AS a teen without a roof over his head in Coventry, Phil McCluskey couldn’t imagine a brighter future might lie ahead.
But now in his early thirties, the savvy young man works full-time as a marketing manager for transport and logistics company, X2 (UK) Limited.
In this type of role, the average yearly salary is £46,000, but it’s possible to earn up to £64,000.
The 33-year-old also recently bought a house – a five-bed detached property – with his wife.
Phil told The Sun: “I was made homeless before having left school.
"I was in my final year at the time, aged just 16.”
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Social services placed Phil into a hostel.
“For around seven years, I was in and out of hostels and shared accommodation – and also sofa surfing at times,” he said.
“I found it very difficult to pull myself out of the situation, as I was young, struggling to find meaningful ongoing work, and ultimately became a product of the environment.”
Phil recalls this period of his life was full of hardship.
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“In some of these environments there is heavy drug use and violence,” he said.
“As I had no qualifications, it wasn’t easy to get a job, so I did the odd day of agency work here and there, but other than that, had to rely on benefits of around £40 a week.
"Sometimes this meant choosing between food, hygiene products and paying bills.”
There were times when Phil went without food for several days.
“This happened more in my early days of homelessness,” he said.
“I was young and just didn’t have the life skills to budget such a small amount of money across all the items I needed.
"I also fell into alcoholism for the first couple of. For me this was a coping mechanism.”
There was even an occasion when Phil got stabbed.
He added: “This was just part of the way of life for me – and others like me – who were living in poverty.
"This kind of experience is almost normalised – which it shouldn’t be.”
The turning point for Phil was when he bumped into his sister. At the time, he was living between hostels and shared accommodation.
“I was first reunited with her in town after a few years of no contact,” he said.
“To begin with, we didn’t keep in regular contact. But our relationship developed again over a series of years.
"She then offered me a bed at her home in Leicester.
"When I left my home town and moved in with her, that’s when I really started to turn things around.”
While living with his sister, Phil seized the opportunity to study an "access to business" course at college.
An access course prepares people without traditional qualifications for study at university.
“I began looking for courses after I moved to Leicester,” he said. “I’d always had a desire to get into business.
"As I recall, the application process didn’t involve an exam. It was focused more on a sort of interview and a reference.
"The reference was put forward by a business mentor I was introduced to via the Prince’s Trust.”
This is an organisation which supports young people to develop the tools and confidence to start careers and reach their potential.
Phil’s course lasted for one year and included modules in business management, marketing and accountancy.
“I’d pretty much failed school the first time around, but was able to retake my maths and English GCSEs alongside the access course,” he said.
“Prior to this, I had little faith in myself. But during this period, I achieved good grades, and won two awards.
"This increased my desire to achieve – as it allowed me to believe I had what it takes.”
Once he’d completed the access course, Phil went on to study at Middlesex University.
He started his Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Marketing in 2015, and graduated three years later with a first-class degree.
“During my time back in education, I became ‘student representative,’” he said.
“In this role, I was a voice for the students. I could put forward their concerns, and provide a source of support when needed.”
At the same time, Phil also worked multiple jobs alongside his studies.
“I was often holding down two jobs at a time,” he said.
“This included stints at Pizza Hut, Nandos, and also on the currency exchange counter at Tui. I was often working around 20 hours a week.”
On top of this, Phil started up – and managed – the university boxing club.
“I was paid £50 an hour, and did several hours a week in both my first and second year,” he said.
“I loved doing this as it offered a real outlet to both me and my fellow students.”
When he graduated in 2018, Phil was put forward for – and awarded – two scholarships in marketing in the first and third years of his studies.
Phil said: “Not long before completing my third year of university, I managed to secure an entry-level position with a gas springs manufacturer in Leicester,” he said.
“The role was focused on lower-level tasks within digital marketing and competitor research.”
Phil found himself working alongside the marketing agency to oversee SEO (search engine optimisation) and content creation.
He also worked on targeted campaigns for lead generation.
“I learned a lot in a short space of time,” he said.
“This included project management and communication skills with internal stakeholders.”
Since leaving this job in 2019, Phil has rapidly climbed the ranks including a two-year stint as a marketing executive, and an 18-month stint as senior marketing executive.
He now works as a marketing manager at X2 (UK) Limited, a role which he started in August of this year.
Phil said: “My favourite thing about my job is the opportunity to make a significant impact.
"Having developed the marketing plan for X2, I’m now executing this to improve brand awareness, and help with achieving the firm’s goals for growth.”
Alongside his marketing job, Phil acts as an ambassador for awareness campaign, Generation Logistics, to help more people discover a career like his.
“My time in the logistics sector has made me see it in a completely new light,” said the marketing supremo.
“I didn’t know much about the industry before I entered it, but I can now see the huge potential it offers from a career perspective.
"I’ve also realised how crucial this industry is not only to the economy – but also to the nation in general, and the way of life we have become accustomed to.”
‘Perceptions need to change’
Phil is now keen to change people’s perceptions of the industry.
“I want to tell people they can get a place in logistics, no matter their background or start in life,” he said.
“It seems there is a huge misconception that a career in logistics means working within warehousing or becoming a driver.
"While these are both very good career options, there are plenty of other options, too.”
According to Phil, logistics is a huge industry with a need for a wide range of skills.
“This includes finance, marketing, sales, operations, digital technology and so many others,” he said.
“You could end up earning from £40,000 right up to £60,000-plus in one of these roles.
"There is also plenty of scope for career development.”
Life beyond logistics
Beyond his career in logistics, Phil is preparing for a bodybuilding competition to raise funds for the YMCA.
This will be the first time he’s stepped on stage.
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“The YMCA is an organisation which played a pivotal role in supporting me while I was on the streets,” he said.
“Bodybuilding is something I take very seriously. After this event for charity, I plan to continue competing next year. I’m excited to see where this might lead.”
Phil’s top tips to get into a career in logistics
THERE’S plenty of advice for budding workers.
- Network with stakeholders within the industry
- Take part in initiatives offered by Generation Logistics. Check out the ‘Find Your Future’ quiz to see which opportunities in the sector might suit you best
- Gain relevant experience from internships to get practical experience
- Begin by getting experience in an entry-level position
- Familiarise yourself with industry trends and challenges by subscribing to industry-specific publications
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