How Martin came to work at Equator

In the latest of our 'how I came to work at Equator' series, Innovation Director Martin Jordan reflects on his experience of grad schemes post-university.

Last week, SEO Manager Stacy Nelson, kicked off the 'How I came to work at Equator' blog series. And this week, our Innovation Director Martin Jordan reflects on his experience after university and why going straight into a corporate grad-scheme is perhaps not the best option.

The strange phenomenon that is the university milk round. Big name companies coming round universities early on in their final year, enticing you with their big name appeal, glamorous graduate programmes and the promise of an amazing salary (one day sometime in the future). As a student, it’s hard not to find that concept appealing… a stable job with growth potential with a brand your Granny has heard of and the reassuring thought that you could lock down your first job 9 months before you even graduate. How very sensible.

And way back in 1996 when I graduated from the University of Stirling, that was the well-oiled machine that we were indoctrinated into following. These bastions of commerce were where opportunity lived. The idea of leaving university and finding ourselves in some smaller organisation filled us with horrors whilst the idea of making it in some Mad Men-esque urbane ad agency seemed unlikely unless you were the chairman’s son or daughter.

But fast forward 20 years and I can tell you that the appeal of “going corporate” from the off is such a big mistake, it makes me almost cringe at the fact that this very routine still goes on and is still hoovering up talented minds with that same robotic, “get you into our machine” mentality. Big companies (I won’t name names) are touring universities, cherry picking graduates in September (!) and offering them vague places on their oh-so illustrious graduate programmes. And they’re doing this with a “you should be so grateful to us for the opportunity” attitude that often means they’ll neither confirm the role you’ll be getting nor the location you’ll be doing it in – because, well, they’re bigger than you.

That sucks. If you’re sitting there with that “lucky” predicament or just reeling in the horror of having no control over your career path you’re not alone. If you’ve recently landed yourself on such a programme and finding that all that creative genius and open-minded thinking is being slowly crushed by the all-powerful corporate machine, then it’s not too late to do yourself a favour and switch to the dark side!

A career with an agency is a different animal. Agencies by their nature are melting pots of creativity and chaos. The idea of a rigidly defined, linear path built round an enterprise-level graduate programme in a creative agency just doesn’t make sense. Clients engage agencies for their thinking and for their open-mindedness. Maverick thinking is not borne in a rigid environment. But for the free-spirited, hard-working, chaos-friendly creative-minded individual, agency life offers an open book where your mind is free to explore new ideas whilst still allowing you to “find yourself”. Your next two years were not defined 9 months ago. They’re defined every day and shaped by your own developing expertise and endless enthusiasm.

For me, having worked in big corporates for over 10 years before coming to agency life I can see what I missed – what my mind missed. Big companies offer structure and sensibility and control. But looking back, I could see I rebelled against this control, frustrated by the limitations it brought me. I had ideas beyond the regular. I hacked my way out of problems rather than accepted them. And sometimes this got me into trouble. In agencyland, I would have thrived from the off, my hacks turning into products, my rebellions turned into ideas for open-minded clients. I learned a lot from working for big companies like Asda, Littlewoods and the Leeds Building Society, but I learned my true ability in agencyland because there’s always room to think and opportunity to challenge.

By Martin Jordan, Innovation Director.

Up next in the series is Aileen Larkin, one of our PR and Social Media Consultants - take a look at her thoughts on her career path