A Graduate Perspective: Interning in the Food and Drink Sector and how it has kick-started my career

Today we have a special post from an Edinburgh Alumnus Aisling Brady who graduated in English Literature this summer. Below are some of her insights into how interning in a food and drink SME kick-started her career.

My name is Aisling, and 4 months ago, I graduated from Edinburgh University in English Literature. Whilst I enjoyed the day immensely,  it was a fleeting sense of achievement because the fact remained, I was unemployed. After countless applications to jobs like ‘Marketing Coordinator ‘Advertising Researcher’, and eventually ‘Administrative Support’ and ‘Sales Assistant’ I was increasingly beginning to think I was ‘unemployable’; the typical response being : ‘great CV for your age but simply too little experience’. But HOW do I get experience if no one will give me the chance?!

After a couple of deflating interviewing experiences where I reached the final round for jobs I didn’t really want only to be turned down in favour of people with 5+ years experience behind them, I was running out of ideas, time and money.

A few days after my graduation ceremony, I was asked to attend an interview for ‘Marketing and Sales Intern’ at an intriguing company called ‘MaRobert’s’; a role I’d applied for through The University of Edinburgh’s vacancy database MyCareerHub. The company itself was a small one, but one which seemed suitably exciting and unusual for me: Tanzanian cooking sauces, made by the fabulous Maggie Mazoleka,. I went along to interview, because Maggie’s brand and personality seemed a good fit with myself, and a drafted 12 month sales and marketing strategy (cobbled together as I had no previous sales or marketing experience).

After an interview unlike my others- Maggie was looking for potential, NOT experience, I was offered the job and a couple weeks after that, I began. Simple!
Maggie works in a Business Accelerator called Entrepreneurial Spark, so my office environment is one where I am surrounded by up to 70 start-up businesses working in all different sectors. As a result, there is huge scope to learn, grow and mingle with businesspeople and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. After an initially wobbly first week of finding my feet in a business I knew nothing about, I quickly became immersed in and knowledgeable about the Food and Drink sector, and I have to say it’s a really exciting one to work within – especially now as the sector is experiencing rapid growth and an increased focus this year- 2015 Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink.
Within 3 months I have learned more than I can possibly translate to a page about Business, PR and Marketing, Design, Finance, Sales techniques, Networking, Copywriting and more- I have genuinely loved it and it’s shown me that I have the potential to be a creative businessperson myself.
In October, I decided I wanted to move to London after my initial 3 month contract was up, and though Maggie and I were sad I’d be leaving she was very supportive. I was back on the job hunt, but this time it could not have gone differently. Through a bit of LinkedIn networking, connecting to the right recruiters and applying for the odd job, I had offers of over 30 interviews within a week- in jobs paying a far better wage than those I couldn’t get seen by before, in exciting sectors.
After 4 days of interviews (15 in total- don’t do it, it is NOT fun) I had 5 job offers in marketing and PR roles in creative and exciting businesses in London with excellent salaries and career development opportunities to choose from. In interview, I had so much more evidence to display my suitability for the role, but only because I had taken this internship and because a start-up business owner, Maggie, had initially seen my potential.

This week I start my job as an Account Manager in the PR Market Research Industry and I’m really excited about it. Maggie and I will remain friends, and I have created a great network of business contacts across sectors, which provides me with further opportunities for the future.
My advice to those seeking genuinely valuable and transferable experience is this: Intern for a start-up, Intern in the Food and Drink Industry and soak up everything you can. Working in a start-up means you see all the working of a business, and get to meet dynamic entrepreneurial people.
Thanks to Aisling for her insights into beginning your career in a small start- up in the food and drink sector. This is a sector that is perhaps overlooked with huge growth prospects . In Scotland alone, between 2007 and 2017,  the industry will need c. 16,000 new recruits, including graduates from science, engineering, technology, marketing and management with 97% of the roles in micro to medium-sized businesses like Ma Roberts.
To find out more check out:-
Scottish Food and Drink Federation,
Scotland Food and Drink Skills Academy
Scotland Food and Drink
The Scottish Government Food and Drink

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