How can the internet boost your career prospects?

This article was originally posted on MouthyMoney.co.uk on 4th October. It is reposted (with some slight expansion) with the permission of the website.

When I was little, if someone asked me what I wanted to be, the answer was simple: an actress or a writer. After I conquered my crippling stage fright at age six, those were the careers I carried round in my heart like little imaginary comfort blankets. I announced it with certainty up until I was about 15, when my answer changed to the slightly more arrogant ‘international cult icon’ (I was a bit of a knob when I was 15, and I thought I was going to be Andy Warhol!). I was surrounded by people who either knew what they wanted to be (teacher, fireman, doctor, dentist, undertaker, bricklayer, etc.), or people who had no idea. I left school in 2000, and there was literally nothing that surprised me when people disclosed what they thought they’d do to earn a living in the future. 

When my nephew (now nine) was younger, he had a clear career goal too – he was going to be Doctor Who. He’s since ditched that particular dream (he thought the hours looked a bit grim – clever boy!) and has recently announced a new ambition. My nephew is going to be a YouTube sensation – this, to me, is such a strange thought. But I’ve been listening recently to Emma Gannon’s excellent book Ctrl, Alt, Delete: How I Grew Up Online (which I loved and reviewed a couple of months ago) and it made me realise that the idea of what a career should be has changed a lot since I left school; the internet has made careers cool, and has potentially killed the 9-5.

My nephew is going to be a YouTube sensation – this, to me, is such a strange thought.

The world has changed so much since the millennium: broadband and smartphones are essential items, google is a verb, and anyone can be a journalist, a writer, or a presenter from their own bedroom. When my nephew announced that he wanted to make YouTube videos, it didn’t seem like a crazy notion. It seemed achievable – like something he could do. He’s a big fan of Stampy, Dan TDM and EthanGamerTV (or at least he was at some point…), and these are just guys with a webcam playing the games he loves. More and more businesses are crying out for people with digital skills, and when he leaves school he and his peers will be fluent in coding, presenting, and marketing; all incredible skills. And he’ll have learned these skills in his own time having fun. That’s amazing.

Many people my age are stuck in jobs that give them no joy (or less joy than they’d like), but they need to work in order to pay for the necessities so often just stick with it. Another uncomfortable truth is that there are more people looking for work than there are jobs available, and if your resume doesn’t contain the right buzzwords, you might not make the first CV sift. I, with management and training experience, was once turned down for an admin role interview because they said I didn’t have enough experience. I used to TRAIN the admin guys but was deemed incapable of doing the job because my CV didn’t fit the bill. You know the catch 22: you need experience to land the job, and you need to land a job to get experience. But today, for certain roles, we have the power to get the experience by ourselves – helping you to find a new career that lights your fire a bit more, or you may be able to pimp your CV in order to improve the career path that you’re already on.

Many people my age are stuck in jobs that give them no joy (or less joy than they’d like), but they need to work in order to pay for the necessities so often just stick with it.

Do you need presentation skills? Then set up a YouTube channel where you can talk about subjects that interest you or ones that you know a lot about. You could also take the time to learn about video editing while you’re at it, using Microsoft’s Movie Maker or Apple’s iMovie programmes. Want to practice your writing? Then set up a blog! Make it about a favourite topic (comics/films/clocks of 19th century Europe), or just your random musings. Then try marketing it on Twitter or Facebook. Learn a new skill on Future Learn, get some top tips from TED Talks, or check out cool bite-sized information on Pinterest (on literally any topic you can think of). Of course, don’t forget to add it all to your CV when you’re done! Your new marketing/presenting/writing skills may just be the thing that puts you head and shoulders above someone else.

Unfortunately, you may not end up being an internet sensation – making millions and looking after your favourite auntie – but in this day and age, the internet could blow your career options wide open. So ask yourself, what do you want to be when you grow up?

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