I’m coming up to my one year anniversary working in the Student Movement.
It’s been everything, and more, I hoped for and expected.
I’ve come to SUs / Student Associations relatively late in my career. I’m in my (ahem) *late* thirties and I’ve spent the majority of my working life in comms and marketing in, and supplying, the public sector. That includes just under ten years working in-house in local authority or NHS organisations, and about four working agency-side, supplying such organisations.
Working here has been an amazing opportunity for me. I’ve become a Director of Marketing and a Senior Leader earlier in my career than I thought I would. This has brought a huge level of responsibility with it; but it’s also provided the opportunity to work with our fantastic comms, Insight, Community and Business Development teams to create something really transformational and exciting for our 20,000 students.
In my first year alone, we’ve delivered an incredibly busy academic year of activities and related comms; whilst also creating a new three-year strategy for the whole organisation, rescoping our entire brand identity, and absolutely transforming our on-campus social experience for students.
I’d say that working in marketing and comms in an SU / Student Associations is a really good amalgamation of the agency-side and client-side public sector experience.
It’s a relatively small organisation (around 40 core staff), which means you have lots of flexibility and agility to act and innovate. And as around a third of your audience changes every year, you absolutely have to remain at the top of your game to anticipate change, and provide creative solutions for it. It’s a pretty young workforce – meaning your team tends to be full of people with energy and creativity, and looking to develop their skills.
Yes, there’s also crazy deadlines, opportunities that come at you out of the blue, which you have to be reactive too, and a very clear focus on looking after the bottom line (if, like us, you have commercial income as a key part of the organisational model). In all these senses, it’s very similar to my experience working in a marketing agency.
But, there are lots of parallels with the public sector too. For a start, the working conditions are fantastic. As the parent of a young child, working here has given me a huge degree of flexibility. I’ve been able to compress my contracted hours into four days so I’m able to be at home one day a week to look after my son; and the other in-work benefits that come with working in the third sector, and being attached to a university, really are second-to-none. Remote desktop access also means that you can answer things and contribute to discussions as you need to when you’re away from the office.
And while some of the more bureaucratic aspects of working in the public sector also exist here, the most important thing it shares is a very clear people-led ethos. This is what really attracted me to work here. People are our business, their experience our focus, and their future happiness our passion.
It’s for this reason, above all others, that SUs / Student Associations are great places to work.