Future TalentEd Summer Term 2020 Summer 2020 - Page 19

SPEAKERS FOR SCHOOLS STUDENT RESOURCE Sereena Abbassi’s insights into advertising Speakers for Schools contributor Sereena Abbassi is worldwide head of culture & inclusion at M&C Saatchi. She provides some advice on how to get into and thrive in advertising. What opportunities exist for different skill sets in advertising? You can work as a strategist (or planner) setting the thinking behind a campaign. This role tends to involve a lot of research; history and the humanities are an excellent pathway. There’s also the role of the creative, usually as one half of a creative duo, bringing the campaign’s strategy to life through composition and narrative. If you’re a copywriter (wordsmith), you’ll need a love of words, as your job is to make a product sing by using only a few catchy words. There’s also design, where the unique identity of a brand comes together, requiring skills in graphic design, design and art. Most people start their career in advertising as an account executive. Account handling is the first point of call between the client and the team, and as an account handler, you’re the glue. There’s a strong project-management element to this role, so being organised, an excellent communicator and a people person is vital. You’ll also be in charge of budgets, so simple maths is needed. What sort of qualities and attitudes are sought after? Agility, as we’re living in rapidly changing times; problem-solving, because rapidly changing times require new and fast solutions; optimism, because sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and critical thinking – with the over-saturation of information, having the ability to critique and form our own opinion is essential. Watch Sereena Abbassi’s video about her career and life journey PLAY VIDEO “I’ve delivered talks to secondary school students about seeing all your life experiences as badges of honour” What routes are there into advertising? Most advertising agencies should be trying to move past degrees as a prerequisite, so if you choose to not go to university, a good route in would be via a trainee scheme. Social media is a great way to build and maintain contacts. Most creatives will be on Instagram as it’s the perfect platform for young people to showcase their work; others will be on LinkedIn. Many agencies will have the photos and names of their people on their website, so this is where you should start your research. Why not ask people for advice on how they got to where they are – or even if they’d be open to mentoring you? Being mentored transformed my life, keeping me on track and helping me to meet my goals by holding me accountable month by month. What could young people do during lockdown to gain relevant skills? Start building relationships; a network. There are loads of free online taster sessions that you could try, such as with School of Communication Arts which specialises in advertising. There’s also an incredible documentary series by Adam Curtis called The Century of the Self. It talks about the inception of PR and advertising. Though it doesn’t show it in the most favourable light, it demonstrates how powerful the industry is and why I believe it can change the world for the better if placed in the right hands. During lockdown, focus your energy on what you can control. Use this time to start researching different industries, start a mini passion project, enter competitions and connect with people. I believe Covid-19 will be the catalyst for change that many industries have needed. A business is nothing without its people, so keep being curious and keep learning. “Find a company that reflects your values; that way, you’ll never have to compromise yours” What advice would you give your younger self and to students now? Nurturing all the elements of yourself is core to feeling balanced. Don’t forget about the many facets that make you who you are. Find a company that reflects your values; that way, you’ll never have to compromise yours. Move through this world with integrity (be your word). Remember that most industries are based on relationships: build and nurture them; only burn bridges if you need to. The world is tiny, and you never know when you might see or need that person. And know that your job title does not equate to your self-worth. How you show up in the world and contribute to the lives around you is the only thing you should judge yourself by. I’ve delivered talks to secondary school students about seeing all your life experiences as badges of honour; they’ve shaped how you see the world and make you who you are. Tell us about your own career path My path wasn’t linear, what’s remained the same is my purpose: to help people connect to themselves so that they can better connect to each other. I attended The BRIT School, the only non-fee paying performing arts school in the country at the time. At 30 years old, I was in New York and trying to make my name within the acting industry. However, I became disheartened with the sexism and the stereotypical roles I was put up for. I moved back to the UK via a short period in Amsterdam, where I set up social enterprise to fight social injustice and help organisations to become more inclusive, diverse and accessible. This led to me being headhunted to go in-house at M&C Saatchi.