You’ll be a doctor. An accountant. A lawyer. A teacher.
Human dissection? Spreadsheets? Money vs. Ethics?
Teacher it is then.
These were the ‘realistic’ career paths available to me at school. You see, in Gibraltar, there were only two secondary schools — the boys’ school and the girls’ school. (Coeducation in a staunchly Catholic country? Behave.)
Choices were pretty limited and the economy was hardly diverse and booming. If you wanted to go to university and return to The Rock there was a very small career pool to dive into. Doctor. Lawyer. Accountant. Teacher.
If you chose not to go to uni, a public sector job was the jewel in the crown. A government job offered security, a great pension, and very comfortable working hours. These opportunities were few and hard to come by. Kind of a “job for life” deal.
My parents were both teachers, so the illusion of choice was quickly lost. Teaching was the (only) pathway for me.
But it didn’t feel right.
The Write Stuff
I’ve always been a fan of writing and wordplay, but never really thought it could take me anywhere. Too many images of down-and-out novelists desperately trying to forge a living, staring blankly at a typewriter, whisky in one hand, cigarette dangling between pursed lips.
Copywriting and advertising were so far out of my sphere of reference, they were non-existent. As for content marketing? It actually didn’t exist!
After several years as a teacher (English and Media), I found myself between jobs. And that’s when things started to change.
In 2010, I started doing some freelance work for a boutique marketing agency, Just Consulting Ltd. (later rebranded to Social INK), run by Chris Bruno; some web content for clients, blogs for his news site, Your Gibraltar TV, articles for his print magazines, and general copy-editing work. This marketing lark was actually not bad.
Some reading and research later and I was sold.
I learned what a copywriter was. It was me.
I began exploring the possibility of a career change. From teaching to marketing and advertising.
Cue lots more research and reading.
An OMBelievable Find
And that’s when I discovered One Minute Briefs!
It quickly became the only reason to have a Twitter profile. A whole community of ad creatives, designers, copywriters, students, award-winners, happy to share ideas, share knowledge and feedback, and share a laugh.
One Minute Briefs was (and still remains) an absolute goldmine for someone looking to:
Learn about advertising
Practise the creative process and gain valuable, constructive feedback
Build a portfolio
Network with some seriously talented, friendly, and creative people
It opened a whole world of possibilities.
70% of what I’ve learned about advertising, copywriting and design has been as a direct result of my involvement with One Minute Briefs. I learnt a lot from the OMBLES.
It took me a while before winning my first OMB. But the learning curve was so steep that once I bagged my first win, the floodgates opened. I was quickly building up a collection of advertising concepts that people rated.
With points a), b) and d) covered, all I had to do was throw together a portfolio and start looking for opportunities.
I set up a website to showcase my work and started a blog — mostly exploring advertising. The original version of my site is no longer active, but you can find my current blog here (it needs sprucing up a bit).
The Third Act Twist
Now feel free to break out the world’s smallest violin.
A bit long in the tooth, somewhat educationally institutionalised, with a young family to support, getting actual industry experience to break into advertising proved more than difficult. It was impossible.
Portfolios are great, but there’s no substitute for actual agency experience and personal networking to help you crack into the industry. Placements are the expected route. Working for free.
But I got bills. I got mouths I gotta feed. There’s no way I can work for free. Especially when there isn’t even the promise of a job at the end of it.
Dream over. Back to the classroom. Back to the drawing board.
Realisation (In a Todorovian Sense)
Fast forward to January 2018 and a renewed sense of purpose.
I’d been looking at the problem all wrong.
It only took me five years to realise.
I was casting my net too wide. And into the wrong expanse of water. Up against younger, more malleable, and more ‘experienced’ fishermen/women.
I needed to switch my focus to something with lower barriers to entry, where the playing field is more level, and the opportunities are not geographically confined.
Enter digital marketing.
More specifically, content marketing and social media marketing.
I hit up Chris Bruno again. I needed to update my website, relaunch my blog, and start getting my head around the subtle nuances of the various social media platforms. Start gaining practical ‘experience’. More doing.
So I did. I started writing a weekly blog on creativity and creative thinking. Things I observed that interested me. I dusted off my Hootsuite account and got into the habit of planning and scheduling regular content across my Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Lots of practice, and at the same time, raising my online profile.
It soon turned out Chris needed some blogs written for his company website — now Social INK.
And then some social media posts.
And then some proofreading for clients.
Fancy doing Social INK’s content?
Well, What Do You Know!
One thing quickly led to another and just over a year on I found myself as Head of Content for Social INK, writing for some really cool clients, devising content marketing and social media strategies, and loving life working from home as part of a larger distributed team.
You see, whilst there are established routes into certain industries, they’re not the only ones you can follow. When everyone zigs, try to zag.
Don’t accept there’s only one entrance. And even if there is, there are other buildings that might have something similar to what you’re looking for. Go knock on those doors.
But if it’s inspiration you’re looking for, or a platform to help build you up, then OMB is it.
Mine may not be the greatest OMBLE story ever told, but OMB has seen some amazing successes — check out William Baxter’s story and Ze Anwar's, perhaps the highest profile of the lot. And there are a lot!
But, all things aside. Whatever you end up doing. Wherever you plan on going. Just always keep in mind, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Follow Gareth on Twitter at: @alvo_muses