Start-Up Your Career

Amy Wood graduated from Exeter in 2013 with a BA in French and Italian. She’s currently a Client Strategist at digital advertising agency Captify – voted Number 1 UK Start-up 2014 – in their New York office. Amy talked to us about her time at Exeter, what it’s like to work in a fast-growing start-up, and how to stand out in the graduate job market. 

Amy Wood, Client Strategist at Captify

Amy Wood, Client Strategist at Captify

Why did you choose Exeter?

Exeter has a reputation as a good university, which was why it made it onto my initial application. It’d been rising through the league tables for a while based on high student satisfaction, and was well-known for having a strong languages department; however, all the universities I applied for had similar reputations. It wasn’t until I came to an open day that I decided Exeter was the place for me. All the current students I met were raving about how great the university was, and it didn’t hurt either that it was a sunny day and the campus looked gorgeous.

“At start-ups, every move you make matters, even if you’re intern; they’re looking for individuals who’ll take the initiative and be creative from the word go.”

What did you enjoy most about your course?

By far the best part was having the opportunity to study abroad. I worked as a teaching assistant in Liguria, Italy. The year was such an amazing experience, as I not only improved my language skills, but I learnt many invaluable life lessons. My year abroad helped prepare me for the working world by forcing me to take initiative and be independent. I would recommend anyone attending university to study abroad if they can, even if they’re not studying languages.

How much of a factor was your degree in helping you get your break in the start-up world?

Exeter’s excellent reputation was definitely influential in helping me start my career. The transferable skills I got from my year abroad were also instrumental. I work in advertising, so the actual content of my languages degree wasn’t strictly speaking relevant. However, the fact that I had a degree from Exeter definitely gave me an edge.

What’s a typical day like at Captify?

I’m responsible for making sure campaigns rebook and increasing the revenue generated, which means my time is split between working with other departments internally to ensure that processes are as efficient as they can be, and communicating with our clients at advertising agencies. Relationships are key to my role; both internally and externally. Building strong relationships with clients will help generate extra revenue, whereas strong internal relationships will ensure efficient running of campaigns.

There’s a great culture of collaboration at Captify; everyone’s opinion is considered, regardless of seniority, and everyone’s welcome to share their ideas with senior management. The Captify team is very close, and loyalty is key. Everyone’s passionate about the company and wants to see it continue on an upward trajectory.

“To be a part of something like this from the very start gives me a great sense of achievement, as all my decisions are directly influencing the direction the company is heading in.”

Tell us a bit about your New York adventure so far.

I’ve been working over here for three months now, and even though Captify now has over 120 employees, it’s almost like working at a new start-up. We’re a team of 6 and I’m heading-up my department here. At times this can be scary, but for the most part it’s incredibly rewarding. We’ve already built some strong relationships with big advertisers such as BMW and Volkswagen, and we’re growing at a rapid rate. To be a part of something like this from the very start gives me a great sense of achievement, as all my decisions are directly influencing the direction the company is heading in. I’m learning so much about the market every day, and also have the benefit of living in the best city in the world.

What’s your one tip for grads looking to get noticed by start-ups?

At start-ups, every move you make matters, even if you’re intern. This means that they’re looking for individuals who’ll take the initiative and be creative from the word go. The best tip is to do your research before the interview. Make sure you know as much about the company as possible; from news articles and awards, to the ins and outs of their industry as a whole. Take the time to know what you’re going in for, and have questions ready about the company that show you’ve been doing your research. And above all, be confident in yourself.

BrighterBox helps ambitious graduates kick-start their careers at exciting start-ups like Captify

Life as an Actor – Agents and Auditions

It’s never too late… helps final-year Humanities students get advice from successful Exeter alumni, and showcases opportunities from the Careers Zone Actor Des Yankson graduated from Exeter with a degree in Drama in 1999. Des has appeared in many TV shows including Still Open All Hours (BBC), Cucumber (Channel 4) and Hollyoaks (Channel 4).  

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Des at work in BBC One’s ‘Still Open All Hours’

When I left Exeter I had no real idea what lay in store for me. I wanted to act, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Fortunately, I secured an agent early on; they’re invaluable in helping you get work. They often have lots of contacts in the industry and get to hear of jobs through various means not available to actors.

However, securing an agent is tough, you need to either be recommended by somebody they know (and they respect, like a client or good friend) or you need to be in something that they’ve heard favourable reviews about or seen for themselves. You can get into a play for profit-share or head somewhere like the Edinburgh Festival (in August) or create your own projects that you can show to the agent (a showreel of your work). You should NEVER have to pay your agent upfront; they take a percentage from the work they secure for you. Not all agents take unsolicited CVs, so pick wisely. They’re always on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’ and that could be you. After you manage to get an agent, you may think it’ll be all plain sailing and that you’ll be at the Oscars within the year. But often, it takes a lot more work than that.

“Nothing beats telling your mum that you’re going to be on her favourite soap!”

You need a good relationship with your agent; after all, they’re working on your behalf and they’ll do a better job if they know you well. They’ll contact you when they have work, so days when you’re not working will be spent looking for work, or working as a temp. Temping is very flexible for actors and it tends to pay well enough to cover all bills. The downside is that you work often during the very times that most auditions are. Acting is a craft; you need to work at it and get better. As you progress, you’ll get better and better jobs which are higher and higher profile. This means that you need to be prepared for long periods of unemployment (from acting) and that when an opportunity arises you can focus on it completely. Acting is not a ‘part-time’ profession, but unless you’re rich you’ll need some form of part-time work. You need to pay for subscriptions, photos, travel to auditions as well as workshops and seminars.

