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Account Executive: Inspire Me

Weronika ZBenning1 June 2016

As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Arthur talks to us about his Account Executive role at Gorkana, an award-winning media intelligence company.  Here he talks to us about how he got this role and shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into the sector.  For more insights from recent graduates working for smaller organisations, visit https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-careers/ and search #SMEProfile.

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How did you get into your role?

My name is Arthur, I’m 24 and have been working as an Account Executive at Gorkana since April 2015. I finished a master’s degree in Autumn 2014, followed by two comms internships in the charity sector. Because I was involved in PR, I’d obviously heard of Gorkana, though not for its analysis services. I had spent a (perhaps excessive) amount of time ‘playing’ with its media database – a must-have tool at the outset of any PR planning and campaign targeting. I found out about my current role simply by going on the Careers section of the Gorkana website. Having always had a keen interest in the media, the description of the role really appealed to me, was roughly in line with what I’d recently been studying (political communications) and let’s be honest – I needed a job. Slightly disenchanted by the early days of my job hunt, during which I was told I was either “overqualified” or didn’t have “enough experience”, I applied to Gorkana with relatively low hopes, I must say. I was impressed with the first contact I had – a prompt response by HR and a real demonstration of interest in my background. From that moment, it all went quite fast. I had an interview, a test, and a few days later – I had a job!

What are the best things about working in your role?

I think one of the best things about Gorkana is that it really invests in people. Pretty much my whole first month in the company was dedicated to training me and other newbies. When so many companies are obsessed with work experience – even for entry-level positions – and simply won’t give you a chance if you don’t have the experience – the experience that no one gives you the opportunity to build – it was refreshing to find Gorkana was not one of them. While a solid academic record and some experience are undeniably valuable, Gorkana gave me a chance to demonstrate my value in the workplace without a set range of pre-selective, arbitrary requirements. And I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself by saying that, but I think it’s been relatively successful so far.

As for the role itself, there are many rewarding aspects to our work. Finding out that your report is discussed at an organisation’s managerial meeting or used as the basis for PR strategy is one of them. Generally, when clients express gratitude for what we do for them, it’s a nice feeling. I also like working in a fairly niche industry, which simultaneously gives you an interesting overview and glimpse into the world of media. There is huge variety of clients here at Gorkana: from government agencies to financial groups, charities, clothing companies, transport companies, videogames publishers, tech companies… We get a lot of insider knowledge on a vast array of sectors, some of which we probably wouldn’t learn anything about otherwise.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

The technicality of the job can be a bit overwhelming at first, but that’s what the training is for, and like everything else, it takes time. I never felt like I was thrown into the deep end, but at the same time, I was trusted and given the opportunity to get stuck in right away and progress rapidly. Deadlines can be demanding and inevitably clash. When new to a company, it’s virtually impossible to predict how long things are going to take or anticipate the various issues that are going to arise, so it has its challenges. But it’s not something to panic about – we work in teams and people help eachother. There is a huge sense of accommodation and problem solving. People work hard, but not blindly and unnecessarily hard. I hear of workplaces where you have to stay until at least 7pm everyday even if you don’t have anything to do, just to look good in front of management – Gorkana is not one of those places.

Job roles at Gorkana are also really interwoven, which can be challenging when you’re used to working by yourself at university. Even back at uni, I used to dislike working with others on projects, presentations etc. It was always somewhat chaotic – people would disagree and go in different directions, I was never happy with what came out of it. In a professional context, it’s challenging but also much more ordered and efficient. And necessary. You don’t achieve anything by yourself in the workplace – or not quite. You have to listen and be heard. Team work is the essence of any work.

What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

I always found that spending a decent amount of time on a company’s website was key to taking in what the company was about, its ethos and where you would fit in – what you would bring personally. There is a reason why all that stuff is written on there – companies showcase themselves in that way and communicate things that are meaningful to them. So they should be meaningful to you. You don’t have to be an expert in a sector you’re trying to get into – your interest will be more crucial but will need to be substantiated with a perceptive understanding of the work you might be doing and its wider environment. That applies particularly to companies where the technicality of the work is not necessarily something you can learn from previous experiences. Rather than looking at whether you know things, what will be looked at is whether you’re capable – and in particular able to learn and to adapt to a team, immerse yourself in an environment that you’re by definition not familiar with.

I regret not having taken more advantage of my uni days to build up a greater amount of work experience. This is primarily what is looked at by a lot of companies, although I do believe the key is – rather than accumulating lots of experience – to build good, relevant experience. Quality over quantity. And be smart and selective about how you present yourself to an employer – tailoring your profile to their needs and expectations.

 

Gorkana is attending UCL Careers’ Global Citizenship Employability Programme, where they will be participating in a “speed interviews” event. They will also be at the UCL Jobs Market, taking place on Wednesday 8th of June, advertising vacancies with immediate starts.