Creative career that hits the right notes

Creative career that hits the right notes

Like many hip, young things about to graduate from university, Adam Gammall had always pictured himself taking up an equally hip job in the UK’s creative sector.  By Telegraph Jobs' editor, Louisa Peacock.

The pop-music lover from London had set his sights on Britain’s music industry, and lined up a couple of paid internships at well-known record labels, before and after graduating.

Gammall (pictured), now 25, was on the right path to fulfilling his dream of becoming a music marketing manager within about five years, or so he thought. He couldn’t wait to make his friends jealous about the music videos he would work on, or the pop stars he would bump into on a regular basis.

It soon became apparent, however, that working in music was not all it is cracked up to be. He remembers his first day at a record label well. “It was really exciting; platinum discs of artists I recognised lined the walls and I remember thinking, am I going to bump into one of these singers?”

But after three placements at various companies, Gammall realised the work he would be doing in real life didn’t match his dream.

“At times it was quite stifling. I realised big decisions were being made around me and I was nowhere close to being part of those decisions. We weren’t invited to the big meetings with senior management and didn’t have a say,” he says. “A lot of the junior work was to do with logistics and processes – and you appreciate that has to be you – but there was hardly any creativity.”

Having said that, Gammall believes his time in the music industry was an “excellent” learning curve and gave him insight into a professional business. But he couldn’t help but wonder what other jobs would help him better exploit the skills he had picked up from his degree in business management and Spanish.

It was then that Gammall went back to the drawing board and revisited his university careers advice centre for help. He spotted a paid internship at Sparkler, a small market research company working with the likes of Nokia, Kraft and the BBC.

Market research typically involves big consumer brands, charities and governments working with market research agencies like Sparkler to help them better understand consumers, and market their products and services accordingly.

According to Jane Frost, chief executive of the Market Research Society, market research is an important part of consumer-goods companies’ business strategies, but it can often be relegated by outsiders to “students with a clipboard”, or “cold-calling”.

“People have a weird misconception about the industry,” she says. “You can spend your entire life in market research and never go near a clipboard.

“Market research is about designing an answer to a problem. For example, how you find a solution to telling taxpayers that the licence fee at the BBC is great. This can involve focus groups and research, but it’s also about observing behaviours and psychologies.”

Gammall, having felt restricted in a so-called creative job, was willing to try out a career in market research and says Sparkler’s job advert appealed.

“They were looking for junior-level people with bright ideas who were creative. The advert said we’d be involved in the big decisions and working with senior members of the team; it implied we would have a say,” he says.

Gammall applied and got the placement, which soon turned into a full-time graduate position. Within months, Gammall was promoted to a consultant. “I was instantly thrown in at the deep end,” he says “I felt like my opinion mattered. I’d gone from photocopying to being in a boardroom and having 20 people looking at me and expecting me to say something.”

He has now been at Sparkler for 18 months and says he feels creative on a daily basis. His day job involves working with a variety of clients on wide-ranging projects, such as how to launch a product to market, and has already taken him to New York,Moscow and Saudi Arabia.

Gammall is confident his career will progress at a quicker pace than if he had stayed in music. “If someone had told me two years ago I’d be working in market research, my misconception of the industry would have put me off,” he says.

Frost, the former head of marketing at the BBC, says market research work spurs creative thinking and a range of business skills. She says graduates start on between £18,000 and £25,000, but can climb the career ladder to be earning executive salaries within a few years.

This article was originally featured on

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

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