23rd January 2020

My University Placement At Cygnus 

My University Placement At Cygnus

I instantly felt welcomed by the team, where from day one I have been supported and encouraged to grow further through, not only project work, but self-development too. I’ve felt included where my work counts for something, enabling me to become a strong and confident team-player.

A Bit About Me

Before starting this discussion, I thought you may want to know a little bit about me, who I am and why I chose Cygnus as the place of work for my placement year.

So, I’m Jack, a (BA) Advertising Student at Bournemouth University, however, my hometown is Milton Keynes where I was born and currently live.

Like many students and graduates today, choosing a degree can come with a number of benefits but also a number of drawbacks, particularly those they face when seeking employment beyond their degree. The classic notion seems to linger amongst some employers, of graduates having a degree but ‘NO EXPERIENCE’, which of course after 3 years of studying and a major debt is incredibly frustrating. This leaves many students asking whether a degree is really still of benefit in today’s marketplace?

Hence when choosing my degree, I was eager to have a ‘sandwich placement year’ where part of your studies includes a year in the workplace, which the student must source and secure themselves. This is most beneficial to students for one very obvious and one less obvious reason. Firstly, they provide students with between 30-52 weeks of real work experience to add to their CV’s before even leaving university which appeals to most employers, but secondly (and less obviously) you gain skills and experience that can’t always be taught within lectures.

During this blog, I will discuss why Cygnus has been a great placement opportunity for me.

 

Joining Cygnus

I knew that I’d always wanted to go into an agency for my placement; as an aspiring creative I knew that to be able to grow and learn the most, I’d achieve this within the agency environment. In choosing a location, I aimed to stay local to see what my hometown of Milton Keynes could offer to the creative industry.

I also wanted to go somewhere where a hierarchy didn’t overrule the importance of teamwork, and everyone worked equally together. Somewhere I could strive to feel valued and get noticed whilst having the chance to make my mark within the workplace.

Cygnus offered me something which I prioritised when choosing my placement, real responsibilities. Here, I would lead the role as the Cygnus Social Marketing Manager sat within the creative team, which is somewhere I’d always aspired to be. I instantly felt welcomed by the team, where from day one I have been supported and encouraged to grow further through, not only project work, but self-development too. I’ve felt included where my work counts for something, enabling me to become a strong and confident team-player.

As an agency, I can proudly say that Cygnus are honest with their messaging ‘you make us’ because here it isn’t just about what the senior management do to lead the business, the resources provided or even the work itself. What Cygnus is about, is forming a team within projects, office culture and everything else completed. That’s why I chose Cygnus as a team to work with, over an agency to work for.

 

Real Responsibilities

As mentioned, I wanted to feel included within the agency and that was most important when it came to my involvement within projects. Since being at Cygnus I have worked on an array of campaigns, some of which I’ve been able to creatively lead from the scribbles on paper to the final output. My creative work has been delivered to clients such as Papa John’s, YMCA Milton Keynes & Northamptonshire and more, which has ranged from a pizza Halloween campaign to a charity Christmas campaign.

Working on live client briefs as a placement student is always beneficial, you can learn so much about the development of a creative concept, whilst also understanding the client relationship and how the creative will convey the brand. These projects have enabled me to further my self-confidence in sharing conceptual ideas with the team, whilst also learning how to receive and give feedback. This is something which can’t always be taught at university, but only within the workplace and Cygnus has been able to achieve that.

Being a creative, means that having your contribution heard (whether it be a foundation idea or simply a suggestion) is the most rewarding feeling as you are able to see that finalised and deployed to the audience. Since working at Cygnus, I have been fortunate enough to be recognised within the creative team and involved within a variety of projects, which has both widened my creative scope and also provided me with the appropriate skills in communicating within a creative team.

 

Learning More Than Expected

Since joining the team, I have seen my skill set rapidly increase and improve from being a team player as previously mentioned, to utilising software and filming apparatus – something I never expected to learn. One thing about my degree which I’d hoped to have been exposed to more, is the tools needed to execute visuals i.e. Photoshop and After Effects etc. I’d always wanted to incorporate these skills within my own creative skill set, enabling me to both create concepts but also execute them too. Cygnus has given me this opportunity, and I use these tools regularly.

Now I am no “wizard” at using these tools, but I have certainly learnt how to execute using the software. As an individual I’m usually quite harsh on myself when learning new things, where I aim to know everything straight away. However, my mentor here; Matt Hickling gave me some useful words which have resonated with me: “It’s not about learning it straight away, it’s about having a go at something and throwing yourself in there”. For me, I’ve always put any situation or task as “down to experience” whether it ends up going wrong or I haven’t particularly enjoyed it, I’m always eager to have a go. The Cygnus team have definitely supported my efforts to try out unfamiliar tasks and gain new skills, which has enabled me to feel more comfortable in widening my skills.

This has taken a lot of trust and belief in me from the team to get me involved within design work and projects, which I may not have found at another agency. I can only thank the team for wanting to see me grow as a young creative.

 

Opportunities

Since being at Cygnus I have received plenty of opportunities to grow within the agency and learn new skills. The team has made sure to include me within anything that may benefit my learning experience and so in my first week I attended the Tech XLR8 event within London at the Excel centre, exploring new technological developments. This gave me a wider taste of life outside the agency, and this is also invaluable for the Cygnus team to remain relevant in our creative proposals.

Furthermore, learning how to film has been a major part of my learning at Cygnus where for most of our social media content, we have required video content. This has been most enjoyable and a skill I’d never expected to learn. The team wanted to give me greater exposure to filming, so I was able to attend a two-day recording at Nikon Optical. This was most insightful where I gained an understanding on the processes behind filming on a mass scale, lighting techniques and how to effectively film subjects.

More recently, I have been appointed as the YMCA Milton Keynes Marketing Manager with thanks to the Managing Director of Cygnus, Martin Carmody for offering this to me. This opportunity will allow me to grow and take my placement experience to the next level. I’m excited to begin this role and extend the charity’s growth, led by myself with the support of Senior Creative George Lah-Anyane and the Cygnus team. This role calls for me to act entrepreneurial in leading the YMCA marketing strategy, to make an impact upon the residents living at the campus whilst also implementing marketing theory and practices learnt both from University and Cygnus.

 

Final Words

All in all, Cygnus has been a great placement opportunity where I identify with more than just a team. With a bundle of personalities and interests at Cygnus, I am proud to have been part of a diverse agency culture where I have made friends and not just colleagues. Every team member is recognised for their identity and not just their skills, which creates a warming but also fun place to work. I have been able to thrive at Cygnus and that hasn’t just been down to the projects I’ve worked on, or the opportunities that have arisen, but I enjoy coming to work each day and seeing what’s in store.

It’s been great to have seen and be a part of the incredible work coming out of a local agency like Cygnus, where great creative talent exists outside the capital and all thanks to the Cygnus team for helping me to grow as a young creative.