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Archive for December, 2011

The art of professionalism

With 1 week left until I jet off for some winter sun so I thought it was time I reflected on my first of many professional years.

My professional development started off with the last 6 months of my 3rd year degree course ahead of me and I was still questioning what career path I was going to take. I struggled to identify a job role where I felt I would become a fundamental part of team rather than a small cog in a large agency machine. Above all I didn’t really understand what I was good at yet.

On the horizon was the final year group project which we were all looking forward to. It was understood that we were to become a mini agency and promote the kind of graduate you would expect to come out of the Design Futures course at Salford University. The methods which we decided to use were completely down to us. Job roles were created for each student within branding, finance, online, editorial & events. For some this would be their first exposure to the industry so a real chance to show off how professional you could be.

This project later became ‘I25UE’; A graduate movement that highlighted the gap between graduation and employment and the need for more engagement between the two. We produced a newspaper, mobile app, website and live event discussing what employees are looking for from graduates coming into the market.  

After hearing all the tales of the previous year’s financing issues I was pessimistic about being in that team to say the least! However I was shortly promoted to team leader by the rest of the team and we had to think of a strategy that would enable us to get the right amount of funding for our 4 elements but also provide an enticing offer with which industry professionals would want to engage, considering the economic climate.

At this point in the project, my professionalism was in full swing, I was organised, my team were getting on well, everybody was enthused and proactive and we got things done: Surely there was a leadership role within the industry I could adapt to just as well. I had never realised I could be a leader before or anything particularly managerial. I had toyed with account management before (through work experience with Saatchi & Saatchi) but I found the role too impersonal. The puzzle continues.

The next stage of the project was to pitch the idea to potential sponsors. We had to identify who we wanted associated with our cause bearing in mind shared values and possibility of employment.  We then secured a meeting with the Managing Director or Creative Director and in that meeting it was my job to explain why I25UE was a good investment. We were successful with 85% of our pitches, had 15 confirmed sponsors and with the help of Sarah Cheal, a lot of interest from the industry through a creative collaboration called Northern Soho.

Sarah was the first professional we pitched to. I didn’t fully understand business development at that point; in fact I don’t think I knew it existed! But as I listened to her explain how Acquire works I suddenly felt a strong feeling of enthusiasm, ‘I can do this’ I thought to myself. It was the first time I had felt at the top of my game, like a real professional and ready to take on my career. Luckily for me, on the night of our I25UE event Sarah approached me with her partner Stefan and I got my very first job offer.

I have been in my role of Account Manager for Acquire New Business for 4 months now and it has been a whirlwind of learning and unpredictability. If there’s anything I’ve learnt from being in Business Development is to expect the unexpected, think on your feet and adapt your behaviour quickly.

However just because I have a professional job role does that mean that I have achieved professionalism? I beg to differ. I believe that to be professional is a state of mind as well as behaviour. Too many pre-graduates think that getting the grades is the hard part but it’s building your professionalism that takes the most work. Learning how to walk the walk and talk the talk is essential if you’re going to lose the graduate ‘label’.

Looking forward into 2012 I aim to push my professional development towards seeking the relevant training and mentoring to help me achieve and realise my full potential and this time next year I hope to write a similar piece as a fully-fledged professional looking back at my pre-professional self. 

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