As a homeless teenager in Coventry, Phil McCluskey couldn’t imagine a better future awaiting him.
But now, in his early thirties, the bright young man works full-time as a marketing manager for transport and logistics company X2 (UK) Limited.
In this type of role, the average annual salary is £46,000, but it is possible to earn up to £64,000.
The 33-year-old also recently bought a house – a five-bedroom detached house – with his wife.
Phil told The Sun: “I became homeless before I left school.
“I was in my senior year at the time, just 16 years old.”
Social services placed Phil in a group home.
“For about seven years I spent time in hostels and shared apartments – and at times also sofa surfed,” he said.
“I found it very difficult to extricate myself from the situation as I was young, had difficulty finding meaningful permanent work and ultimately became a product of my environment.”
Phil remembers that this period of his life was full of hardships.
“There is heavy drug use and violence in some of these environments,” he said.
“As I had no qualifications it wasn’t easy to find a job, so I did a job here and there with an agency but otherwise relied on benefits of around £40 a week.
“Sometimes that meant having to choose between groceries and hygiene products and paying bills.”
There were times when Phil went without food for several days.
“This happened more often in my early days of homelessness,” he said.
“I was young and just didn’t have the life skills to budget so little for all the things I needed.
“I also fell into alcoholism in the first few years. For me, it was a coping mechanism.”
There were even times when Phil was stabbed.
He added: “It was just part of the way of life for me – and others like me – who lived in poverty.”
“This type of experience is almost normal – which shouldn’t be the case.”
The turning point for Phil came when he met his sister. At that time he lived between dormitories and shared apartments.
“After a few years of no contact, I met her again for the first time in the city,” he said.
“At first we didn’t have regular contact. But our relationship continued to evolve over the years.
“She then offered me a bed in her house in Leicester.
“When I left my hometown and moved in with her, I really started to turn things around.”
While living with his sister, Phil took the opportunity to take an Access to Business course at college.
An access course prepares people without traditional qualifications to study at a university.
“I started looking for courses after I moved to Leicester,” he said. “I always had the desire to go into business.
“As far as I remember, the application process did not include any testing. The focus was more on kind of an interview and a reference.”
“The reference comes from a business mentor I met through the Prince’s Trust.”
This is an organization that supports young people to develop the tools and confidence to start a career and fulfill their potential.
Phil’s course lasted one year and included modules in business management, marketing and accounting.
“I barely passed school the first time, but was able to retake my maths and English exams in addition to the access course,” he said.
“Before, I had little confidence in myself. But during this time I achieved good grades and won two awards.
“It increased my desire to achieve something – because it gave me the confidence that I had what it took.”
After completing the Access Course, Phil studied at Middlesex University.
In 2015 he began his Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Marketing and completed it three years later with a first class degree.
“During my time in training, I became a ‘student representative,’” he said.
“In this role, I was a voice for the students. I could raise their concerns and be a source of support if needed.”
At the same time, Phil also worked in several jobs alongside his studies.
“I often held two jobs at the same time,” he said.
“This included stints at Pizza Hut, Nandos and also at the exchange office at Tui. I often worked about 20 hours a week.”
In addition, Phil founded and ran the university’s boxing club.
“I was paid £50 an hour and worked several hours a week in both the first and second years,” he said.
“I enjoyed doing this as it provided a real opportunity for both myself and my fellow students.”
When he graduated in 2018, Phil was nominated for and received two marketing scholarships in his first and third years of study.
Phil said: “Just before completing my third year of study, I managed to get an entry-level job with a gas spring manufacturer in Leicester,” he said.
“The role focused on lower-level tasks in digital marketing and competitive research.”
Phil worked with the marketing agency to oversee SEO (search engine optimization) and content creation.
He also worked on targeted lead generation campaigns.
“I learned a lot in a short period of time,” he said.
“This included project management and communication skills with internal stakeholders.”
Since leaving that job in 2019, Phil has rapidly advanced his career, including a two-year stint as a marketing director and an 18-month stint as a senior marketing executive.
He now works as Marketing Manager at X2 (UK) Limited, a position he took up in August this year.
Phil said: “The best thing about my job is the opportunity to make a big difference.
“Having developed the marketing plan for X2, I am now implementing it to improve brand awareness and help achieve the company’s growth goals.”
In addition to his marketing work, Phil serves as an ambassador for awareness campaigns. Generation Logisticsto help more people discover a career like his.
“Through my time in the logistics industry, I saw the industry with completely new eyes,” said the marketing boss.
“Before I joined the industry, I didn’t know much about the industry, but now I realize the huge potential it offers from a career perspective.
“I also realized how important 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 have to change”
Phil is now committed to changing people’s perceptions of the industry.
“I want to tell people that they can get a place in logistics no matter what their background is or where they started their career,” he said.
“There seems to be a big misconception that a career in logistics means working in a warehouse or becoming a driver.
“While these are both very good career options, there are many other options as well.”
According to Phil, logistics is a huge industry that requires a wide range of skills.
“This includes finance, marketing, sales, operations, digital technology and many others,” he said.
“In one of these roles you could end up earning between £40,000 and more than £60,000.
“There are also many opportunities for professional 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 his first time taking the stage.
“The YMCA is an organization that played a critical role in supporting me while I was on the streets,” he said.
“Bodybuilding is something I take very seriously. After this charity event, I plan to continue competing next year. I’m excited to see where this could lead.”
Phil’s top tips for starting a career in logistics
There are lots of tips for aspiring professionals.
- Network with stakeholders within the industry
- Take part in Generation Logistics initiatives. Visit the Quiz “Find your future”. to find out what opportunities in the industry might best suit you
- Gain relevant experience through internships to gain real-world experience
- Start by gaining experience in an entry-level position
- Familiarize yourself with industry trends and challenges by subscribing to industry-specific publications