When introducing myself at Edelman, I am always conscious of the fact that my route into this industry was a strange one. When people want to know what I did before working here, eyebrows are often raised when I tell them.
I was a policeman in Haringey, on a response team, attending calls in one of the most challenging boroughs in London. In truth, I wasn’t there for a huge amount of time, under two years in fact, but it was enough time to totally alter my perspective on life, and the problems that exist for people in economically deprived areas. It is a profession that has come under huge amounts of media scrutiny, as London’s knife crime epidemic continues to make headlines on a daily basis. Policemen are abused, threatened, and put under immense pressure and I am proud of what I achieved, the friends I made, and how hard I worked when I was in the police. Sometimes, however, things don’t work out as you envisage.
My time in the police came after I studied Hispanic Studies at University, which allowed me to take a year abroad and live in Spain, where I was teaching English in a school just outside the city of Santiago de Compostela – quite possibly the rainiest place in the world. Despite the professional avenues that speaking another language like Spanish offers, I knew that I wanted to join the police, owing it to my love of The Bill, and an ambition to help people less fortunate than myself.
I left the Met, disillusioned at how amazing officers and friends were being denied opportunities they worked so hard for due to staff shortages and administrative roadblocks - and took up a role with Arsenal F.C.’s community team. There I was able to bring my experience as a policeman to another role that required interaction with people from varied backgrounds and starts in life - including coaching refugees, school kids and people with disabilities.
It was only ever going to be a temporary role, but it made sense to transition into something that allowed me to articulate and live a huge passion of mine (football) in an active environment. In the meantime, I was directing my efforts towards a career in communications.
When I applied for the Edelman Open Scheme, I was encouraged by the fact that I wouldn’t have to accompany that application with a CV. Whilst I am very proud with what I have achieved in life so far, previous interviews often resulted with a familiar “we’re just looking for someone with more experience at this time.” It was therefore refreshing to see that a company as reputable as Edelman were willing to look past that initial barrier and invite me to an assessment day based purely off my creativity and ability to identify a story.
Celebrating your birthday being interviewed and tested at a rigorous assessment day is not everybody’s idea of fun and I am honest enough to say that it wasn’t mine either, but I went into it with an open mind, keen to enjoy the day and learn from it.
I left having consumed quite a bit of complimentary cake, but also happy in the knowledge that I had done my best, and that Edelman had been interested enough to invite me in the first place. Did I attract sympathy because I was there on my birthday? Quite possibly… but the positivity that I drew from the experience was due to being afforded time to speak and demonstrate why I could be a success here.
It was fantastic to find out that just because I didn’t have any experience specific to PR, marketing or communications as an industry- the fact that I could talk someone into putting a knife down, make a victim feel safe in an extremely distressing situation, or even convince a total stranger to allow a policeman to watch the England vs Colombia penalty shootout in their living room with them, requires unique communication skills, and a different perspective that, happily for me, Edelman wanted.
Making use of those different perspectives is crucial in this industry. Employing people from diverse career paths and backgrounds increases the diversity of ideas and creativity that is generated. I have enjoyed my time on the Open Scheme and have actively used my experiences and interests as a point of differentiation. The raised eyebrows do not bother me, because life would be boring if we all had the same story to tell.