Hear from the Queen of Networking & Getting Things Done, Olivia Crooks…
We caught up with former Creative Access intern Olivia Crooks to hear a bit about her journey in the world of advertising, from BBH, to Vice Media, via Google and Grey…
So I am a 24-year-old Londoner – born and bred. I studied English and American studies at the University of Leicester and for those of you that don’t know what that means – it’s English literature, American literature and American history, or in other words a bundle of reading and about a million essays.
Before uni, I’d really wanted to take a gap year because I was exhausted after my A levels. But it was the whole go straight away at £3k or leave it a year and have to pay £9k palava: I went for the £3k option. Anyway, this culminated in me throwing my hands up at the end of the second year and requiring some time out of the ‘lecture – coursework – exam’ hamster wheel. I have to say it was one of the best decisions I could’ve made as it totally shaped my career. Prior to that year out, I was fully on track to become a broadcast journalist. Well, by on track I just mean that that was my ambition.
At the end of the year, however, I had co-founded a record label, worked as a freelance marketer and gained experience at Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) through Creative Access.
I don’t know how to say this in any other way than I would totally recommend taking time out of uni – do whatever you fancy but it is the perfect time to do it. You’re already enrolled, you have two years of your degree under your belt but what you do need is work experience. If you have chosen to study humanities like me, I really encourage you to do this as it can be hard to get a job after graduation. I don’t see any justifiable reason why you would not put yourself in the best possible position after university unless of course, you’re worried that you won’t go back. I can assure you that it is not all fun and games in the real world! It will be remarkable just how quickly you want to go back to Wednesday night raving, not having to jump out of bed like some sort of Sim and dash to work or deal with day-to-day work politics … then again, maybe that’s just me!
Because I am a bit of a lunatic when I did get back to Leicester I decided to do an internship at Google whilst battling my dissertation – anybody who knows me understands that I can’t keep still and feel the need to constantly put myself under pressure, I think it’s how I know I am working hard enough. That was a lot of work but I met some amazing people and it allowed me to expand my network.
This is another tip I would give anyone trying to enter the creative industries, expose yourself to as many people as possible in your early career – who you know, or more importantly, who knows you is so important. Especially when you don’t have a mum, dad or aunties and uncles to help open doors for you.
In fact, the mentor Creative Access matched me with at BBH has had an amazing impact on my career, even going on to help me land another job and being a constant source of advice. I remember meeting him for the first time at the assessment day – gosh it was so scary. I was 19 and there were people aged on average between 24 to 30 also trying to get onto the internship scheme. Nevertheless, I managed to get a spot and he ensured my time there was useful. One thing he did instil in me was that networking equals drinking; what he meant was that you need to find a way to connect with senior members of staff on a social level, a personable level, on a level that they can get to like you and you will feel cool talking to them in a meeting or around the office. By no means do you need to make yourself feel uncomfortable or force yourself to drink if you don’t want to.
But going to the pub after work – whether that’s with a soft drink or otherwise – or grabbing something to eat with your colleagues at lunch is vitally important.
Networking as we all know is crucial but as time has gone on I have realised that one of the issues with many ‘networking groups’ is that they are way too lateral or peer-to-peer focused. I get that we are millennials and it’s great to know each other but the truth of the matter is how much can Sophie who is also trying to get her foot in the door help you? The people you really need access to, the mentors, those who are going to progress your career or help you set up that business tend to be older or at the very least, in more senior positions in the workplace; it’s one of the reasons I set up Madland Hack.
It’s funny, there is a huge push to get people into the creative industries but I feel there is little focus on keeping them there! Madland Hack is a Facebook group that I created last year to support BAME talent throughout their time in the industry. I semi got the idea from the Creative Access alumni group. It’s great to know people across publishing and TV production but I wanted to focus on advertising and marketing, hence the pun on adland – Madland. At first, I imagined a nepotistic group where we could post all of those jobs that get sent around on internal company emails or that recruiters share on LinkedIn statuses. But after a while, I shifted focus from relentlessly posting interesting jobs to sharing articles that are relevant to our industry. Importantly, support is not only about helping each other get jobs but also support in the community sense, where people can get feedback on a portfolio, post interesting articles (and debate!) or even just talk to other people about the irritating things that happen or pose questions.
The community is growing well but for me, it’s nice just to have a space for BAME marketeers made by BAME people.
You can find Olivia on LinkedIn here.