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Margaret Daly Thomas

Margaret DalyAnalyst, Cubitt Consulting

MSc Strategic Management and Marketing, 2012

What made you choose Middlesex University?

It was very important to me to be in London.  I was accepted to a number of universities in the city, but Middlesex offered me a partial scholarship, which made it a pretty easy choice for me.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

I had previously be working as a consultant in Washington, DC, and found that when trying to develop new business opportunities I was at a loss for how to start. I pursued this course to obtain a good foundation in business, and I thought where better than London to do that.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

Olga Mourouti was an inspirational teacher. She had so much energy and really took the time to get to know her students well. I also developed spectacular relationships with some of my classmates who provided a much needed support network which I believe enabled me to graduate with a distinction in the end. I also loved the structure of the curriculum which allowed us to research and learn more about how companies (which are often household names) have succeeded and how they operate in a broader environment.

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

One of my fondest memories was the culmination of several months' hard work for my market research module, where I was part of a team that conducted a survey on student uptake of the Learner Development Unit (LDU) resources at Middlesex. We were deeply engaged with Hayo Reinders and his team throughout the process and felt in the end that we had made a meaningful contribution to the future programme agenda set forth by LDU.  It was so nice to find a practical application for the many things we had been learning during our modules!

What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective student interested in studying at Middlesex?

I would advise people to have a clear idea of what it is that they hope to achieve at the end of their studies. During my courses, I was given ample opportunity to explore industries of my own choosing and to engineer the work I did to create a meaningful portfolio ahead of applying for jobs at the conclusion of my studies. I did not realise until mid-way through that I was interested in the public relations industry, and in hindsight I under-utilised the opportunity to really shape a cohesive body of work that would better prepare me for my current job as a public relations consultant.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you to get where you are professionally today?

My course at Middlesex was extremely useful in preparing me for my current job because in many ways, public relations work is very similar to the industry analysis I did as a student. When preparing to assist a client with sending the right messages to the right people, I constantly refer to the knowledge I honed during my time at Middlesex: it is vital to understand how the company fits into the industry, who their target audience is, and how they want to communicate about themselves to that audience. Middlesex gave me a firm foundation for pulling all of these pieces together.

What made you choose the industry you work in and what are its pros and cons?

I chose to work in public relations for a number of reasons. Firstly, I thought it played well to my particular skill sets. I am a pretty good writer and communicator as well as someone who enjoys following current events and continuous (though painless) study.   In my job, I get to spend most of the morning reading numerous newspapers and keeping up with current events (particularly those relevant to my clients in finance and energy).  In my efforts to bring in new business and manage existing clients, I am constantly doing research about new and interesting companies and using my brain and creativity to consider how they improve the way they communicate with the world.

If you want to get ahead in my job, you need to spend loads of time going to events and conferences meeting with journalists and prospective clients - not a bad way to pass the work hours at al)!

The cons are probably the client work itself and some of the research involved in developing good media relations and opportunities. The research is often extremely labour intensive. The important thing is to take control of your career early and find a balance between the necessary client work and the networking events.  You can't network well unless you have done your homework and know something about the people you want to meet.

How did you get your foot on the career ladder post university?

I filled in a million applications and sent them off to numerous organisations without a lot of success.  Sometimes your CV doesn't adequately indicate how good you will be at your job or the sort of impression you'll make in an interview. I found it far more useful to utilise my network to find a job.  I spent much of my time at networking events and developed relationships which enabled me to apply directly to someone who knew me personally. I also asked everyone I knew to put in a good word for me and pass my CV along to their contacts. This system yielded me plenty of interviews and internships.

Rather than being disappointed with internships I thought of them as excellent opportunities to prove myself to an organisation on the job. I did five internships, some longer than others. Some made me realise that I was glad to keep looking, others ended in disappointment when I wasn't hired and the final one turned into a job that I love.

What has been your defining career break or highlight to date?

I'm still waiting for what I would call a career break, but I am working very hard to get there.  I've realised in my current position that I have a talent for networking and drawing new business. During my time here, I've been to some great events and developed business opportunities with a handful of well-known international corporations, something that no one else at my level is doing. The current highlight would be the initiation fees I've collected for bringing these in, but the career break will be if these turn into big commissions and a promotion for me in the coming months.

What does the future hold for you?

I'm not sure! I tend to plan the future with annual objective goals. This year I hope to improve my base skills, meet more journalists, bring in at least two new clients and get a promotion. Next year, I will modify these.

Long term, I hope to start my own small public relations firm and use my spare time to be more active in charity (especially literacy), but I have a lot of growing to do before this would make sense.

What are the top three career tips you would give to current students and recent graduates?

Firstly, consider a job which will fit well with your natural skill sets.

Secondly, in a new job, work incredibly hard no matter how menial the task (these are the building blocks of knowing your trade well), have a good attitude, and always continue learning everything you can to do your job better.

Lastly, don't wait for your boss to create opportunities for advancement (you have to do this yourself in most cases).

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