By Clare Benson
This is hardly an earth-shattering statement when I say today’s graduates are the “digital generation”, but the extent of how much online plays a part in the these youngster’s lives has increased massively, even in the last couple of years. The days of texting your friends to meet up are now almost obsolete for this generation preferring instead to ‘check in' to the library/park/pub and know their equally as active Facebook friends will come and find them. If something disappoints them they don’t write complaint letters or call customer services - gosh darn it they get on Twitter. And taking a pad and paper to a lecture at uni? Pah, archaic- ipads are the only way to learn these days.
So how are universities, the hub of so much digital activity, responding to the growing demand for candidates in the online sector? With league tables now dependent on how quickly candidates get jobs after graduating it is crucial universities consider where the employment demand is and respond to it.
Having worked in Graduate Digital Recruitment for over two and a half years I can attest that this is an incredibly buoyant market- there is an abundance of employers want to hire digitally-savvy graduates so universities need make sure they are suitably preparing candidates.
There isn’t an abundance of digital degrees in the UK currently, and those that are available tend to be heavily criticised, like Birmingham City University’s MA in Social Media (there was a bit of a Twitter scandal about it). London Met also has an MA in Digital Media but it seems to be more focused on the niche production/PR side than Search or Marketing. The problem with digital based degrees seem to be three-fold.
1) the lecturers leading the course know less than the students
2) there is a perception that these courses aren’t academic and employers don’t value them
3) students are slow on the uptake (probably as a result of points 1 and 2). Yet there are so many jobs in this sector!
So- what is the solution?
From my experience employees in the digital sector do not, in fact, look for candidates with a digital media or marketing degree. They look for analysts, and/or graduates who have invested their spare time playing around with Google+, websites, SEO, etc. In the USA graduates from maths, economics and science backgrounds go and work in Silicon Valley developing the next Facebook or working for the next big digital/technological innovation- and it is so exciting! In the UK, these graduates often feel the only option available is to enter the world of Finance or Banking. There is nothing wrong with this, if it is what you want to do- but universities please help employers, recruiters and candidates by educating your graduates about the countless number of opportunities in the digital market place!
If you are at university or have graduated and are thinking about a career in digital media then the best thing you can do is extra-curricular research. Candidates we are best able to help are those who have set up their own websites, and done some SEO/PPC/Affiliate marketing for them or have worked on friends/family members websites, they may even have completed the Google Ad Words Qualification (about $50 USD). If you’re not quite ready to start doing things practically then research, research, research - you absolutely need a knowledge of SEO and PPC (how you advertise on Google, etc) to be in with a chance of finding a career in this sector. The best places to look are: Wikipedia, NMA, Youtube (for practical advice), and the IAB website. Write blogs, get involved in social media tools, do whatever you can to make your CV as digitally focused as possible.
Oh, and you could always see what your university careers team has to say...you never know, you might be able to advise them...!
Connect with Clare on LinkedIn