Becoming A Marketable Media Graduate (Things More Important than Degrees and CVs)
Statistics can be rather daunting, showcasing terrifying truths in streamlined, handy, bitesized nuggets. For example, have you come across the statistic claiming there are 100 job seeking media graduates out there in the UK for every one, singular entry level media-based job vacancy? How about the claim that there are more media graduates mass-produced every single year in the UK than there are jobs - vacant or otherwise - in the entire UK media industry?
Media is an attractive career prospect, idealised by many who want to create award winning films, write content for top newspapers and magazines, and perhaps even create the next big online viral sensation, such as Lolcats or The Oatmeal.
What follows are some thoughts, observations and suggestions with regards to becoming a media graduate the right way; a graduate who showcases promise and who will be more likely to succeed in a highly competitive industry, as opposed to a media graduate who will fall by the wayside and give up on their aspirations entirely (ie, the vast majority).
Media Students Must Create Their Own Content
The new social media landscape has given you and I, as mere members of the general public, an invaluable platform with which to express ourselves and promote our talents. This platform did not exist twenty, ten, or in many cases, even five years ago. It is the social web. It is the ever increasing affordability of media technologies and the convergence of these media technologies. It is the ease of access to areas which were once exclusive and hard to reach. The Internet has, in many ways, eliminated the obstacles of distance and exclusivity. This is New Media.
The key point to make here, and one of the most important points made in this entire post, is that the vast majority of media graduates and undergraduates do not take anywhere near full advantage of this New Media platform. They are not creating their own content, nor are they engaging with content created by their peers. They are not using their initiative in order to promote themselves. These graduates are unattractive and very nearly invisible to potential employers.
If you position yourself above the uninspired and invisible masses (sounds harsh, but how else would you describe them?), then your prospects get infinitely brighter. You leapfrog thousands of rivals who are looking to climb the same career ladder that you are.
If you are a journalism student then you might want to consider creating a niche online magazine which revolves around a subject you feel passionately about. If you want to work in social media and online marketing, then ditto. Create a website with engaging content and then market it on the social web. Learn how to be savvy. Sounds like insultingly simple advice, right? So why aren't more students doing these things? Why do employers claim that the vast majority of CVs received are boring, needlessly wordy and lacking in individuality?
You don't need to be a technical wizard in order to create an online home for your content. Wordpress and other such blogging platforms have you covered. Just be sure to spend enough time getting yourself acquainted with the behind-the-scenes stuff so that your new website doesn't look like one of the infinite, bland clones clogging up the Internet.
Becoming An Entrepreneur of the Self - Web 2.0 Style
Arguably, CVs are way down on the list of priorities when employers hunt for media graduates. A well structured CV is still absolutely vital, but unless there is something really awesome on there (your 1st class honours degree doesn't count), then it's little more than a simple, rudimentary piece of a much bigger puzzle.
Get on Twitter. Of all the social networking sites, Twitter is perhaps the most essential. It's worth pointing out that a startling number of media students I have spoken to belittle Twitter as stupid, pointless, an infringement on privacy etc. etc. Here are five quick reasons as to why a media student should invest some time and effort into creating a Twitter presence:
1. There are countless Twitter accounts which list jobs in media production. Seek them out!
2. Wanting to work in online/social media or copywriting? An increasing number of employers will ask you to apply directly to them via Twitter... in 140 characters or less!
3. Retweet useful things to your followers. Promote others. Your willingness to share useful information will help you to build contacts. People will remember your good deeds.
4. A great place to informally "meet" professionals in your field, unlike Facebook, where trying to 'friend' strangers is a somewhat creepy and frowned upon practice.
5. Twitter is a perfect example of converging media. Media students who dismiss it are missing out and behind with the times.
Avoid a Twitter bio which makes you sound like a complete douche bag (I noticed one individual sending tweets out to various media companies asking them for career advice, and his bio simply read "I am a twat."). Avoid tweeting things you wouldn't want your prospective boss to read. They will Google you.
Practical Examples and Case Studies
Vicki Greenfield, a Media & Communications graduate from Bournemouth University, created the blog Give It Some Telly... in order to share her experiences of aspiring towards a career in television production, as well as sharing a plethora of hints, tips and opinion pieces. The blog is very new but already brimming with useful information, and Vicki's enthusiasm and willingness to help others is definitely going to make her more attractive to potential employers within her industry.
Helena is a 21 year-old journalism student based in the UK who runs her own award winning fashion and beauty blog, The Edge of Beauty. She is often sent products for review, allowing her to build up a list of contacts with PR companies and the like, long before she graduates.
You don't necessarily have to be a student or recent graduate in order for the advice in this article to apply to you. Neil Rolland runs the Edinburgh-based website Write Shoot Cut, which promotes and celebrates low budget indie filmmakers. The website is a mass of content which he created via his own initiative and is a great example of somebody doing something of their own accord in order to stand out from the crowd.
Scott Munro is an established journalist from Glasgow, who (among other things) has written a regular video games column for The Daily Record. His success hasn't stopped him from maintaining his own projects however, and he runs his own blog, Kilted Moose, which reviews niche and little-known video games from around the world, as well as more mainstream titles. Also, he maintains an always interesting Twitter account which all gamers should follow (@KiltedMoose).
I have never met any of the aforementioned people in my life. They all caught my eye via the Internet, usually in 140 characters or less. They are visible and creating. I would love to work with them all in some capacity, and that speaks volumes for just how good they are at selling themselves in this new media landscape. Be helpful. Be interesting. Be inspiring. Be memorable.
Why listen to me? Well, I've worried just as much as anybody else about career advancement and job security. But I've oftentimes been offered work entirely out of the blue. Employers, at various times, have come to me asking if I'll go work for them. Granted, this was never a regular occurrence, but it has happened often enough for me to be able to know that I must have been doing something right in order to make myself more visible within an overly crowded market.
I've also spent the last few years working in recruitment and have read countless CVs. The candidates who stand out are often the ones who have shown that, in many ways, they create their own opportunities. They create their own platform.
Students should be using their time at college or university in order to make as much of an impact as possible. Forget passing exams and writing essays - that stuff is the absolute bare minimum of what a media student should be doing. For the record, I found university to be such a friggin' drag, yet it afforded me the time to be able to research, build contacts, and establish my unique selling points. Use these years of study to make yourself stand out from the crowd as much as you possibly can.
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