"Bouncing around and restarting is part of the process for many": Ian McAllister

Find out more about Creative Careers and Alnwick Gardens' Ian McAllister in this interview below!

Elisabeth Gores
22nd February 2023
Image credit: Castor Chan, Pixabay, The Courier
We had the chance to talk to Ian McAllister, Head of Marketing at Alnwick Gardens, who gave us some insight into job opportunities within the marketing field. He also discussed the fundamentals of starting a potential career within marketing, and some of the unlikely degrees and qualifications that may lend themselves useful and valuable.

How do you define marketing?

Marketing is all about the process of making people aware, it is fundamentally an awareness campaign that leads up to a sale, but not the sale itself. This inclusion of a sale is a common misconception due to the way in which marketing and sales are frequently lumped together, despite being very different.

What insights can you provide someone considering a career in marketing?

From a hiring perspective, after reading the first 5 CVs or so they blur into one and quickly become dull and repetitive. So whilst it's cliché and has been said before, you must make yourself and your CV as unique as possible, and simply market yourself for a career in marketing.

Recently when I was hiring for a digital marketing role; I threw away any applications that were printed on paper rather than digital in any way. Those applicants that fared the best in this recruiting process used digital CVs on YouTube and TikTok, and whilst this was at the risk of rejection and embarrassment, it also had the prize of being hired.

Similarly, when I had just graduated, I worked in high-street recruitment whilst my two flatmates worked for BBC and Channel 5 respectively. Out of spite I chose to try to get a cooler job in television and ended up writing to MTV in Camden telling them as such. Whilst I was fortunate enough to be offered a position, this sort of approach is risky as how well it is received is greatly dependent upon who the recruiter happens to be, and in this case, I risked being perceived as arrogant. However, this anecdote is more to encourage anyone reading that conventional approaches aren’t always the only way to enter a field if you really want to.

conventional approaches aren’t always the only way to enter a field if you really want to.

Aside from marketing itself, what degrees do you think lend themselves well to this job?

Within marketing, the range and application of skills is so broad that to me, the degree is much less relevant than the person themselves or their unique skills and personality. It's about how the individual meshes with the team and the culture of the office and the organisation. This is to me much more important and prioritised over a first-class marketing degree.

I did an applied social sciences degree, and whilst at the time I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do career-wise, this has greatly helped me as people and their psychology greatly factors into marketing. Even on my current team, there are people with English, Graphic Design, Film, and Media degrees, and someone who worked in the Army for 20 years rather than undergoing higher education. They all have their unique skills and this when combined allows for us to be greatly successful so someone without a marketing degree shouldn’t worry, but nor should someone with a marketing degree.

How did you end up in your current marketing position?

I took rather an unconventional and somewhat risky route to where I currently am, so I would stress to anyone reading that isn’t or hasn’t followed a uniform life path from GCSEs to A-levels, to University, and then to one life-long job, that it's okay. Only at age 47 and in the last 15 years have I discovered what I really wanted to do, bouncing around and restarting is part of the process for many. Two years before university, I was planning on joining the Air Force. However, they rejected me due to my eyesight. So off to university I went, choosing the closest one only 30 minutes away. I then came out still unsure what to do, so I worked at the recruitment office for MTV, I rented flats to students, set up my own marketing business, and then started working for Alnwick Gardens.

Image credit: Ian McAllister

Does your company offer work experience?

Yes, my company does offer work experience, and someone reading this could apply. However, they must show interest in the field, rather than treating it like something to check off the to-do list. If I believe a candidate is truly passionate and interested, I would make sure they will gain some true work experience on one of our many projects.

What is the marketing project that you are most proud of?

8 years ago, my colleagues and I applied to take part in the Red Bull Soapbox Race, unfortunately, we didn’t get in and so decided to organise our own soapbox race in just three months. This event generated huge buzz for the company, with the event raising over £10,000 for a local children’s hospice and being covered by Sky, ITV and BBC news. I’m proud of this due to the money raised for charity and the successful marketing of this unintended marketing project. I also looked after Jay-Z for one weekend, and worked on the Ozzy Osbourne fly-on-the-wall series, and whilst those are bigger name drops, the first project still stands out to me.

Ian will be a guest on the 'Careers outside of curation' panel on 28th Feb at 5 pm in The Boiler House, G.03.

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