To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve been speaking to women in a range of industries about their career journey – the highs, the lows, the advice they were given and the advice they would give. Everybody’s career journey is unique, and we hope these interviews will inspire.
Cynthia Ajayi is Media, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at The Women’s Organisation, where she leads the team responsible for marketing their varied courses and programmes, and growing the organisation’s presence on social media.
Is your current role a job you always wanted to do?
Yes and no. I have always had a passion for the creative industry, so it’s not surprise that I work in marketing! However I kind of fell, found myself here. My main skills are media, TV, radio. I worked as a production co-ordinator for the BBC for four years and did a bit of freelance presenting.
In my current organisation I joined the marketing team to help launch their first podcast and create video content. Through doing that, I picked up marketing skills and continued to market for different elements of our organisation and then here I am.
What was the Career path you took?
My career path started the most typical way, I studied Drama and English at university, with an idea of possibly working as a journalist or an actor. After three years of drama, I realised I was not cut out for the acting industry. However in my final semester I did work experience in the production industry and felt that was my fit. So, after I graduated, I thought that I would find a job like that. That was certainly not the case, I realised I had little experience or connection in the media industry, so needed to build that up.
I was working in Select for 2 years as a sales assistant, while at the same time volunteering at my church’s office to build my administration and organisation skills and apply for media jobs, go to networking events, and get my foot in the door. I finally got offered a job as a production manager’s assistant, after interviewing for four jobs and not getting them. (That’s just at the BBC). So, I worked on various programmes and contracts within the BBC for 4 years. In that time I moved up to production coordinator, coordinating TV programmes and internal events, I learnt a lot, gained skills, and sharpened skills. Outside of my day-to-day work, I did a lot of event volunteering, short courses in radio, public speaking, and writing.
My contract finished in December 2016 and I started to look for another job. However six months later I was still unemployed. I started to think maybe I need to pivot into a different industry. I quite liked sewing and I grew up with a mum as a seamstress and that year I had a few friends who were getting married and asked me to make veils for them. So, I thought about starting my own business while I was looking for full time job. While I was writing my business plan, I was also doing work experience as an event assistant at a co-working space, so was learning about business at the same time. In the early stages of running my business I came across a job ad at my current organisation for a trainee business advisor and I thought as I had recently set up a business, I could certainly help others set up their business.
I applied and got the job, and I did it for 1 ½ years and really enjoyed meeting different people and encouraging them with their ideas, however I felt that I didn’t have a creative outlet and missed being more creative. I decided to go part time with the job and explore other creative avenues. At the same time the marketing team wanted to do more videos and launch a podcast which was an area I was interested in and had a bit of experience. So, I moved into that role and three years on I am now looking after a small but powerful marketing team.
Do you have a mentor to help you?
I don’t have an official mentor, I certainly want to get one, I think it certainly helps you grow in your career and expand your network. But I have had some fantastic managers and colleagues who have helped me grow in my skills and confidence. I have family friends who I feel I can turn to for advice and tips and will always give me tough love and encourage me in the right direction even if I don’t want to hear it.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had in your career? How have you dealt with these?
I would say confidence and attaching my identity to what I do. Whenever I used to make mistakes, I would think I was a terrible employee or that I wasn’t good enough, but that’s not true, what you do is not who you are, it’s just what you do. The best thing to do is to see mistakes as an opportunity to grow and become more well-rounded.
Confidence was another challenge in my career, certainly when I was surrounded by people that I thought were more talented than me. I would think, what do I have to bring to the table? So, I had to learn and be confident in who I was and that even if I felt like I wasn’t experienced enough, I still have another perspective, point of view, fresh perspective that I can bring and I should bring. I deserve to be in any place I want to be and should be confident in the seat I have at that table. So, it took a while to get there and still something I practise.
What advice would you give to 18-year-old Cynthia?
So much advice! Don’t give up, keep going, you are so talented and there is so much more ahead for you, don’t dream small but brave and bold! I could write a book of advice for myself! Ha!
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