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Last year was anything but ordinary, however, I strongly believe that it is during such unexpected circumstances that extraordinary opportunities present themselves if we look for them hard enough. My first term at Imperial has been exactly that.

I commenced my journey with an overwhelming concoction of emotions including (but most certainly not limited to) excitement, nervousness, uncertainty and hope. Upon reflection, I recognise that the first term made strong contributions towards my holistic development, equipping me towards a career in brand management.

Through the multi-mode study approach, extremely accessible teaching faculty and the knowledge gained from the exceptionally relevant modules, here are my learnings from my first term as an MSc Strategic Marketing student.

Effective planning is a total game changer!

Even though it sounds like a cliche, it could not be more relevant to a Master’s degree. Contrary to what I imagined being an MSc student would be like; over-worked, over-stressed and perpetually exhausted, it is far from the truth.

I realised having clear, time-bound goals at the beginning of the term is half the battle won. For some it may be obtaining a first in every module, while for others it might be securing a job before the start of the second term or both. In order to meet your objective, preparation is key.

The induction week provides workshops for effective presentation skills, team building and time management, and the ‘Study Skills’ primer offered to the class in preparation for the programme was a helpful aid.

As an intensive planner, I ensure I set out my priorities on a weekly basis. For instance, whether it was completing preparatory activities for class, working on job applications or undertaking responsibilities as the Social Leader for the cohort, abiding by deadlines helped me strike a healthy balance between work, exploring London and forming meaningful friendships.

As exciting as it is, starting a new programme can also be slightly daunting so it is important to give yourself some time to get into the rhythm of things and be positive that you will do your best!

Commercial awareness is a continuous process

It can sometimes be unsettling to not always fully know case references being discussed during the modules, however, I ultimately found this to be a motivating feeling. All modules are practical and have substantial discussion-oriented elements around real business cases and recent industry events. Additionally, given the diversity of our cohort, we were exposed to global business examples.

Since my cohort came with different depth and breadth of work experience, every conversation with my classmates enabled me to learn something new and challenged me to delve deeper into my research and consequently broaden my knowledge.

Along with this, our Strategic Marketing Management professor, James Eteen, shared his insights and suggestions on resources such as Business Insider and the Drum, and instilled within me the habit of keeping up-to-date with industry news.

Our professor for Consumer Behaviour, Dr Andreas Eisingerich’s reading list also enabled me to go beyond the modules and fuel my all-round development as a future marketer. The key here is to be attentive right from the beginning and *pro-tip: everything learned and discussed helps during interviews!

Seek opportunities, keep your eyes open!

What I did not anticipate was the remarkable quality and variety of resources and support services available to students even before the start of the programme! Like many others, being an international student deep in the process of job applications, I was confused about the process but the various career-focused events, virtual fairs and weekly careers newsletters helped in going about the job-hunt process.

The accessibility to the Careers team made navigating through job applications during a pandemic significantly less intimidating. I realised that while it is easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged during these unprecedented times, it is crucial to be agile and proactive. If you look for it, you will find several avenues to get you one step closer to achieving your goals, especially when it comes to finding jobs.

Imperial has made the process easier with their huge volume of resources and its extensive employer and alumni network. So far everyone at Imperial has been immensely helpful. *pro-tip: if you need help, all you have to do is ask.

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Question everything! Think critically

This would perhaps be my most vital learning – even outside the programme throughout my first term. The programme goes beyond simply imparting theoretical knowledge and the assignments encourage practical analysis and creative thinking on real-life scenarios, much like the ones we would face as marketing professionals on the job.

Most notably, the Strategic Marketing Management module helped us rethink what we attribute as ‘successful’ marketing strategies, to not take potential marketing ‘wins’ on face value and assess its longevity and relevance. This has noticeably improved my ability to challenge and view pieces of information from a critical perspective and honed my analytical ability, preparing me to perform well during case-studies as part of job applications.

Group-work works!

The MSc Strategic Marketing programme places a considerable amount of emphasis on group work and rightly so. The programme carefully places you in a diverse team from varying backgrounds to work with for the entire term.

What worked well for my group was to align objectives, working styles, strengths, and break the ice by getting to know each other right at the beginning. Since a lot of our group work had to be done virtually, adhering to timelines and clear division of responsibilities became imperatives to working efficiently.

The challenges and triumphs that came with it have honed my ability to communicate well and make worthwhile contributions in a team.

It IS possible to find your tribe, even during a pandemic

Starting a new life in a city amidst a global crisis can make the already difficult task of making new friends substantially harder, or so I thought. One of the ways that helped me in getting to know my classmates better was by first putting myself out there.

Joining career clubs, applying for student leadership positions and simply engaging with the cohort before and after class also made for easy yet effective ways to make friends. Whether it’s within your syndicate group or outside, grabbing coffee after class or going for walks in Hyde Park can do wonders.

Pro-tip: the fastest and easiest way to make a friend is to just say ‘hi!’!

It has only been one term, but I can safely say that the friendships I have formed at Imperial and through the programme will be everlasting.

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This term has been supremely rewarding and I cannot wait to uncover what the rest of the year has in store!

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About Shruti Maheshwary

MSc Strategic Marketing 2021-22