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Religions and Theology

Laurel Buchanan

Laurel is a Digital Account Manager at Wavemaker, part of WPP. She graduated from Manchester with a BA in Religions and Theology in 2013.

Here, she talks about what she does and how she got there following her time at Manchester.

On what I do

I work in advertising and media. As a social and digital specialist, I use data and insight to creatively solve problems and produce inspiring solutions for big brands with stories to tell, helping them to raise their profile internationally and ultimately drive sales of their products across social and digital channels. 

Laurel Buchanan

All ideas are rigorously tested to financial and time constraints given by the clients, and then executed, analysed and reported on to the client. If they like them, we get more work. If they don't, well…!

The people I work with are very talented both academically and creatively, which is inspiring and fun to be around.

Working in an agency also has the benefit of working with different businesses. For example, my team are working on 15 accounts, from Vodafone to Chupa Chups, which I really enjoy as I'm not limited to one account.

Also, I know I shouldn't say it, but the perks are fantastic (free Spotify events - where I have seen Kylie Jenner!).

On how I got into my job

The best thing about the digital/social industry is that it didn't exist 20 years ago! As a result, I didn't find that there was a path to follow.

The Careers Service at Manchester advised me to look at the LinkedIn pages of Chief Marketing Officers to work out the qualifications I needed to succeed in this field. As a result, I went on to win a scholarship to complete a MA in Marketing after graduating.

After that, I joined a start-up, and then I jumped into agency life working on big accounts like Vodafone, Bayer and a favourite of mine, Philips Global, which I have been lucky enough to win awards for.

I would love to say that I had a well thought-out route, but my career has been solely based on putting myself forward for as much as I can and jumping when opportunities present themselves. 

On life at Manchester

Manchester opened my eyes creatively, and I started to build a strong network of like-minded people who inspired me and pushed me forward.

Also, you are likely to meet Manchester alumni in your field of work, and I have found that this instantly gives you common ground, which is highly valuable (and particularly helpful in interviews).

I would highly recommend going to the Careers Service for advice, even if you don't know what you want to do yet!

On studying Religions and Theology

I chose Religions and Theology because I was interested in people, culture and history, and that has always guided my career. My job is to understand all these aspects and work out how a brand can authentically speak and tell their story to people in different societies across the world.

I loved my course - it was inspiring and challenging not only to get through all that reading, but also because it pushed me to learn a lot about myself. I was taught how to think in different ways about culture, society and history, which has had a profound impact on how I approach problem-solving with client briefs.

The variety of module selection is first class. I also had fantastic tutors (shout out to Dr Zavos), and the dyslexia support was incredibly helpful, especially around dissertation time.

On my advice for other students

Having a degree from The University of Manchester is like having a gold tick next to your name when you are applying for jobs – it gets your foot in the door.

However, in such a competitive job market, that on its own is not enough. I would advise being proactive by talking to people in your desired field (find me on LinkedIn), doing a summer internship (make sure you negotiate for your expenses to be covered if it's unpaid), and reading relevant industry publications, such as The Drum.

You should also be bold - get a list of the firms you are interested in and proactively reach out to their recruitment teams to ask them what they look for in candidates, and what openings they have.

Finally, it's important to build up your resilience and keep going - everyone gets rejected at some point during their job search. I certainly did!