By Alex Blakey
As part of National Careers Week 2018, Web Communications Executive Alexander Blakey offers his advice on how to start a career in the digital industry.
Since I sat at the supermarket checkout at the tender age of 16, it has always been my desire to ensure that individuals and groups get accurate information and answers to their questions in a timely manner. My Web Communications Executive role at NFER, which I’ve held for the past three and a half years, allows me to maintain this ambition, just in a slightly different scenario to my days in the supermarket.
Working within the Sales, Marketing and Impact (SMI) department, my role specifically involves the day-to-day running of our website and Intranet, management of our social media channels and helping colleagues to improve their digital communication skills.
The post offers a lot of variety in my daily work, the chance to engage with colleagues from across the foundation and the opportunity to help move the organisation forward.
So with this in mind, I thought it might be useful to share my six top tips for getting into this line of work:
- Have an active online presence – Writing blog posts, commenting on others’ content, interacting with brands and engaging with people asking questions are all great ways to build your skill base. It will also demonstrate your professionalism to future employers and show that you can write and create intriguing content. But always take a moment to consider whether or not something you’re about to publish is suitable. Once published it can live with you for a long time!
- Secure experience – A role in digital communications may involve creating and editing images on a daily basis, probably using Adobe Photoshop software. Therefore, purchase a Creative Cloud plan (which costs from £10 a month) and practice the basics on your holiday snaps. Then go over to do-it.org, and get some voluntary work in the Marketing and PR sphere and try out what you’ve learnt so far.
- Stand out from the crowd – The digital media industry is a rapidly growing but competitive market. Showcasing your personality, as well as your hobbies and interests, can help you build an understanding of the different tone of voices required in a personal and corporate environment. Over time, also build yourself a portfolio of the design and written work you’ve completed.
- Be news savvy and reactive – A significant proportion of digital content is published in response to the news events of the day, so it’s essential that you develop a flexible way of working and make time to keep yourself informed. I spend the first 15 minutes of every day reading news sources from all sides of the political spectrum and taking a look at what people are saying on the web and on Twitter.
- Be an ‘all-rounder’ – Online content of a high standard starts with accurate spelling, grammar and punctuation. It’s worthwhile honing additional skills such as proofreading and the writing of press releases. Gathering and analysing analytical data from tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights is also important. Employers want to know that they’re getting a return on their financial and time investment.
- Seek inspiration – It never hurts to make suggestions for new content to your friends, parents or teachers. They are probably your best critics. Another source I read from time to time is Campaign, which showcases recent marketing and advertising initiatives, plus the latest news from the two industries. You could even attend a Twitter ‘meet-up’ in your local community and get talking. A conversation with the right person could lead to an exciting opportunity.
During my time at NFER, I’ve learnt a lot about digital tools and techniques and myself as a person. My role has enabled me to get a reasonable insight into a sector that changes on a regular basis and invokes so much passion, whether it’s from parents, pupils or the research community. I look forward to digesting more!
To get involved with the National Careers Week 2018 conversation on Twitter and Facebook, use the hashtags #NFERe2e and #NCW2018.