The Importance of Personal Connection from Someone Trying to Break into the Industry

The Importance of Personal Connection from Someone Trying to Break into the Industry

Steve Underwood May 17, 2022

‘The Importance of Personal Connection from Someone Trying to Break into the Industry’ by Freya Wilson

Freya is a designer and copywriter taking a year out of her university course Graphic Branding and Identity at London College of Communication to take up several placements within the advertising and marketing industry, currently interning at Bonded.

 

Breaking Into The Industry.

I have never understood the term ‘break into the industry’. To break into something tends to mean to enter forcibly without permission, especially for the purposes of theft, a form of breaking the rules. Having to break into the advertising and marketing industry made it sound like a members only club that you had to sneak your way into, a chocolate orange that you had to smash against a plate before tucking into, or a high security safe that you had to decode to crack open. I didn’t want to break into the industry – would it not just be easier to step in through the front door rather than having to climb through the window?

This is certainly how it felt as a newcomer like myself: cold and unwelcoming. Having taken a year out of university to try to gain professional experience and attempt to break into the industry, I came to witness the industry in two different lights: initially as a place that elusive and uninviting, but once inside, a positive and close-knit community. The key in, was through the power of personal connection.

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Building Connections

The first connections were the hardest to make. Starting my year with little experience, and no professional contacts was lonely at times. The hundreds of emails I would send out looking for placements would bring back zero replies, and even when I thought I was getting somewhere two interviews later, I was left on read. After a long summer, I was unsure whether I was trying to break into the industry, or if the industry was trying to break me. I decided to reach out to an old neighbour who I remembered was an editorial designer for a local business magazine, to see if she could offer any advice. She did better than that, sending me a list of emails of industry friends to reach out to. (Lesson no. 1: Look for connections everywhere). Finally, I had email addresses for real people, most importantly for the decision makers, and not the generic ‘careers@’ or ‘sayhello@’ addresses that were all that I could previously find online. Name dropping my neighbour in my emails, I finally started getting replies – sometimes it really is who you know, and not necessarily what you know. People had no reason to reply to me before, I was just another student looking for placements, but now I was a pawn in the favour economy. I didn’t mind of course, once my foot was in the door, I had no intention of moving it.

Once I had formed my first few connections, they began to snowball. So and so knows so and so, and have you been in touch with so and so yet? Networking sometimes feels like a dirty word, inauthentic and exploitative, but as humans we are born with an innate need for human connections. I was fortunate enough to meet with people far more connected than myself, who saw that they could help me, despite being able to offer them little in return. (Lesson no. 2: When you find people like this hang onto them, and hopefully one day become them). I think these people probably saw a lot of themselves in me, having likely dealt with the same struggles to break into the industry themselves – peoples always root for the underdog, especially if you show an eagerness to learn from them.

Connecting In The Workplace

Sitting in the office of my first internship, I realised that the designers, account managers and even managing directors that sat around me were just normal people, with the same interests and struggles as myself. I might not be the strongest designer or the most experienced copywriter (yet), but I can chat about rising petrol prices and weekend plans just as well as anyone. My strongest connections were always formed through lunchtime walks, where you had the freedom and privacy to form more meaningful bonds. A kind smile and showing an interest in people’s lives helped strengthen both personal and professional relationships. (Lesson no. 3: Form friendships, not colleagues).

I noticed the same was true of clients and customers alike, who funnily enough, are also just normal people like you and me. I started to see that the most successful campaigns, the ones that were the most engaging, were the ones built on personal connections – the ones that spoke directly to people. They call this a people-focused approach in marketing – but this year has shown me that personal connection transcends further than just marketing objectives – you can do so much more with a true connection that just sell to. In a world more connected than ever, and ironically just as disconnected, a conversation goes a long way. Even the quietest voice in the room wants to be heard – I know this from personal experience, because it is usually my own. Within my own internships, the more I felt like a valued member of the team, the more I wanted to help contribute to it. I felt connected – and the happier I was at work, the happier I was at home too.

My placement year would not have been the same without the personal connections I made along the way. The colleagues turned friends, and the bosses turned mentors – all helping to pave my way into the industry, sometimes even unknowingly. Connections are made in the lunchtime walks, the office gossip, in the personal chat before the meeting officially starts. As slight as they may seem at the time, these connections matter.

One year later, and I had managed to break into the industry that had once seemed so closed off to me.

I had cracked the high security safe, and the code was connection.

 

Freya Wilson,

Freya is a designer and copywriter taking a year out of her university course Graphic Branding and Identity at London College of Communication to take up several placements within the advertising and marketing industry, currently interning at Bonded.

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