Getting started in a career in digital media

Joel Chudleigh from digital media production company MWP gives his insights into pursuing a career in digital media.

The digital media industry has been growing rapidly for the past 10 years. However, it is only very recently that literally every company in the world has taken the Internet seriously.

This is good news for newcomers as you are not far behind the leaders in the industry in terms of experience and skills.

Adding to that point, as the industry is both young and rapidly evolving there are few rules and expected ways to do things. Entrepreneurial spirit and a passion to learn and develop are key. If you have those then you will find a way into this industry.

If you look on established jobs boards for the industry such as:

You will find that most roles are asking for experienced and senior people. This does not mean that there are not jobs out there, it simply means that the recruitment process is not like other more traditional career paths.

This short guide is designed to help you understand the industry better and to aid you in getting your foot through the door in your first role.

What is the digital media industry?

For those of you who are not yet familiar with the term digital media, it typically refers to the production and marketing of video content.

This includes all of the viral video ads that you have seen on YouTube and much of the TV ads too.

It also has a much less glamorous side (in most cases) which may be making short interviews of industry experts, or videos that display how to use a new product or even recording a conference.

There is a large variety of work because the process of creating a video is very creative and requires a mix of skills. For example you need a script writer for many videos, a director, a camera person, an editor, often an animator and once a video has been created you need various marketing specialists to help communicate its existence to the world.

Culture of the industry

As displayed by the sheer volume of blogs covering digital media production and marketing there is a shortage of knowledge and skills. Professionals learn from their experience and each other. There is a culture of sharing and openness.

Companies such as MWP Digital Media (http://mwpdigitalmedia.com/), aim to share our knowledge with professionals in the industry in return for awareness of and trust in the business.

Why do we need to do this? Because there are few established creators and marketing businesses that are known as market leaders. Of course there are fantastic production companies out there but they are disparate and awareness of their businesses is low amongst our target customers.

Adding to that there are still relatively few, hands on, practical courses training people for the ever-changing roles that the industry requires.

This all means that the industry has a recruitment process that is more suck it and see. People are often recruited in on a freelance or part time basis initially which can then lead to full time roles if that is what suits both parties.

Many people are now opting to accept the lack of job security that a full time role offers in return for the freedom and variety of freelancing.

As mentioned above the industry is very entrepreneurial and this extends to the recruitment process. You need to be willing to knock on doors and sell yourself and networking is also key.

People like to recruit through personal recommendations so leverage all personal relationships you have and ensure that no bridges are ever burnt. It is important to add value to all relationships and go above and beyond to impress those around you as opportunities often present themselves unexpectedly.

For job seekers it is important to be clear on your specific skills and strengths and how these could be applied at the companies that you approach. This requires you to carry out some research into specific companies before approaching them.

Necessary Skills

This of course varies depending on the role that you are after. If you are looking for a role in camera work then you will need to show examples of past work and explain how this could be applied to the kind of productions that your target company is making.

If you are acting or presenting, again you will need to have some examples. It does not matter if this shows you interviewing a close friend or presenting at a small student event. Build up a short portfolio of your work ready to show to prospective employers.

If you are interested in working on the post-production side then you will need some familiarity with the software programmes used such as Adobe After Effects or Final Cut Pro. Software is accessible nowadays; so again put together some examples of how you have cleaned up video or audio content.

If you are interested in the marketing side of digital media then skills vary a lot depending on the role but it is good to be an all-rounder with both analytical and creative skills and ability. On the analytical side it is helpful to know basic maths and Excel functions such as vlookups and pivot tables. On the creative side you will need some ability with the written word and on how to communicate your ideas.

Skills vary by roll, but the key thing is that you have a passion for your chosen career path and that you can show some effort to get started yourself without a paid role in place.

Collaboration is also very important in this industry so the ability to communicate well and to motivate others to support you in your role is vital.

Establishing your value

Whatever your specific skills are, you need to be clear on them so that you can communicate them succinctly to a prospective employer outlining how they map to the employer’s needs.

This is an entrepreneurial industry so by the very nature of being at the beginning of your career you will have a more open mind than most.

Alongside that, you are a University of Exeter graduate; this says a lot about your ability as well as your work ethic.

Think broadly about your experience and skills as there are probably things that you have done in the past that relate to the companies that you are approaching that you may initially disregard as not applicable. Of course direct skills are most important, but if you do not have those then be resourceful.

Make Clear choices

In many careers there is a compromise between specialising and being a generalist. When it comes to a career in digital media you must be clear on your specific strengths but then also have a broad understanding of the related disciplines.

For example: A video director needs to understand what an editor can and cannot do – if the sound on a production has lots of background noise it may be impossible to remove it, so that would need taking into consideration when looking for a location for a shoot.

This comes with experience of course but it means that you need to spend a little time with others in related disciplines to understand what they do and what they expect of you and then work to develop your skills to support them.

Research Well

Before you approach a company make sure that you have fully researched it, this means that you have:

1)   Checked out any productions that they have created and can talk about them in detail.

2)   Researched the key individuals in the business – do they write personal blogs or have a social media account that you could take a look at?

3)   Spent some time on their website – a website usually explains how a company wants to be seen so from this you can often determine their aspirations and tailor your communications towards this.

Look at industry forums and search Google in the same way that a customer of a digital media company might. The companies that come across well and that you notice continually popping up are likely to be the successful ones that are in growth mode and therefore in need of new people.

Making an Approach

The telephone is best. Email’s are often ignored or missed by busy people so wherever possible get on the phone and ask to speak to people directly.

Be open and honest about your intentions; if you have researched them and have some solid skills then they will be both flattered and keen to meet you.

Be open about your situation and explain where you are in your career and where you want to be. Just be dead honest, as if you can show a true passion it will not matter how much you lack in practical experience.

Many people in this industry offer some time for free in order to progress. This happens at later stages in a career too. I am not suggesting that allow yourself to be taken advantage of but that you explain to the employer that you are happy to let them see how you work for a few days on a fee free basis so that they can get an idea of your suitability.

If it does not result in paid work then at least you have more hands on experience to add to your C.V.

Getting treated fairly

Because many people do need to prove themselves prior to getting paid work in digital media there is a danger that expectations of what is fair will not match between both parties.

Clarity of communication is important here. Express what you want to achieve and what you are willing to give to get there.

All small business owners (most businesses in this industry are small) will have been through the same thing that you are experiencing now. They took a risk to set up their business and they had to sell themselves in order to get work with their clients.

To get into a new career often some compromises are necessary but never make compromises that you feel are unfair.

I hope that you have found this guide useful. If you ever want to ask a few questions directly to me then please feel free to contact me at: . You can find out more about us on our website (http://mwpdigitalmedia.com/) and if you are interested in video marketing then you may enjoy our blog (http://mwpdigitalmedia.com/blog/).

Andy Morgan

Web Marketing Officer

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