Inspiring the Next Generation of Creatives: International Women’s Day 2021
In a year, where many women have had huge setbacks kicking off their careers or landing their dream jobs - I wanted to ask the women at MOF who have ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ about what advice they’d offer to those looking to start out and what they have learnt through their own experiences.
Graduating in 2019 I’ve been working in part time roles gathering scraps of experience and trying to cobble together the most professional profile to apply to jobs in the most competitive time.
After hundreds of applications, I’ve landed a marketing internship on the MOF Insight Programme, learning all the ins and outs of an agency that champions great talent as the key driver of success.
As a young, enthusiastic graduate desperate to land a job at an agency - I am well aware of the difficulty starting out. But beyond this, I am conscious of the unequal gender divide and challenges facing women in the digital world - only heightened during covid.
I was delighted to interview the Women At Matter Of Form to gather their advice and wisdom, in the hope that this may help someone else get a foot in the door and contribute to equaling the playing field.
"Who you work with, in the early stages of your career can have a huge impact on where you go later. Think about choosing a company that's aligned with what you think your interests are, this can help to set the sort of tone for who you want to be associated with. I think that says a lot about an individual and it can really influence where you go next." Melissa Byleveld, Head of Search at MOF
"I would look up the best agencies out there for technology, for innovation, for creativity, or consulting strategy. And sign up to their newsletters! It’s such a simple thing but I never did that, when I was in university. See the kind of jargon that is being used in the industry. As a foreigner and not being native, this would have been a simple way to help me acclimatise to the words that are being used in working environments." Simone Stahle, Senior Account Director
Simone Stahle, Senior Account Director
"I think that passion should be the driver to your career. So show that you're passionate about the career that you want to move into. And just keep plugging at it. Be energetic and passionate and persistent about the task that you're given. If you’ve got your foot in the door make sure to always ask questions. Although it may be cliche but there's no such thing as a stupid question." Bex Chan, Project Manager
Bex Chan, Project Manager
"Volunteer yourself for the jobs that people don't want to do, be hungry to learn from the people in the workplace and always ask questions. It may sound obvious, but I wish someone had said that to me when I first started. Don’t be afraid to go wrong, it’s a hugely powerful thing to not be afraid to reach out to your colleagues and ask for further explanations or help when you need it." Annie Morris, Operations and Student Experience at Experience Haus
Annie Morris, Operations and Student Experience at Experience Haus
"Landing roles at agencies has always been a challenging feat, whether it is the cycle of needing experience to get experience or the abundance of keen young talent fighting for the same few junior roles or internships. Agency roles require transferable skills. Get decent experience from wherever you can. Make it valuable. Also, do yourself a favour and learn how to use Excel. You have an incredible opportunity to ride the wave of digital transformation post-covid. So keep pushing - you've got this!" Juliet Watkin-Rees, Marketing and Cultural Manager at MOF
"When you've just got your foot in the door somewhere it’s so valuable to have a mentor, long term that you can rely on. Having someone in your industry either a few years above you or just someone that you look up to can be invaluable when you need some advice. My mentor has become my friend and when I don’t know what to do in certain situations I can call on her 30 years experience to help me. Having someone’s opinion that you value can be incredible to guide you and provide reassurance." Oona Hook, Chief of Staff
Oona Hook, Chief of Staff
"We've predominantly grown up in a male dominated world and business continues to be male dominated. Often we come into our work with a whole bunch of hidden prejudices against ourselves that we are not even aware of.
In those moments we need to find another voice. Whether that's a mentor, or a woman in your team, that person can become part of your new panel of internal judges and helps you evaluate the truth behind your doubts." Melissa Byleveld, Head of Search at MOF
"I think when self doubt occurs it’s when we try to compare ourselves to other people. We see how good other people are doing in life and forget that we all have our own different stories. Individually we all have different starting points, but that is also what makes us unique in our own way. Your unique journey and experiences will be what makes you great" Cheryl Goh, Senior Designer
Cheryl Goh, Senior Designer
"No quick fix to confidence things will unfortunately not turn around for you overnight, but I think as much experience as you gain, the more confident you will just naturally become.
Faking confidence also helps. And this is just something I do all the time because in the creative industry, there's no right or wrong answer. It's a matter of perspective and it's a subject to everybody's opinion." Ambika Saigal, UX Designer
Ambika Saigal, UX Designer
"I think when making creative work it's important to have a supportive team, and obviously have a really good leader. I feel quite honored to have a female leader in my team, she's also super supportive of us and very encouraging. It’s nice because she fights for you when there are problems that you can't really address.
If you don't have that, the best advice I can suggest is to be resilient and remember that whatever happens, it's nothing to do with you, try not to take anything personally." Li Sia Tan, Senior Designer
Li Sia Tan, Senior Designer
"Mistakes aren't necessarily a bad thing. I have learned the most from the mistakes I have made in the past because they're the ones that stick in my head and the moments that you actively work to prevent occurring ever again.
In the past year, I've been much more open with letting my team know if I’m having a bit of a crappy day. It’s allowed them to be more open with me and everyone gets it because we're all going through the same thing." Gabby Coughlan, Account Manager at Diffusion Digital
Gabby Coughlan, Account Manager at Diffusion Digital
"I think if this year has taught us anything is to really really take care of ourselves. I set boundaries for myself and have to remind myself that when you're in an office, you won't be sat at your desk every hour of every day. You'll get up, you'll go make coffee, you'll go stand at your colleagues desk for half an hour to chat about love Island. It was important for me to remind myself of this, and my company at the time said to factor in those little breaks, to avoid people being sat their desk for eight hours a day." Rosie Pritchard, Senior Marketing Manager and Admissions Executive at Experience Haus
Whilst COVID and #wfh has posed new challenges, my conversations with the Women at Matter Of Form have highlighted to me the importance of keeping it down to earth and ‘human’. It may be more effort than ever right now to establish, maintain and develop connections with people in your industry - but it is key to success. By going the extra mile and chatting beyond your day-to-day work with fellow colleagues, you will create the relationships you need to inspire, support and cheer you on. There is so much reward awaiting those who do.
Very poignantly, a topic that was raised by MOF’s Head Of Search Melissa details the often toxic and unproductive competition between women and how we can alter this perspective:
"We also have a duty to work to minimize unnecessary and unhealthy competition amongst each other because it can often be an incredibly negative drain of energy. If your external dialogue is one that affirms female power, then it's easier for your internal self talk to become that as well." Melissa Byleveld, Head of Search
Once again, highlighting the importance of changing the narrative - to one of celebration and comradery -- lifting each other up to reach new heights.
I hope this insight and advice helps to encourage other young women onto a confident and honest path in the creative digital industry.