Thursday, 13 September 2007

Grads Down The Track: Matthew Hazel

A recent graduate account of how to get into the business comes courtesy ofMatthew Hazel, who is currently a senior account handler at an agency in London. Originally from Australia, Matt's experiences span several continents. So, we thought it'd be rude not to post his story up. His blog is here.


by Matthew Hazel

I’m pretty sure that if I wanted to, I could swap careers tomorrow and become a high school guidance counselor at P*******e School. Here’s what I would say to my promising young pupils ready to venture out into the real world; If you are an above average student and are good at:

  • Science, become a doctor.
  • Maths, become an engineer, stockbroker or accountant.
  • English, become a lawyer.

Otherwise, if you’re an average student, become a tradesman and earn more than your above peers. If you want to drop out, make sure you can kick a football, or hit the gym and some pole dancing classes and become a male stripper. Pretty helpful, hey?

Well, that’s how my guidance counselor treated me. In hindsight if I were in the role I would do things very differently, because I sure could have used it.

Like 90% of the student population, I didn’t really fit into one of those 5 groups, but English was my best out of the four so I enrolled in law school. I envisaged my future career to mirror the glory days of L.A Law, or at the very least The Practice. Alas, a few weeks into the course I found out there was reading involved. A lot of it. Bugger that.

So for semester two of college I decided stockbroking was the career for me, so I enrolled in finance. 3 weeks later, I realized that I didn’t want to base my career around mathematical formulas that don’t fit on a standard A4 sheet of paper.

Next on my list was accountancy, which I enrolled in purely because I didn’t know what else to do and these grads had a top 3 grad salary in Australia at the time. I wasted a year and a half of my life (well maybe not, I do have a commerce degree now) realizing that an extra couple of grand a year wasn’t worth 160 hours a month of wanting to stab myself in the eye with a fork, so I moved onto marketing. I managed to stay awake for one or two classes a week, which was one or two classes more than my previous studies so I rode this out and graduated from college.

As a marketing grad, there were three clear job roles I could have applied for; marketing coordinator on the client side, an account exec on the agency side or a role in market research. I decided that agency life would be my best bet, so I penned a letter to all the decent ad agencies in my hometown offering the privilege of having one of the finest baristas in all the land willing to work for free.

One out of the eight I had written responded, and I did work experience there for about a month. In that time I got to do a stint in all the major departments of the agency (acct management, creative, air media, media and production). And I made a LOT of coffee.

Then before I knew it, the month was over, I’d done my time, I needed money, they didn’t have a role, so we shook hands and parted ways. I got the usual ‘we’ll keep your details on file in case anything comes up’ speech. Yeah, bullsh*t.

I didn’t care though, I felt like I’d learned more in one month in an agency than what I had in 4 years of uni, and now I finally at least knew where I wanted to be.

Two weeks later, the agency called. Something had come up. An account executive had resigned and they offered me the chance to interview. Getting through two interviews straight out of uni with no experience was one of the hardest selling experiences of my life. At the time it felt like telling a girl she should go out on a date with you instead of David Beckham. Nevertheless, I had three things going for me; I was hungry (at the time it was the most important thing in the world- you can’t fake that), I was honest (interviewers can smell bullsh*t a mile away), and I knew my interviewer through previous work experience, so I was comfortable and was able to throw in a few jokes here and there. In hindsight, I realized a cheap, hungry grad can be better for an agency than a more expensive, more jaded, slightly more experienced adman. A day later I got the phone call, I was starting on Monday in a role as a junior planner.

About a year and a half later our agency held a seminar that was themed ‘become a better ad person’, and we had key industry figures speak and offer their views on how to achieve this. One of the resounding messages was ‘Great advertising comes from great life experience. So get out there and live life.’. So not long after that, I moved from Australia to London to do just that.

I touched down in
London in mid July, and I got straight into interviews within my first week. I took the first freelance job I was offered to pay the bills and buy a sh*tbox car (Australian dollars get you NOTHING over here. NOTHING!!. It was a very depressing first week for me.) So now here I am freelancing as a Senior Account Exec, preparing to go after my first full time permanent gig over here next month. Back to square one in a way, and I’m bloody glad to be here.

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