for an upcoming campaign, and another you could be attending an audience planning training session, brainstorming strategic ideas, or it could even be pulling some data for the client’s post-campaign report. No day is the same for us here in a media agency, which makes the work you do the base of all your learning.

Training and networking are crucial in advancing your career

Melissa: Coming into agency life as an mGrad within the Group M program may seem daunting – you’re a very small fish in a big pond – but this is also a gift, opening doors and opportunities, support from those who’ve been in the industry longer and myriad training events.

My main piece of advice is to take full advantage of this during your early months in the industry. The further along you get in your career, and the more your workload builds up and your team relies on you as a crucial member, the harder you’ll find it to take the time out to go to the various training events.

Kerryn: Taking the time out of your day to go to training can sometimes be really difficult if you have so many tasks on your to-do list. One of my colleagues once said something, which really stuck with me: “Think about a week’s time – you would have done the task you were stressing about on your to-do list AND the training.”

Sometimes in this job, while things may seem stressful at work, and you just HAVE to do that report, doing something outside your day-to-day job, like attending training or a networking event, may just help you take the extra step in your career.

Speak up: a fresh perspective can be a powerful benefit

Melissa: Don’t underestimate what you can bring to the table as a newbie to the industry. You’re more of an asset than you think you are. Ideas can come from any level, and there’s always room for a fresh perspective and outlook.

In the first six months into my role in Wavemaker’s content and partnerships team, we won Goodman Fielder as a sole content and partnership client. The first brief was for Wonder Active Low GI bread, looking for relevant active influencers and big sporting names. At the time, AFL and boxing star Tayla Harris was in the news for standing up to online sexual harassment after an image of her kicking a ball went viral. Seeing this as an opportunity to harness her newfound relevancy in the wider Australian news, I recommended her to my internal team for this campaign and we eventually signed her on as the ‘Hero’ face of the campaign which saw some amazing results.

This proves that anyone can come forward with a great idea that clients will sign off on. A good idea is a good idea and at the end of the day, what’s best for your client is best for the team. So speak up.

AFLW player Tayla Harris was trolled incessantly over this photo (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)

Kerryn: When I started working in media a year ago, everyone would ask how it was going. My response was, “It’s great – but I have A LOT to learn”. Starting as a digital analyst, it was definitely overwhelming. All the different acronyms thrown around in conversations, the huge scope of the media landscape, the end-to-end process of a campaign, digital tech language… At first, when I sat in meetings, it felt like these people were speaking a different language. But after a few months, you realise you’ve absorbed so much more than you thought was possible and you’ve become fluent in the language that was once unknown to you.

I guess my tip to new mGrads, or any entry-level starters in the industry, would be: don’t underestimate yourself on how much you can learn. The learning never stops. And a year into media, I am still learning something new everyday.

Play the newbie card and learn from industry leaders

Melissa: As an mGrad, you’re encouraged to find a mentor outside of your immediate agency. This helps build your network, but it also provides you with an unbiased point of view and a safe space to ask questions you may be scared or unsure to ask your manager or colleagues.

I was lucky enough to have a connection to someone working at Group M, Jefri Rahman, who would organise catch-ups with me every fortnight or month. It was solely due to his guidance and support that I reached out to individuals in the industry who inspired me, one being Katie Rigg-Smith, CEO of Mindshare. In my head it was ridiculous that a CEO would have the capacity or interest to catch up with an analyst mGrad, however Jefri said something I have used in many other scenarios – “Worst case scenario, it’s a no. That shouldn’t stop you”. A little tip to future newcomers to the industry – playing the newbie card will help you with intros and conversations that could be harder down the line. Use it.

Kerryn: When I started as an mGrad, I had no idea what all the different departments in a media agency did, let alone what a media agency actually was. In my first few months, I reached out to senior members in each of the departments, outside of digital (where I work), to learn where their day-to-day work fits into the media environment, and the company’s goals. SEM, offline, strategy, content and partnerships, paid social, SEO, client communications – aspects of the agency I had little exposure to, and where I was able to learn about and properly understand their role in the company. And along the way, I made connections with senior members, outside my department, whom I can now approach for media or even career advice.

Establish an open dialogue with your manager about how you learn best and how you like to receive feedback

Melissa: As most people say, “It’s easier to ask a friend for help”. I find that it’s also easier to verbalise which learning technique works best for you if you have a good relationship with your team. I learn best by watching a task and then giving it a go myself, whereas others might learn best from note taking. No matter how you learn, it makes a world of difference if you have the confidence and rapport to let your manager know what is or isn’t working for you.

Kerryn: I recently took part in training that focused on how to receive and give feedback, and it opened my eyes to the fact that people do like to do these differently. For example, some people may like to receive feedback face-to-face, others may prefer this in the form of an email. It’s definitely important to communicate to your manager, what your preference for receiving and giving feedback is.

Additionally, it is important to figure out how you best learn, and then to communicate with your manager on this. This may be simply watching, hands-on or writing notes – there is no wrong or right way to do this, as everyone’s learning styles are different. One tip for your first few weeks, is to think about this, and see how you learn best.

Melissa Pont (L) and Kerryn Josman (R)

Melissa Pont is content and partnership analyst and Kerryn Josman is digital analyst at Wavemaker Australia. 


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