Your shortcut from higher education to digital professional

GradPaths is a collection of stories from digital professionals with diverse backgrounds all across Scotland, 
discussing their courses, first jobs and what they might have done differently with the benefit of hindsight.

I'm busy, tl;dr version

Bobby Anderson

Senior Designer

There’s a limited amount you can gain from working in one place. Designer Bobby began to lose passion for his work by sticking around too long.

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Ben Singer

Front End Developer

Ben had a positive experience with the large organisation he went to work for as a graduate, working under a talented team of senior staff.

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Emily Glen

Digital Marketing Manager

After dropping out of Uni, Emily worked her way up from comms to Marketing Manager. In doing so, she often found contacts to be as valuable as a degree.

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Michael Hayes

Director & App Developer

Michael learnt the value of making mistakes and learning from them before founding his own app design consultancy and startup incubator.

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Andrew Nicolson

Designer

After graduating, Andrew worked as freelancer for creative orgs across Scotland before settling into a full time role for better financial stability.

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Daisy Swain

Digital Designer

Thanks to some unfortunate timing, designer Daisy had some trouble finding her first digital role. She wishes she knew then how approachable people can be.

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Duncan Buchanan-MacDonald

Design Consultant

After dropping out, Duncan returned to education to pursue a career in digital and landed a job in a well known Glasgow design consultancy.

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Derek Bowers

Design Director

Some hard work, early exposure and research got Derek a job at a prominent Glasgow digital agency where he rose through the ranks to become Design Director.

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TL;DR version

Starting a successful career in digital is easier than you think, especially when you do the following:

  • Research digital industry businesses, even the ones you don’t want to work for – keep an eye on what they’re talking about, who they collaborate with, who they’re employing and the work they’re completing. Knowing anything about a given business’s clients or products, and even competitors, is always impressive.
  • Apply for businesses that, whatever their size, have a proven track record of developing their graduates into mid-level staff members and are are managed by skilled seniors that you can learn from; don’t just apply for any old shit you find.
  • If you want to get some attention, have a well prepared presentation of your work or personal projects, not just University coursework, that showcases your skills. If you really want to work for a particular place (especially an agency), prepare something big and special just for that business that will get you noticed.
  • Start networking now because people in digital are an approachable bunch. There are loads of meetups all over Scotland for digital disciplines of all kinds, and you’ll meet people who can give you advice, could need help with work on a freelance basis or may be looking to hire staff in the near future.
  • Expect failure. You’re not going to get every job you apply for and not every business you start or product you launch will be a winner – embrace failure, learn from it and move on.

Digital, as an industry, is pretty changeable. Trends come and go, popular apps and platforms disappear overnight and people move around a lot. Some people working in digital today are happy having a day job while pursuing other interests, others are fully committed and often allow their work take over a lot of their spare time.

Your first job in digital is by no means the most important event in your career but the right junior role can help to better shape your specialisms, interests and professional development in the long run.