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Top tips for getting into digital and shattering millennial stereotypes

Digital industries are in trouble if we can't find young talent to innovate and push us forwards. One of our youngest team members tells us about his path from uni to our studio.

Blue Pixel Top Left
Posted by Michelle
3 June 2016

So they say millennials are lazy. They say that they no longer value the traditional workplace and that they are the most demanding workforce, requiring a lot of hand-holding. The young generation who are entering the workplace are being given a bit of bad press at the moment!

With all this talk, has anyone asked what they think? In two months’ time some 200,ooo graduates will be leaving University to take their first steps on the proverbial corporate ladder. It’s hard enough making that transition without carrying the burden of this perceived lazy generation. Is it that this misconception is born out of a fear of these talented tech-savvies, who will, within a decade most probably change the face of industry with their different approach and work ethic?

For those aspiring for a career in the digital industry, there are many ways to prove to potential employers that it's worth investing in this younger generation. Even with less years of experience, employers are tapping into a wealth of talent, technical understanding and innovation, all of which will stand businesses in good stead for the future.

Our Designer/Developer, Ash Kwil fits the mould of a millennial. Ash joined the Splitpixel team on a placement year in 2013, worked here throughout his final year at university, and joined us full time after graduating from The University of Huddersfield in 2015.

However, when it comes to checking the boxes of this stereotype, the only clear comparison is the drive to grow and develop. As for lazy and self-obsessed? Far from it.

Ash shares with us his early experiences in the digital industry, many of which dispel some of these myths around millennials, and gives anyone looking to begin a career in digital a heads up on how to get a foot through the door and wow employers.


A taste for digital

The fundamental difference between millennials and other generations is that they are intrinsically part of the modern technological age. They’ve been born into an era where digital devices are commonplace. This generation has been touched by technology from a much younger age and as a result assume it will feature as part of their vocational choice.  This was certainly the case for Ash who started to take an interest in coding and design from the age of 10.

"I was interested in programming and website design from an early age and when I was offered work experience at the age of 16 for a small design agency, I jumped at the opportunity..."

Gaining work experience is career advice 101, however, all too often the enthusiasm is quashed by poor working environments . Some small digital agencies do not have the capacity, the time or the investment needed to take on board 16-year-olds albeit for just two weeks and, as a result, they do not learn about the digital industry and end up doing arduous or meaningless tasks.

"It put me off the design industry for a while, I was asked to pet sit and make cups of tea. It wasn’t the introduction to the design industry that I was expecting. It was clear that there wasn’t the confidence or the time to allow me to show what I had to offer.  I understand there is a preconception about a school-goers - our level of maturity for example; but I think, in this instance, there was a certain amount of ignorance as to the level of technical aptitude that someone like myself had to offer."

Ash continued his studies through A-levels, but his experience did influence the subjects taken and it was far from digital.

"This experience really made me think about wanting to work in the industry. It wasn’t for a few years afterwards that I realised how important a well-structured work placement would be, not only because it’s a competitive market and you need something to give you the edge when looking for a job, but also because no one can truly prepare your for the difference between what you think you know and how the industry really works. "


An Internship for a Digital Agency that counted

Ash went on to study Product Design at the University of Huddersfield, and it was there that he made the decision to opt for a year out to do an Internship.

“Regardless of the work placement when I was 16, I knew how important it was to combine academia with commercial experiences. The course that I was on had the option to do a year’s internship, and this was a no-brainer for me. There are so many reasons to get out there and experience the industry first hand.  Having work placements on your CV is essential.”

It’s true, a potential employer will be looking for real-life evidence and examples to back up what has been outlined as one’s skills and experiences, so an internship will inevitably create those opportunities.

Businesses within design and PR are the most prolific offenders when it comes to taking on unpaid interns. With it being such a competitive industry, graduates are happy to take these positions just to gain the experience. But this shouldn’t be the case, and in most instances remunerations are made. In fact a survey carried out in 2013 found that just 0.6% of graduates took unpaid internships.  

"I wanted to take an internship with a salary, it wasn’t going to be possible for me financially to do it unpaid. And besides, I felt that I had a significant amount to offer.

"I was interviewed for three different positions, and was offered all three.

"Even though I studied Product Design, all three of the placements were within the digital industry. I believe that, because my portfolio demonstrated adaptability and a real broad range of skills and techniques, the employers could see opportunities for me to fill skills gaps, and be more of an asset to the company going forward."

This attitude bucks the trend of the perception of millennials who, according to Neil Howe,  “... don’t move on to alternative career choices in response to adversity…”.

You have to credit millennials in their perseverance to work in their desired field: the concept of the internship is more common for graduates now than any generation preceding. Millennials are the most educated of all the generations. This creates a hugely competitive market for jobs.

Ash worked for Splitpixel on a work placement for a year, during which time he was encouraged to get involved in a variety of projects, including a flagship website project for Filmology who are cinema ticket voucher specialists, and a dynamic brochure website for Trinity Academy in Halifax - two very successful websites that are both still live today.

"The year in placement was rewarding. It changed my perception of digital. The turnaround of a project is much faster in a commercial environment. At university we would get longer to consider and carry out a project - applying theory and discourse. But that’s not the case in the real world, the timescales are much more pressing. This totally changed my attitude toward work. When I returned to university for my final year, my work ethic was different. I felt as if I understood the purpose, I worked much more efficiently, and as a result came away with a first class honours degree.

"In addition I had a wealth of live projects to add to my portfolio. Fortunately, a lot of decent courses these days will encourage you to work on live projects, but there is a lot to be said for presenting examples of client work to a potential employer which is similar to the projects they would expect you to be working on."


Digital projects to wow employers

Ash goes on to say…

“Graduates have to prove that they are worthy of digital roles with internships and work placements. In some instances, taking on extra responsibility and doing the same quality of work as their more experienced peers. Many of the labelling that comes hand-in-hand with the millennial stereotype is also just down to lack of experience within the working environment, and possibly down to the way in which we choose to communicate, after all we are the generation who is more at home with email and text rather than good old fashioned one-to-one conversation. This can sometimes be a bit of a barrier, but essential when working in a commercial environment. These are skills that are very quickly learned, especially with internships or placements.

We were also encouraged to exhibit our work at design shows, this gave us the opportunity to stand up and sell ourselves. If there was ever an experience to really show our ability to communicate it was this.”


Takeaways for a successful start in digital

So on reflection what would Ash say was his top advice for those looking to get into the digital industry?

"It’s a competitive market and if I can offer any advice it would be to gain as much real world experience as possible, building up a portfolio of live projects, it has much more clout than some fictitious projects. Showing that you can work to tight deadlines and budgets is really important.

"Interning for free is ok if you are in a financial situation to allow you to do so, but only do it if you feel that the experience you have will reap rewards in the long term. A company with a good reputation will have more impact on your CV. But don't fall prey to someone trying to take advantage of your skills and talent.

"You need to be able to stand out from a crowd, so show adaptability. The digital industry covers a broad range of specialisms from designing, through to development and digital marketing, each are intrinsically linked to one another and the more opportunities to get to explore each one, the better understanding you will have of the impact of each. It shows great maturity if you can demonstrate this as an understanding.

"Take advantage of portfolio days, where other experienced professionals can look through your work and give you a commercial opinion on what you should present."

We have been thrilled with the impact Ash has had as part of the Splitpixel team over the past three years. He has actively developed his skills and experiences, and has been working on some key projects in the capacity of designer and developer.

If you're interested in work experience placements with Splitpixel, then please do get in touch - we're excited to see what you can do!


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