A History Grad to Marketing Professional: Jessie's Career Journey.

a20ed805-8e59-46f5-95fb-9e99d8010b5a.jpg

My career journey so far - Jessie.


When I was about five years old I told my parents I wanted to be a hairdresser. The following week I had decided teaching was my true calling. Being indecisive - in every aspect of my life - has been part of my personality for as long as I can remember.

I wish someone could have told me how normal it is to not know what you to do with your life at 16. (Even now, a decade on, I’m still a little bit clueless on some things). When UCAS applications, A-Levels and the possibility of university rolled around, my friends all happily announced their chosen careers: teaching, nursing, event management. Me? I was still that girl deciding to be a lawyer one minute, and then a teacher the next.

Instead of trapping myself into a career path I wasn’t sure I would want to take, I set my heart on a passion instead. I’ve always loved learning about the moments that have changed the course of history; the defining moments in human and civil rights, the acts of atrocity against humankind, the political campaigns that change everything, and the eras we still celebrate now.

Following my passion, I picked a history degree that had no set career path but a skill set that could be transferred to so many: government work, business, law and so on.

So, how exactly did I come to choose marketing as my career?

The lightbulb moment came when I wrote my dissertation on Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign. I loved learning about the way his staff helped to portray a certain image of him in the media, and the messages used to market his policies and his personality. As someone who has always loved the creativity that comes with words, I had underestimated the power of the message until then.

a20ed805-8e59-46f5-95fb-9e99d8010b5a.jpg

The summer I graduated I secured an internship at a venue hire startup in London. I know internships get a bad rep, but I had the best time! I truly believe it was invaluable in helping me to learn what I loved and didn’t love about marketing, and ultimately whether it was for me.

If you’re considering an internship, I recommend finding one that will pay you for your time, and make sure the work you’re doing fits into the industry you’re trying to break into.

From there, I went on to do freelance marketing work for a number of different startups including a British accessories brand and a photo-sharing app. Not many people begin their careers doing freelance work, but working for startups allowed me to develop my skill set.

I did everything from social media management and business development to content creation and influencer outreach. What I didn’t know I had to teach myself. It was stressful at times, but in hindsight, I’m really glad it happened that way.

Since then, I’ve worked both agency and client-side on both local campaigns and those that have reached global audiences. I’ve worked in 10+ industries as a result.

I pride myself on building a varied career in the last five years, as I really think it’s helped me to become a better professional. I don’t want to get complacent though, as there’s still a ton of skills I need to learn - namely graphic design - and I still see myself at the beginning of my career.

Working in a startup environment since I left university has only sparked my own desire to have a passion project or business one day. Away from my 9-5, I’m a career mentor and an avid writer. I’m also currently attempting to build a space for creatives to seek support, opportunities and mentorship, and to champion each other.

The creative industries can be a lonely game, especially if you’re a one-man band or hustling hard as a freelancer. Sometimes, people view side hustles as a means of escape from a 9-5, but I’ve always seen a side hustle as the perfect vehicle for personal and professional growth. I’m under no illusion that side hustles are the Valencia-filtered dream that Instagram makes them out to be, but I enjoy being able to do something alongside my full-time job.

Working in the digital space can be daunting and scary at times, but its changing landscape fuels my fire. It keeps me on my toes and I love the learning aspect of it, even if it can be exhausting at times. I also love the idea that the job I might do in 10 years time doesn’t even exist at the moment.

Do I see my degree as a waste? Absolutely not. Some careers - and people - work best when the foundations are flexible. In a lot of industries, it’s not the title of your degree that matters, but the skills you’ve developed along the way. Plus, I like to think it has helped to make me into a more rounded individual.


Written by: Jessie Leong

This article is written by a contributor, if you would like to contribute to Girls In Work, please drop us an email.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent Girls In Work.