Mark Dawson graduated from RGU with a BA (Hons) Public Relations and decided to stay at the university to obtain a master’s in Digital Marketing. As part of his course, he had a placement experience with Mearns & Gill, a local Creative Marketing Agency. He shares more about his decision to pursue postgraduate studies as well as his course and placement experience.
Can you tell us more about what you did before your master’s?
I did an undergraduate course in Public Relations at RGU for which I got a 2:1. Before that, I was studying at North East Scotland College. After getting my HNC, I decided to embark on the Degree link 2+2 route and started university in third-year.
During the last year of my undergraduate, I was in a bit of a rut halfway through my dissertation. I didn’t really know what the future was going to be like with COVID and if I would be able to find a job. It felt like I needed more projects to put into my portfolio. I actually only decided a month before finishing my course that I was going to apply for a master’s.
Why did you decide to study Digital Marketing at RGU?
I had a lot of meetings with different lecturers to see what the best fit was for me. You’re usually advised to do your master’s in something that’s different from your undergraduate degree. However, I wasn’t realistically going to do a master’s in engineering! So I decided that it was either going to be Digital Marketing or Corporate Communications and Public Affairs.
I told my lecturers I wanted to do something very practical and where I could create. That’s why they suggested that I apply for the Digital Marketing course. After reading through the handbook, I decided I wanted to apply.
I was actually thinking of moving away from Aberdeen at first to meet new people. But financially, RGU was the obvious choice because of the Alumni Loyalty Discount on postgraduate courses. The other good thing about doing my master’s at RGU was that I got a credit transfer for one of the modules I did in my fourth-year.
What has been your experience of the course so far?
I have really enjoyed the course so far and don’t regret doing it. It’s been a very productive year. The modules are really practical. I’ve worked with two live clients on hypothetical projects, which has been really fun. Because I managed to transfer credits from my previous year, I only had one module in my first semester of my master’s. I had a lot of free time, it was great! It was really handy and took a lot of stress off my plate.
How was the application process for your placement with Mearns and Gill?
Because I had so much free time during the first semester, I was researching PR and Communications companies in Aberdeen for my placement. I must have been sending a CV and cover letter every week. I also worked with the Centre for Employability and Community Engagement at RGU, who also sent my CV off to some companies. As a result, Mearns and Gill must have received more than one copy of my CV, which eventually became a running joke when I was working there! I wouldn’t recommend bombarding companies though. However, you should do your research and try to stand out to get noticed by potential employers.
After a few weeks of not hearing back from any of the companies I sent my CV to, I received an email saying that Mearns and Gill were interested in setting up an interview with me. I had the interview in the first week of January. I was extremely nervous and thought the interview went really bad. It felt like I spoke about my weaknesses for too long and I was also showing a lot of self-doubt. After waiting for three weeks without an answer, I thought I didn’t get the placement. But, in the end I got an email from the manager saying they were happy to get me on board. I started in March, which gave me a month to prepare and make the necessary arrangements with my part-time job.
Can you share more about your placement experience?
I was quite worried at first as I feared I wouldn’t be up to speed with what was expected of me. But the people that I met there were really helpful and the experience was just amazing. At the start, they sat me down and asked me what I was learning in my modules at university. As a result, everything that I was doing on placement was a direct application of what I had been learning at RGU. Some of the tasks were still challenging, but I was able to overcome them quite easily by thinking outside the box.
During the placement, I was mainly doing audits for clients, but I was also tasked to do some for Mearns and Gill. I had to dream up ideas for their own marketing, such as creating a newsletter from scratch. I also wrote a radio campaign for Northsound 1 and Northsound 2 for a charity event, which was played live. It was a bit nerve-wracking as I only had an hour to write it before it was sent away to the station.
The experience gave me a perspective of what it would be like to work full-time. When you apply theory in real life, it’s giving you an eye-opener as to what the job is really like. It was a learning curve, but it wasn’t the end of the world if I messed up. Mistakes could be solved quite easily because the team was really experienced. On top of this, it was a paid placement, which was a really great bonus.
What are you the most proud of achieving while on placement with Mearns and Gill?
I’m quite proud that my suggestions might be developed by the team at Mearns and Gill. Dreaming up ideas and sharing recommendations was great. There was also a campaign that I worked on for Clan Cancer Support. Our team had five days to get the pitch ready. I remember sitting in the meeting and coming up with a design that they really liked. Even though it wasn’t used in the end, it was acknowledged, which made me feel really good.
But I would have to say that my proudest moment was writing the radio campaign and hearing it live! The fact that my writing was heard by thousands of people is amazing.
How do you think the placement will help in your career?
I think the benefit of the placement comes down to all the skills I learned. I feel more ready now to enter a job in the industry than I was before starting my master’s. The placement has taught me to discipline myself and time manage effectively. Time management is a big skill to have, especially on placement and at work because you’re doing several tasks at once. I also developed so much personally. The experience gave me a really good feeling of pride and accomplishment which I will carry forward.
I have written a blog sharing 5 things that I learned at Mearns and Gill that will definitely help me in my career. You can read it on their website.
What are your plans for the future?
After graduating, I would like to get a full-time job in the industry. Not before going on a nice holiday though! I think I also need to keep learning. One thing that’s important in life is to never stop building. I never want to stop creating and asking questions. Recently, I’ve also started to encourage discussion on LinkedIn to get people talking and read other people’s opinions on industry topics. I’m going to try to keep doing those to build my knowledge.