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Opportunities are there for the taking. If you get a good audition, you need to grab it. Be punctual, learn the lines and be ready to do it more than once. And go in there with the belief that the job is already yours, it helps control the nerves. The majority of your acting life will be taken up with auditions. Personally I like them as you get a chance to play with new material and to meet new people. But lots of people think they’re nerve-racking and hate them. However, they’re a necessary part of the job, just be open to anything that’s said. After all, the casting directors want to finish their job by saying ‘I’ve found the actor we’re looking for’. But in the most part, they’re good fun, if you can relax. After all, if you can’t handle the pressure, then maybe acting isn’t the profession for you.

When you have work, it’s great because you’re in an industry that you love, working with people who are the very best at what they do, and you can often do things that people in other jobs can’t. It’s very exciting to work at your passion and also to be able to affect people with what you do. Nothing beats the rush from getting that all important job on TV, or when you meet someone really famous and then get to work with them, or telling your mum that you’re going to be on her favourite soap!

Start planing for your future and visit It’s never too late…

Impress and Progress

Looking for graduate jobs after your studies can feel like a daunting experience, and with potentially thousands of applications streaming through their email inbox every day, you need to have a plan of attack to stand out from the crowd.

Matt Arnerich (left)  and Arthur Ashman, Head of Talent Development InspiringInterns

Matt Arnerich (left) and Arthur Ashman, Head of Talent Development at InspiringInterns

Matt Arnerich talked to Arthur Ashman, Head of Talent Development at graduate recruitment agency InspiringInterns, about his top tips for keeping your recruiter on side.

  • Have a Balanced Approach

If you get the chance to meet your recruiter in person or over the phone, it’s important to keep a balance between enthusiasm and politeness. ‘When we interview candidates we love them to have enthusiasm and a genuine passion’ Arthur says, ‘but it’s important this doesn’t spill into arrogance’.

According to Arthur, it’s important you remain humble, while coming across as confident and professional. ‘At the end of the day, we have to know that you’ll shine when we put you forward in front of our clients, and if you can impress us, we know that you’ll impress them’ explains Arthur.

  • Honesty Really is the Best Policy

When you’re first entering the job market, it’s tempting to exaggerate your work experience or grades. While you might think you’re bypassing certain filters, it will always damage you long-term.

‘We do thorough research on all the graduates we decide to put forward for roles, and the chances are we will find out if you’ve been misleading on your CV’ says Arthur. It can be damaging for their reputation to pass on candidates to clients who then find their interviewee has been misleading.

‘If we find out you’ve not been truthful, it’ll damage your chances far more than if you’d been honest to begin with, as we can’t take the risk of putting you forward to the clients,’ explains Arthur.

‘When we interview candidates we love them to have enthusiasm and a genuine passion.’

  • It’s Not All About You

This is an important tip, not just for how to keep your recruiter on side, but how to impress potential employers looking to hire a graduate. It’s easy to focus on the skills and experience that you have, but really, your focus should be squarely on how those skills will benefit your employer.

‘If you have a huge range of diverse skills, but can’t equate them to how they’ll aid the company, then employers are unlikely to be interested’ says Arthur, ‘in essence, we’re a sort of gatekeeper to our clients, we only want to let the best through, but if we think you’re good enough we have a lot of authority as we have a direct line to interested companies’.

  • Email Etiquette is Important

When you move into the graduate jobs world, you’ll inevitably be faced with daily email duties, whether internally or getting in touch with prospective and established clients. ‘You need to make sure you’re professional in your email exchanges with us’ Arthur is quick to point out, ‘please don’t be over-friendly, as it just comes across as insincere’.

Arthur suggests using the recruiter’s name wherever possible, and avoiding ‘mate’, ‘pal’ or other colloquial references. ‘Finish off with Regards or, Kind Regards instead of Cheers’ he explains, ‘and please double check your spelling and grammar before you hit the send button!’.

  • Never No Show

‘We don’t mind if you’ve got another opportunity’ says Arthur ‘but please let us know as soon as possible’. Simply not turning up reflects incredibly badly back on them, Arthur says, and therefore increases the chance they won’t want to work with you anymore.

Even though it’s tempting to jump at the chance of a more attractive opportunity, don’t schedule it at the same time as an existing commitment unless you have to. ‘Companies will normally have no problem provided you explain that there’s a scheduling conflict’ according to Arthur, ‘in fact, you’re likely to come across as a stronger candidate if they know they’re not the only one interested in you.’

Mock interviews

mock-interviewsIt is almost inevitable at some stage you will have some sort of interview, whether it be for that first graduate job or possibly a postgraduate course.

This can be in person, by telephone or even Skype, but the basics remain the same. You need to convince the interviewer that you have the motivation and skills they require.

Preparation

Preparation is an important factor for any interview but you can never fully predict how the interview will be structured and what may be asked. Practise can offer that key insight into the interview process where it all comes together in terms of you communicating effectively verbally and through your general demeanour and body language.

Mock interviews

The Career Zone often has employers offering “mock” interviews which provide the opportunity to have a realistic interview scenario with an experienced recruiter. It doesn’t need to be your ideal employer or your dream job to be valuable. You will face a challenging interaction with someone who will explore your motivation and test the evidence of your skills by discussion of your actions and achievements. It is not only what you say but how you come across, so the great benefit of a mock interview is the opportunity to practise and receive detailed feedback on your performance. Feedback is not always an option when you have “real” interviews and of course your graduate future is not dependent on the outcome of the mock interview.

How to find mock interviews in My Career Zone

Login to My Career Zone and click on the Events tab. Enter ‘interviews’ into the search tab to see what upcoming sessions are taking place. These opportunities get filled up quickly so it’s a good idea to book early to avoid disappointment; it could be the experience that gives you the edge in your future career.

Take a look at some of our interview resources in My Career Zone.