After graduating, many who are keen to pursue a career in marketing or business development might consider working in many sectors, but working within the professional services sector is often not a graduates first thought. In fact, it’s often via an accidental stumble into the sector, through job board searches or personal recommendations.
“When I left university I didn’t even know that being a marketer in a professional services firm was a job opportunity. I stumbled across it and I am very glad that I did”, says Rachel Sharpe, Senior BD Manager at Mayer Brown.
With the majority of people not even knowing what the ‘professional services sector’ even actually covers, it’s little wonder that graduates are unaware of the ever increasing number of opportunities across the sector.
So what is the Professional Services sector?
The professional services sector (or PS sector), is a sector which covers legal, accountancy, property and management consultancy firms. Often these firms are structured differently to a regular business with Partners, who own the firm, heading up areas of the business. This environment is often also referred to as a ‘Partnership Environment’.
Is it a good route?
So fresh graduates that contact Leighton Taylor frequently ask whether it is a recommended route to explore, to which we always answer “Yes!”, as there are so many benefits to a career within the sector, which include:
• The opportunity to join a successful Global or National organisation that is expanding.
• To be part of a professional, corporate environment with a strong brand and established marketing/BD department.
• To gain exposure of working alongside senior stakeholders across the business.
• Excellent training opportunities.
• To have diverse responsibilities across a broad marketing & BD remit.
• Good financial remuneration and company benefits.
• Good opportunity for career progression.
Helen Battrick, recently appointed as Marketing & BD Assistant at Winckworth Sherwood is really happy about getting into the area. “When I first explored this sector I was surprised to see just how many opportunities there were. Getting that first foot in the door was tough but now I have just secured my 2nd role with a London based law firm and am loving it!”
What firms are looking for?
Over the last 20 years, the marketing & BD teams throughout the sector have exponentially grown in both headcount and sophistication. These firms have expanded teams from both the junior and more senior end and have in more recent years been prepared to recruit fresh graduates with limited direct experience. So what are they looking for?
• Graduates are preferred over non graduates.
• In order to liaise effectively with stakeholders they frequently look for very strong academics gained from either Oxbridge or other top 10 universities including Warwick, Exeter, Lancaster, Bath, Durham, UCL etc.
• Personality is also very important, chosen candidates must be confident, articulate and strong at relationship building.
• Graduates with at least 6 months’ experience ideally gained during a placement year or an internship are favoured. This experience should be B2B and anything connected to the professional services sector is a distinct advantage.
• Candidates who have an understanding (either from a family member or friend) of the workings of a partnership also preform much better at interview stage.
How to improve your chances of being selected?
Hard work is one of the key elements. Strong academics are frequently preferred but if you haven’t got them then it’s not a definite no, it just means that you’ve got to gain some good experience in order to compensate.
• Spend time writing a strong CV, ideally with good academics and some experience to illustrate.
• Secure internships with any professional services firms to gain invaluable experience.
• Seek out opportunities to help you demonstrate the qualities PS are looking for. For example, team-work, play for a sports team, organise a charity event, Duke of Edinburgh, or simply do some part-time work.
• Commercial instinct is important. This means developing your understanding of the business context in which professional services firms operate. Get into the habit of reading the business pages of national newspapers. You’ll find it easier to show you have what it takes to cut it as a BD specialist if you start thinking like one. PS are not looking for fully-fledged marketers/BD specialists but they are looking for instinct and potential to develop commercial sense.
• Work closely with us to help you prepare your CV, prep for interviews, knowing what to expect and how to approach typical questions can make all the difference.
• Look into starting professional qualifications such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing qualifications.
If successful in securing an entry level position, you can expect lots of hard work coupled with huge rewards. “There is a clear career path”, says Helen Battrick, “And I thrive in an environment where I am able to liaise with such senior stakeholders on a daily basis”.
Partnerships are not the easiest of environments, stakeholder management and engagement can be very challenging but you’ll learn a huge amount, receive some fantastic training and the wins will be elating.
Rachel agrees, “Over the past 6 years I have had the opportunity to progress up the clear career path by working hard, learning from others, challenging myself and developing and honing invaluable skills enabling me to reach my career goals. No day is the same, as the work within this sector is diverse with a great balance of working with leading professionals, external stakeholders, focusing on strategy, commerciality, and innovation. I would recommend working in this sector to anyone”.
Colette Norfolk, Director