These days, when media students ask their instructors and career counselors for advice about finding a job, they usually hear two words: go digital.
The shift in technology means challenges for many traditional areas of content creation. It also means opportunities have arisen in a lot of sectors, including emerging and new media, says Cathy Perron, director of the media ventures program at Boston U.
Perron believes that the types of job-seekers who stand the best chance right now include multimedia artists (whose work can range from character animation to game design to visual effects), experts in online marketing and the use of social networking sites, and innovative content producers who can create for multiple platforms, including mobile devices.
“There’s also an opportunity for people who really understand how to master digital distribution,” Perron says. “If you have an understanding of how to maximize content across a lot of platforms, you will definitely find work.”
Tim Burgess, career development director at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, also sees a changing landscape that recent graduates will need patience to navigate.
Social media managers, Web culture experts and people who can apply a sense of digital savvy along with strong communication skills will be able to find their way to jobs, Burgess says.
“Now is not the time to be timid,” he adds. “There are fewer jobs out there, but if you work hard and think creatively, you can probably still find an entry-level position within three to six months of graduating.”
The 2010 Otis Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region supports the ideas of Perron and Burgess. The study, which was prepared by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., predicts an overall 10.4% increase in digital media jobs from 2009 to 2014.
Though that sort of double-digit job increase in a particular media sector is impressive, Kathleen Milnes, an adjunct associate professor at Otis College of Art and Design, thinks those numbers are actually much higher.
“The way to measure jobs in these kinds of new media is still evolving because it wasn’t until 1995 or 1996 that we even had descriptions like ‘multimedia artist’ that could be used to categorize what someone does on an employment form,” says Milnes. “So now a lot of those jobs are still miscategorized or they’re lumped into some other category because if someone else is handling your payroll services they might still be using old terms to describe the jobs.”
Milnes, who teaches courses at Otis that prepare students in “real world” skills like interviewing for jobs and face-to-face networking, advises students that they need to consider applying their abilities in new ways to make the most of the changing economy.
“If you’re a character animator that’s a skill you could be using for film, in gaming design or in the biomedical field in order to create teaching tools for doctors,” says Milnes. “New fields are always opening up.”
Despite all the fresh opportunities, Perron, Burgess and Milnes agree the competition in the job market right now is now so fierce that excellent digital media skills and a strong specialty in one area are not necessarily enough. Job seekers should have a blog or website that shows a portfolio of their work, and they’ll always need some of the “soft” skills to close the deal on a job.
“You still need to play well with others,” says Milnes, “There’s nothing digital that can take the place of that skill.”