Working as a relationship manager: behind the job title

Like so many graduates facing the daunting prospect of finding a job, it was difficult at first to know which direction to take. With a degree in modern and medieval languages, and the obvious career in translation, my options were fairly open.

I had always been fascinated by the power of advertising, and studying foreign languages gives you an appreciation for the subtleties of communication in your own language. From there it was an easy step for me to settle on digital. It’s such an exciting new area, and with advertising budgets shifting online and web technology becoming more sophisticated, we can now undertake some pretty innovative digital campaigns.

Digital marketing agency Essence was still pretty small when I was job-hunting; it was a friend who already works in the industry who suggested I should look into the company. With so many players working in this space, it was really useful to get an insider’s view: you learn a lot more that way than reading a company’s glossy marketing material. I decided to apply, was invited for two rounds of interviews, and the rest is history. I didn’t have any direct experience in the industry but think it was my obvious passion and interest in the sector that sealed the job. A dedication to thinking outside the box and a strong degree will also help set you apart from other candidates.

I’ve been working as a relationship manager on the eBay team for just over a year now. Essence looks after eBay’s online advertising across Europe, which makes us a multilingual bunch – it’s not uncommon to overhear conversations in three or four languages at once. EBay is the sole client for our team at Essence, and we work very much as an extension of its own team – which is all the more impressive given that it’s based in Zurich. This means that as well as flurries of emails and conference calls, I get to go out to Zurich around once a month to work from the eBay offices. It helps to sit down with the client face-to-face rather than all communication being electronic.

My role centres on managing eBay’s UK partnerships with media owners such as MSN, AOL, Orange and Virgin Media. These partnerships involve a mix of co-branded content, search tools, editorial promotions and traditional online advertising. For example, eBay has a bespoke page on MSN, and it’s my job to decide what that page should show each week, and to work with contacts at MSN to drive users to the page regularly. Current and prospective partners often approach me with new ideas and I’m expected to take a step back and work out if they’re going to work for both parties. However cool an idea sounds, it needs to help clients achieve their goals if I’m to going to recommend it.

A great thing about my job is the variety: no one day is the same as another. One day I might be immersed in spreadsheets, honing our recommendations for how eBay should spend its budget. The next, I could be helping a partner on an editorial promotion for the eBay fashion outlet, or briefing the designs for a new set of creatives. When I left university, I was torn between my inner geek wanting to be very precise and analytical, and my creative streak craving an outlet. I didn’t really believe I’d be able to satisfy both those desires but I think my role at Essence strikes a pretty good balance.

If you’re interested in working in digital marketing but don’t know if you’ll fit the mould, you needn’t worry. You certainly don’t need to have studied anything technical: a good degree in pretty much any discipline will be enough for most roles. The main thing is to show real enthusiasm for the field and to have done a bit of research on the companies you’re applying to. If you have the raw ingredients to succeed, most companies are happy to train you on the job.

I didn’t have any specific work experience in the industry but if you’re still studying it’s worth contacting companies to see if they have an internship scheme or if they’ll just let you shadow someone for a week or two over the summer. Experiencing things first-hand is invaluable in helping you decide if the industry’s for you. And you never know – it could be a foot in the door to a job.

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