Industry insights into Marketing: KCL alumna Joana’s career journey (1/2)

Today we have an exciting case study with Joana, a KCL alumna. From studying Comparative Literature with Film Studies, Joana’s career journey has taken her through various routes in the marketing industry to eventually running her own marketing agency! Read more how Joana’s story goes, on the first page of her 2-part case study.

Joana smiling at a wooden desk with a laptop, and business blazerMy name is Joana and I did my BA at KCL in Comparative Literature with Film Studies. After university, I went into marketing and freelanced on the side, eventually becoming self-employed and started running my own marketing company last year. I am also a photographer and writer and have just come back to King’s for a part-time MSc in International Marketing.


What is your current role like?

I currently run a marketing agency, called Just Say Marketing. We work with sustainable, ethical and independent brands on their communications and strategic development. I have been deeply passionate about sustainability for years so this really seemed like the right fit and industry for me.


How did you get there?

I worked a few internships, unpaid jobs and contract roles in marketing in my first year after university, until finally landing a full-time job in a boutique events agency. By the end of my time there, I was one of the primary decision-makers and main point of contact for clients, so I felt like the next natural step was for me to run a company myself.

Retelling the story, it sounds straightforward, but it really wasn’t.  I decided to try marketing because it seemed to combine my passions for writing, photography and design. I applied for hundreds of roles without getting the job or without hearing back at all. It took a lot of trial and error and hard work to get to where I am, having to teach myself so many things along the way. I’m pretty much still at the start of the journey but I’m very excited about what the future holds.


What was it like starting up in your industry?

Starting out in marketing when I did, around 6 years ago, brands did not do much on social media and what was done had little to no budget, organically. So a lot of the jobs were unpaid or low-paid internships. That worked okay for me at the time and it was easier to get a leg up in the industry if you could afford to take that job to start with (I worked a pub job alongside my unpaid internship in order to pay the bills).

Nowadays, going into the marketing industry is harder, especially considering the effects of COVID-19. If you have no experience, some medium-to-large-sized companies seem to be waking up to offering apprenticeship-style positions, but those will be scarce and just as competitive as other roles.

The best thing someone looking to start in marketing, communications, social media, would be to get as much learning, skills, experience and portfolio work under their belt as possible. Be “so good they can’t ignore you,” as Cal Newport might say, and to continue the title of his book (which I highly recommend): “Skills trump passion in the quest for work you love”.


King’s Careers Take: As Joana says, being active in your learning, developing skills, experience and a portfolio is a great way to gain that employable edge. You can develop your employability in many ways when you’re at King’s, and beyond. Take a look at our KEATS pages for ways to build success!

My tips for students interested in a marketing career

The things I really wish I’d started doing earlier is recording my professional learning, achievements and milestones, and collecting everything in an organised portfolio. You really don’t get taught how to showcase your work enough, unless it’s a visual art, but it’s so useful for anything – especially in marketing-related fields, from paid advertising to social media, to events.

Starting an Instagram account for your art? Coding a landing page for a mate? Getting a poem published on a blog? Doing a one-day course in event management? Nothing is too small to include in your portfolio and reflect on, and you’ll definitely benefit from writing about your work and getting a better idea of the direction you’re going in. It might be useful in future and only time will tell which achievements will remain part of the portfolio, and which ones will be retired.


Part 2 of Joana’s case study is up now – click here to read the rest!