Advice for getting a job in marketing: interview with Rolls-Royce

This week I had the privilege of speaking to Rolls-Royce Press Officer, James Warren. This is my fifth interview, in my series of “getting a job in marketing”, where I have covered important topics about how marketing professionals made it into the industry and what advice they would offer to future marketing candidates, to help them get their first step on the career ladder.

James Warren is a Southampton Solent University graduate, who has worked at Rolls-Royce for almost three years. As a recent graduate off the intern-scene, James knows all about the importance of putting in the extra hours and making yourself worthwhile to the company. He has offered some wonderful, valuable tips and insight, which I hope aspiring marketing and PR professionals will take take on board. Intrigued? Read on to see how James’ persistence got him where he is today and what advice he’d offer for getting a job in marketing.

1. Briefly outline your day to day role.

Getting a job in marketingI’m the Product Press Officer at Rolls-Royce. My day to day role ranges from anything from writing press releases, background reports and doing Q&A’s surrounding our products, to attending events and hosting journalists at our offices – I’ve even dined with kings! It is a massively varied and integrated role, as you can imagine for a super-luxury brand like Rolls-Royce.The qwerk of this organisation is that this is a massive brand, but actually we’re quite small in terms of numbers, so we’re thrust into a range of marketing related roles. My involvement with marketing ensures I attend marketing photoshoots and video shoots  ensuring those assets are correct and on-brand. There was a bit of separation between the PR and marketing departments for a while, but as the company has grown; it’s now been 10 years since we were bought by BMW and things have only increased from there, the teams have had to work more closely together. It is a multi-strategy role, certainly no two days are the same.

2. How did you get to where you are now?

At university, I was encouraged greatly to take work experience. I studied Journalism, so I did an awful lot of Freelancing; I wrote about Cricket, I did guest posts on a blog about a political party that was building up in my hometown and I did SEO writing for a travel agent.

I then had a lucky break getting into Rolls-Royce because someone on my course had a family connection, so I got the opportunity to work in Singapore for a year as their intern. I would definitely say the work experience I gained at University was a huge factor in me getting that internship. I also had another lucky break a few months before I was due to fly out to Singapore, as there was a small opening at their Head Office in Internal Communications, which gave me a good view of the central office before I went off and did my internship.

Although it was an internship by name, the beauty of Rolls-Royce being a very small team was that I was very much thrown in at the deep end. My Manager at the time loved having a ‘Brit’ abroad representing the company, so I pretty much held my own doing the PR in Asia, India, Japan and Australia, as well the rest of my duties, so I was very lucky to get such a position and one where my Manager had the faith to let me get on with things.

“It’s not a case of going for an internship and doing the bare minimum. No one gets anything for free.”

My recommendations for future Graduates would definitely to be what I did and push yourself through as much as possible and put yourself out there. Don’t just do what’s expected of you, go above and beyond. I found Rolls-Royce responded very well to that and gave me the opportunity of securing a role in Head Office, by my now current Manager, who had recommended I have a post working under him and so here I am as a Product Press Officer today.

It was a year of bloody hard work. Lots of 80 hour weeks and not many weekends and a lot of travel – I think I took 40 flights that year – running events and everything, but it paid off in the form of a great role in their central UK office. I got out, what I put in. It’s not a case of going for an internship thinking “that will look good on my CV” and doing the bare minimum with these kind of organisations, no one gets anything for free. It’s not good enough to turn up, do your hours and leave at 6:00pm. You’ve got to push yourself and make yourself indispensable. You’ve got to have a different attitude and think “what can I do to show people that I’m worth being employed here?”

Getting a job in marketing: Rolls-Royce Factory Head Office

3. What do you look for in CV?

I’m always inclined to go to people who have gone out and clearly extended themselves and taken the time to get some work experience. Even people who have tried to do their own thing. I’m far more interested in a CV from someone who has started up a blog themselves, whether that was motor related or a luxury blog or anything which shows their interests. I don’t care so much whether they have a top class degree, from a top university. The marketing and PR industry is not for theorists, but for people who are genuinely passionate and a bit rough around the edges.

I would say to anyone who’s just starting their degree, or will be soon, to go get some work experience and get involved in anything you possibly can if you’re that serious about getting into this industry.

4. What do you look for in an ideal candidate?

As well as having the above qualities, they obviously have to be quite bright. Having a vacancy in a company like this, we obviously get applications from a lot of people, competition is very high. I would want to see some enthusiasm and if they went to uni, how they can apply what they learnt to the role and hit the ground running. We haven’t got the time or the resources to train someone up for six months.

5. What are your “must haves” from a marketing candidate?

They need to be able to demonstrate a long-term interest with the company and the role. I’ve seen quite often from Graduates that they see this as just a ‘stepping-stone’ to their more managerial roles at other businesses and that’s obviously not what I look for. I want someone who is desperately fired up about PR or marketing and getting into this industry and who have demonstrated throughout, whether it was at uni or through work experience, that this is what they want to do. We don’t have time for people coming in for six months, trying it out and then moving on elsewhere.

Getting a job in marketing: Rolls-Royce

6. What are your “nice to haves” from a candidate?

It probably goes without saying but it’s obviously very helpful if you can write well, with an interest and an instinct for news. It’s amazing how often we ask people in interviews what do you read everyday and none of them read newspapers. If you want to get into this industry then there’s something fundamentally wrong about that. I just want someone to demonstrate to me how much you want the role. I’d never say that I want someone polished, with loads of campaign experience and grass roots, it’s just showing that they have the attitude to go out, learn and be outgoing.

“Get out there and network your arse off. Get work experience roles – don’t underestimate how important they are.”

7. What would you like them to bring to the role?

We run a very good Graduate Scheme and those people then go on a three-year programme where they’re moved around the business a little bit. So we want someone with the right, positive ‘can-do’ attitude. Someone who keeps up the energy and makes positive contributions to the team and the company. It’s not the place for someone who wants to sit quietly in the corner, not get involved and just shadow people. You’ve got to take the bull by the horns, especially in the first year, coming in as a young Graduate. It’s all about getting things done, getting to know people and doing things for your Manager. I can’t say enough that it all comes down to attitude, a willingness to learn, give things a go and just get on with things.

8.What advice would you give to marketing graduates and candidates?

It’s three things for me really:

1. Yes get your academics sorted. Whatever it is you want, or need to do to ‘learn the trade’ so to speak. Don’t be sold by university rankings, do a course you feel excited and passionate about.

2. Get out there and network your arse off. Get work experience roles, don’t underestimate how important they are. Make sure you keep in touch with those people too, take your Manager on your internship out for a drink and try in everything you do, to become indispensable. Be someone they would want to ask back.

3. Make your mind up early on. I’ve had CV’s previously where it’s too segmented, they studied marketing, but worked in a series of difference jobs, each unrelated to one another. I can’t see what it is they want to do or where they want to go. Put a plan in place and work towards that goal. Just stick with it.

Key points to take away

I would sum up what I think are the most important tips to take away from this interview, but I think James hit the nail on the head with the three points he mentioned above.

I don’t want to repeat what he has already outlined so clearly, but I will say this. Yes learn the basics of your industry, but what you should bare in mind is that anyone can learn something if they put their mind to it. What you can’t learn is passion. If you’re truly passionate about what you want to do in life then you need to show people and make them take you seriously. Get networking. Get experience. Prove to people why you are perfect as their next intern / employee. Don’t just sit back, learn and get good grades, because all though that is all well and good, this industry is about so much more than that.