February 17, 2016 - Comments Off on Want to work in a digital agency? Don’t rely solely on your degree

Degrees were once seen as a must-have for new employees, but they are no longer mandatory. That’s especially true in the creative sector, where passion and willingness often take precedence over academic bravado.

As a young entrepreneur myself, I’m committed to bringing young talent into my business. That talent may present itself in different ways, whether it’s a teenager preparing to take their first steps into digital or a graduate with a desire to create.

I always believe in giving young people an opportunity. In 2015 we recruited six graduates, two apprentices, a sandwich placement and a work experience student.

In this article, I’ll explain what it takes to land the digital job of your dreams – whether or not you’ve got a degree.

Degree 53 - 0052What do you typically look for in graduates or apprentice candidates when hiring?

For me, the most important thing is their passion for the role, not their qualifications.

If I’m recruiting for designers and developers, I’m looking at what work they’ve done outside of education – it’s one thing to have a qualification, but it’s much more impressive if they’ve already built up a portfolio of work off their own back. It shows that they’re proactive and entrepreneurial, and it proves that they’re genuinely interested in what they do.

Prospective candidates need to have a passion for the work they want to do. I want to see a designer’s portfolio, or for developers I want to see code. Nearly all devs and designers get into it as a hobby.

How much emphasis do you place on employees having a degree?

For designers, testers and developers, I really don’t place any emphasis on whether or not they have a degree.

For project managers and business analysts, we’d place more emphasis on the degree, but ultimately it’s important to remember that we always hire a person rather than a qualification. If we feel they’d be a good fit in terms of their enthusiasm, experience and personality, we wouldn’t necessarily be concerned about their lack of a degree.

Essentially, I’d say that when I’m recruiting I don’t really look at what people have done in their degrees, because it’s typically very generic. I’m looking for what they have done in their own time.

Degree 53 - 9996How do you typically find apprentices and new hire? What can they expect in their first few months at Degree 53?

We advertise the roles ourselves, and also use recruitment agencies. Sometimes people approach us directly and ask for work experience. We always try to oblige with this, as it’s a good way of giving back. There have been times when we’ve given people jobs off the back of work experience placements.

We start people off on small jobs, but very quickly we want them to be working on major projects. We expect that within a short number of months a new starter is the same as any other member of the team.

My management style is to throw people in at the deep end, while of course ensuring that they still receive all the support they need. That’s what happened in my career and I really valued that.

What's you best advice for getting started in the digital industry?

I’d simply tell people: just do it! The great thing about working in digital is the sheer volume of opportunities – and they’re not just restricted to London. According to data from CareerBuilder and Adzuna, Greater Manchester ranks among the UK’s five biggest digital employment hubs and is also one of the country’s fastest-growing tech clusters. If you live in the North, there’s never been a better time to get into the digital space.

You really shouldn’t be overly concerned about a lack of degree-level experience. After all, there’s so much relevant, free material out there on the internet – if you’re keen to break into the digital industry, just give it a read and have a go.


Andrew Daniels is Managing Director of Degree 53, an award-winning web design and app development agency based in Manchester.

Published by: admin in Opinion Pieces

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