In the aisles of Sainsbury’s, my life was a routine of stacking shelves and being a mum. Little did I know, a single conversation would set me on an extraordinary path. This is my story, a journey of personal transformation from a shelf stacker to a Digital Marketing Executive. In this article, I’ll share the challenges, the successes, and the unwavering determination that shaped my huge career change, whilst offering some useful advice you can use along the way.
My Time at Sainsburys
One day, while working at Sainsbury’s, I had the privilege of meeting an extraordinary person who was juggling a degree alongside her job following her dreams. Her suggestion that I, too, should consider going back to school caught me off guard. My initial reaction was a hearty laugh – education seemed like a distant memory for me, and I had no idea how to access higher education. I wasn’t particularly academic during my school years. To make matters more challenging, I was in my late twenties with two kids to care for.
The idea of transitioning from being a mum and a shelf stacker to a full-time student with a job was undeniably intimidating. But amidst the doubt and uncertainty, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the moment to redefine my path and concentrate on a career change, not just for myself but as an example for my daughters.
Access to Higher Education
Let’s discuss the Higher Education Diploma and its accessibility. To those contemplating this route, it’s important to note it was no walk in the park. You’ll face a substantial workload, with the expectation to complete the equivalent of three A-levels within a condensed 10-month timeframe. This presented a significant challenge, especially when lockdown measures were enforced toward the end of the program. I found myself in the midst of a demanding juggling act, balancing home schooling while fulfilling my responsibilities as a keyworker, all with the unwavering determination to attain the university-entry grades I aspired to achieve – let me tell you now this was NOT easy.
At first, the marks I was getting were satisfactory, but I had a desire to improve. I found it very difficult to write after all that time away from education. Within time my grades began to climb, I started to get addicted to learning and improving the way I wrote. I ended up finishing the course with a real sense of achievement. I never planned to go to university, but I felt like it may be possible for me to do a degree.
My Time at University
Beginning my three-year journey in a Business Management degree, I braced myself for the unknown. The onset of COVID-19 led to remote learning during the first year. I juggled academics, parenting, and household duties. Amidst the chaos, a lucky shift occurred as my personal interests intertwined with my academic path. During lockdown, I delved into fitness and shared my journey on Instagram. This led me to explore social media marketing intricacies, including optimal posting times, captivating captions, and evolving trends, igniting my passion for marketing. Opening a Vinted store allowed me to build my brand and connect with customers on a personal level, I enjoyed seeing my platform grow and took pride in having excellent reviews.
The second year introduced hybrid learning and the realisation that a Marketing and Management degree would be my true calling. I switched my degree in the second year to coincide with my goals. These academic experiences equipped me with invaluable skills and have become particularly useful in everyday life as a digital marketer. Juggling my degree, work, and family life was challenging, often feeling almost impossible, but with perseverance and community support, I pushed through. The experience not only allowed me to change my career path but also boosted my confidence, transforming me from an anxious stay-at-home mum to someone with a career of her own, succeeding in the privilege of graduating with a 2:1.
Mature Student Community
Life often surprises us when we least expect it. I stumbled upon a simple yet life-altering event – a mature student coffee morning. This was completely by fate, as I ended up crossing paths with the mature student participating officer at UEA. During this gathering, I found a community of like-minded individuals, each seeking education later in life. We shared experiences, dreams, and a mutual desire for connection. It was in those moments that the idea of creating a supportive community was born. Our platform, a WhatsApp group and organised events, exceeded all expectations. I took the lead, and the platform unbeknown to me would grow phenomenally over time. The events I organised became increasingly popular and I was promoted to Vice President. This newfound community not only fulfilled a personal need for connection but also revealed my passion for event organisation, marketing, and fostering connections.
Marketing Work Experience
I went onto expand my work experience knowledge as I knew this would be valuable going forward. I wanted to put what I was learning in my degree into practise. I did this by doing work experience as a Marketing ambassador, content creator and Student ambassador. I was able to sample each area of marketing. Whilst at the UEA, I started as a cleaner for the Sportspark and then soon progressed to a gym instructor over a 2-year period.
As I came towards the end of my degree, I was determined to leave having the best grades possible, whilst also gaining the most knowledge of the marketing industry that I could. I discovered a new start-up company called Canopey who were building an ethical platform that would sell sustainable products. I met the founder and had a coffee and a chat and then experienced an amazing 6-month digital marketing internship alongside these lovely people helping with marketing research, blogging about sustainability and content creation.
During the last 6 months of my degree, I started going along to Lucy Marks wonderful events at the Norfolk Network and found a love for meeting all these amazing and inspiring entrepreneurs and business owners.
I attended events such as:
- Norfolk Network – Lucy Marks
- Norfolk Women’s Marketing Network – Grace Appleby
- The Marketing Meet Up – Sam Edwards
Utilising LinkedIn to Make Further Connections and to Explore Job Opportunities
LinkedIn became an important platform for me to build on the friendships I made at events and to extend my connections to people who I may not usually have the chance to meet in person. I also used this platform to share my achievements I made alongside the work experience I was involved in. This platform also became important to me for educational purposes and celebrating other people’s successes.
Job Searching after Graduation
Now this is the hard part, getting into a career you’ve studied long and hard for. I made a CV and covering letter about 6 months before graduating to maximise my chances. I only sent my CV out to the marketing positions that I really wanted. This may sound crazy but with age I have grown to learn that culture and values within a company is extremely important, so rather than just applying to any job, I researched thoroughly and almost found myself being fussy. I knew what I wanted, and all my hard work and efforts weren’t going to be wasted.
During my university journey and the subsequent job search, life wasn’t just a series of picturesque sunsets and sunrises. It’s crucial to acknowledge that this path was fraught with moments when I contemplated giving up, battled self-doubt, and grappled with intense imposter syndrome through endless rejection. However, through unwavering determination, resilience, and the ability to bounce back from multiple setbacks, I fulfilled a long-held dream when I secured a position at a local digital marketing agency, Fountain Partnership – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
- Get involved with the community around you as much as possible. Make friends, share knowledge, experience the journey together, and, most importantly, support one another.
- Utilise work experience; this will give you the necessary experience when starting your career path.
- Leverage LinkedIn and make face-to-face connections. In a world where we are all human, there’s nothing better than getting to know someone in person.
- Be selective – research the company where you want to work and ensure the culture and values align with your goals.
- Believe in yourself. Self-worth is essential in the process of finding your dream job. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.