With the Irish economy looking more and more ominous, Amy Bracken talks to UCD graduate Conor Feeney about securing a career in marketing
“Make sure you’re voice is heard, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind.” Conor Feeney gives advice to business graduates hoping to embark on a career in the marketing industry. “Never voice an opinion without having some facts to back it up.”
Feeney may sound like a lecturer in some respects, but this advice is coming from a commerce graduate who is now working in the marketing department of food company Unilever, which markets products such as Pot Noodle, SlimFast, and Knorr. Feeney completed a masters in marketing following his commerce undergraduate degree before moving into the world of marketing.
When asked about the application process, he speaks of the importance of the interview techniques for graduates applying to workforce in a time when interviews are few and far between.
“Put as much effort and work in; put in the research, the background, everything you need to do to make sure you’re as well prepared for the interview to give you a great chance when you’re at it.”
Feeney speaks of the paucity of job interviews today and actually cites landing one as the most difficult part of the whole process. “You really don’t know when you’re next chance is going to come up, so make the most of the chance when it arrives.”
Today, interviews do not simply involve being asked a number of questions by a panel; as Feeney emphasises, you must complete the necessary research in order to stand out from the crowd in the highly competitive world of job seeking.
“My specific one involved giving a presentation which was competitive in that there was a lot of other people doing the same presentation,” he explains. “The person who gave the best presentation, convinced the people watching – who were experienced marketers working in Unilever – that you knew what you were talking about and that you could bring something to the company when you actually started working.”
Feeney also fondly recalls his experience in UCD, and in particular, his degree in commerce and masters in marketing, which he cites as being crucial to him landing the job at Unilever.
“I did the masters in marketing,” he says. “So following the B. Comm which was great for the masters; it really grounded me in what I wanted to do, moving forward. So I would advise [that] anyone interested in whatever area it is they’re working in should move forward and do a masters, and really ground themselves on what it is they’re looking to do.”
However, he stresses the whole experience in the workplace is a learning curb and that in reality, he is only building on what he learned while at UCD. Many of the most important skills in relation to marketing, says Feeney, are the ones you learn when you actually start a job.
“It’s down to what you learn when you’re here, so I’m delighted to have the opportunity to learn from the experienced people that are around me, and I’m looking forward to gaining some valuable insight and moving forward.”
On the work itself, Feeney emphasises that in reality, no job simply involves working nine to five: “You should expect to work as long as it takes to get the job done. It’s a huge shock to the system that I’m still not used to. But I’m getting there slowly but surely.”
Feeney is relatively optimistic about the current economic situation in relation to university graduates, but emphasises the importance of getting involved in student activities for landing a job in the workforce. “I’d hope that if you put the effort in when you’re in college, you’re going to have the opportunity to put some effort into whatever it is you want to do.”
As regards his UCD classmates, Feeney emphasises how they have made the best of a bad situation, opting for emigration or further study if they have not found employment: “They just seem to be dealing with the situation as best as they can.”
Given the significant number of business students and business graduates in the country today, landing a job in the industry in an area with such a high graduate unemployment is even more difficult, as it is much more competitive than most other industries.
But there are jobs out there, and as Feeney emphasises, the importance of making yourself standout and grasping every opportunity, as well as not being afraid to start at the bottom of the ladder when you do land a job in your given industry, is key to securing long-term employment.
The Pot Noodle Road Show comes to UCD on November 10th.