Saturday, October 1, 2011

Top 3 tips when transitioning your career to digital

'Would you consider hiring someone for a non-digital role, if they didn't have any online presence?'

This question seemed like an odd one at our wimlink event last Thursday' Digital Thinking: How to (re)position your career for digital'. But the response to it I believed was critical to how we think about digital in the first place.

Beverly Weinstein, President of Markham Media who was a panelist at our wimlink event this week along with Karolina Reiss, entrepreneur and Jane Hu, head of Programming Strategy at Youtube Next Lab paused for a while. 'No. No, I wouldn't - it would seem odd to me nowadays to not have an online brand of some variety'.

Digital is no longer an add-on, an optional extra, something to consider as an afterthought. It permeates most everything about how we conduct our lives, and, by extension, our careers - whether or not we consider ourselves as digital professionals.

Three things that you need to know when repositioning your career for digital:

1) The essentials are the same (with a few adjustments)

Great talent is great talent, and many of the skills and tools that have given you success in more traditional career areas are the same that will bring you success in the digital arena - vision, hard work, common sense, trust, and reputation. Panelist Jane Hu, Head of Programming Strategy with Youtube Next Lab pointed out refreshingly that while data driven insights are incredibly useful, so is traditional  intuitivism - at least when it comes to picking quality content. The instincts that are alert for so many people coming from traditional programming can have huge utility in the digital content space, though the distribution and viewing platform may be different. So it's really not as if you're starting from scratch, with this whole new world to learn as if from first principles.

Being from Australia, I can liken transitioning from traditional to digital to arriving in a new country/city and building your career:

- Your qualifications and experience are relevant and helpful to you
(but nobody exactly knows if the college you went to or company you came from was any good or not... for example, the University of New South Wales might be the best law-school in the country. It might also be a bizarre community college where a part of your application process is singing);

- The words you use to describe what you've done are familiar (but different), and;

- Your references, no matter how impressive in your own country, mean little to most people you meet.
This will be less the case here when transitioning from traditional to digital - great work with AMC is great work, and having good professional references  count even though that person might not head up digital strategy.

So stay alert to find the similarities, power through the differences, and keep the confidence that you brought with you to assure yourself that what has gotten you this far will get you to where you want to go, differences notwithstanding. And keep moving forward.

2) Be action-oriented when it comes to digital

Although much can be learned about digital from online articles, courses and further formal education such as taking a professional course at NYU or Columbia, studying and reading are not the same as doing, and doing is what it's all about.

Jane Hu describes her entrance into digital while at Disney as being due to her love for music, and therefore her time spent on myspace - 'Before I knew it, I was the go-to person about myspace and the digital expert'.

So rather than wonder about twitter, open an account and start tweeting, create a facebook page and work out how to entice people to 'like' it, get blogging about a topic that you love and add a google analytics account to your blog so you can start diving into what drives traffic, and what web analytics is all about. This is hands down the best way to learn. I personally like to book-learn as well, but once you have down the basic principles, again it is all about doing.  

3) How you frame your experience is key - both on Linkedin, and in your resume

As with anything, repositioning for digital is about talking to your target audience (in this case recruiters and the HR professionals with the companies you wish to work for) with the language and references that they are interested in, that are familiar, and that will make sense for the role they are working to fill.

If you're applying for a digital position, you must reach back and find relevant experience, and then make sure to not just represent it, but to lead with it. Be resourceful, be creative - and most importantly, don't discount anything that you've done as being 'just getting an app up and running'.. that's HUGE!

Beverly shared a useful story about a particular applicant who was applying for a digital role, and had absolutely zero digital experience represented in his resume. She notes 'when I probe around, I will almost always find a rich well of digital experience', and in this case she hit the jackpot. Not only had this candidate 'got the site up and running because there was no one else to manage it', he had also been responsible for overseeing the building of two site specific apps!!

Think about all that you have handled, even if they seemed peripheral to your core role. Think about anything that you have done outside of work (maybe you've volunteered and helped spread the word about a charitable cause via facebook or linkedin, maybe you've used facebook to help fundraise for a kickstarter project, listed items on ebay and spread the word to friends) - and then make sure that these skills are reflected in how you talk about your experience.

You'll be swimming in digital expertise in no time!


Ji Eun (Jamie) said...

Great summary, Tania!

Beverly pointed out that having a fully-fleshed LinkedIn profile, with optimized keywords, recommendations, and targeted job descriptions, will help a candidate's profile stand out to recruiters and employers. It's common practice now for recruiters, employers, and prospectives employees alike to look people up online before an interview.

I also appreciated that Caroline encouraged the audience to learn by doing, including interning at a digital company to build experience. Interning is how I initiated my transition into digital from finance, and, although it took time and perseverance, the transition worked out in my favor eventually.

Another thing that really helped my transition was actually gaining technical skills like learning web programming languages. There are abundant low-cost and online resources to learn, such as, w3school, and Even if one doesn't become a master software developer, showing the desire and aptitude to learn new technical skills will help her chances of landing a digital media job.

Tania Yuki said...

Great points Jamie! I also forgot to mention the point that Beverly mentioned that was news to me, that your Linkedin profile becomes more searchable with more recommendations, so it's good to ask to be recommended and to recommend others.

Tania Yuki said...

Great points Jamie! I also forgot to mention the point that Beverly mentioned that was news to me, that your Linkedin profile becomes more searchable with more recommendations, so it's good to ask to be recommended and to recommend others.