a career in digital
how to secure your first role in digital
With the new university year about to start, we decided to take a look at how you fresh-faced freshers can aim to get a career in digital.
First things first, you should probably know that I don’t have a degree in a digital discipline. I studied English Literature at University of South Wales, although at the risk of sounding old beyond my years, back in my day it was called University of Glamorgan. At the time, I had no clue what I wanted to do. Fast forward three years and I was still very much in the same position; albeit with a newfound nausea for the word “jagerbomb” and a charming photo of me donning a cap and gown whilst holding a rolled up piece of paper.
All I knew was that I wanted to do something that involved writing, so I began researching the careers in which I could do this. That’s when I first realised that the digital world might be the place for me. I’d heard whispers of the terrifying term “SEO” over the years, but it sounded like some scary, technical world that my brain couldn’t possibly comprehend. However, I’m now part of the Uprise SEO team and I couldn’t be happier; it’s definitely the right career path for me.
For those of you just starting at university, three years probably sounds like a long way off. Sadly, it isn’t as long as it sounds and the reality of adulthood and full-time jobs looms ever closer. Of course, landing your first full-time job outside of university is incredibly challenging, so it pays to make yourself as indispensable as possible and teach yourself a few new skills along the way. With this in mind, I thought I’d offer my tuppence on what you can do at university to start racking up the experience and get ahead of the competition.
Keep up-to-date with trends
If you’re serious about making a career in digital, you need to stay on top of the constantly evolving digital trends. Read digital marketing blogs and follow industry insiders on Twitter and LinkedIn as they regularly post opinions on latest tech news, as well as sharing great “how to” guides. There’s so much going on in the digital world, that it probably isn’t feasible for you to know all of the latest news, just make sure you know the important stuff, like Google algorithm updates. They’re normally a pretty big deal in the world of SEO!
Create an online presence
Let’s be honest, these days most employers will Google a person before inviting them to interview, especially in the digital world. Make sure you can be found easily, and for all the right reasons. If you’re ‘internet famous’ for trolling celebrities on Twitter or posting wine-fuelled rants, then it’s unlikely you’ll be landing yourself a job in digital. Keep your social media profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter professional, and set your Facebook to private.
It can also help to have your own website or set up a blog. However, if you’re not going to have the time to regularly update a blog then sometimes it’s best to leave it. Sporadic updates can make you seem inconsistent and like your heart isn’t truly in it. Similarly, if you’re after a job in web design or development, then make sure your website is professionally presented.
Consider unpaid work placements
We’re all familiar with the frustrating fact that as well as a good standard of education, employers want you to have a certain amount of experience. Your studies should be your first priority at university but if possible, find the time to undertake some unpaid work experience.
Before starting at Uprise, I did a lot of unpaid work placements and freelancing. As you can imagine, unpaid work isn’t the most appealing of offers, but if you can find a reason to get out of bed and go to an unpaid placement, then you’ll know for sure if it’s something you truly enjoy.
I interned for a magazine in London on an “expenses only” contract. For those of you who don’t know, expenses are usually less than £10 a day which means I had to pay for my own accommodation throughout the internship. I was essentially paying to go to work. I don’t regret this decision though; it was an invaluable experience to work for a popular magazine, build contacts and valuable experience.
Not everyone is in a position where they can afford to fork out large amounts of money to do this, but approach local agencies or offer to help out on local voluntary projects. Not only will it give you great experience, but it’s also a chance to make contacts.
Don’t expect to land your dream job straight out of university
It’s an unfortunate truth that experience counts for more than education in the long run. My first full-time job after university was completely unrelated to the field in which I wanted to work. However, I made the time to freelance on the side and, slowly but surely, I built up enough of a portfolio to get myself a full-time job in social media. Ironically, that job came as a result of unpaid work experience. This proves that all of your efforts will eventually pay off in the long run.
Do consider schemes
I started at Uprise on a six month contract through Careers Wales. I’ve been fortunate enough to secure a full-time contract out of this. However, even if Uprise hadn’t have kept me on, the experience was invaluable. Working for a growing agency has been fast-paced, and I’ve learnt more in my six months here than I did in any other job.
Overall, my advice to anyone starting university in the coming weeks would be to make the most of every opportunity. Without sounding like your school careers teacher, this does include signing up to clubs and societies that will benefit your future in the long run, but sometimes it’ll also mean staying out and drinking that last jagerbomb and giving yourself stories and memories to treasure.
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