Numero P

I went to university for the wrong reason but left for the right one. I failed my first year by partying too hard. By the time I got to the second year (which in theory was my third year), I lost interest and accumulated nothing more than a few great friends and some serious debt.

On the days that I bothered to turn up to lectures, I would often find myself looking around the room at all the other students thinking to myself, ‘what’s the point? Eventually, if and when we all graduate, we’re all going to be competing for the same jobs in advertising’. The guys in the room were my competition. To beat them, I required a head start, so I quit university without completing my degree. I just didn’t tell my parents.

Rather than give up, I stepped up. By the nature of their business, I knew advertising agencies wanted creative people, not just intelligent people. I knew they were inundated every summer with letters from postgraduates trying to get a job, so the letter I was going to send had to be different. To get chosen, I had to get noticed first.

So, I wrote to 300 advertising agencies in London. I grabbed a copy of the business pages, looked up advertising agencies and starting with the letter ‘A’ worked my way through the list down to ‘Z’. Stapled to each letter of application was a tea bag with the instructions ‘make yourself a cup of tea whilst pondering my CV’. I knew without a degree my CV was worthless, so I left it completely blank, with the exception of my contact details at the top and the words emblazoned across the bottom ‘to be continued’.

I remember posting the letters as it cost me a small fortune in postage stamps, not to mention tea bags, but I received something like 20 replies saying ‘thanks, but no thanks’.

Eventually I got a lucky break. Someone saw I had a creative flair. A guy called me in for an interview. I wasn’t right for that particular role, but the guy interviewing me referred me to a friend of his at another agency and it wasn’t long before I landed my first a job as an Account Exec. Agency entry level, but it didn’t bother me. I was in. Not only that, I was in at the same level, doing the same job that the university grads start on. They had the degree, I didn’t. I was the underdog. But what I was blessed with from a very young age was an ability to think differently.

When you have nothing to lose, you become fearless. When you’re fearless you think bigger, often without boundaries.

It only takes one person to change your life. A five-minute meeting could lead to a lifetime of opportunity. Connect with as many people as you can and meet as many people as possible. Everyone has a back story and you’ll be amazed at how many interesting people you will meet.

Copyright © Matthew Parkes 2020

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