You're never too old to go digital
If there's one area of UK business that looks recession-proof right now, it's the digital sector. Against a backdrop of rising unemployment, digitalmedia and marketing has grown into a multi-billion pound industry.
Digital careers cross a range of sectors – from retail and professional services to not-for-profit and education. Yet many older professionals feel locked out of opportunities which may seem better suited to digital natives – people who've grown up with technology. But there are still many digital career options out there for older jobseekers.
Here are a few strategies to help you gain confidence and improve your job prospects in the expanding digital economy.
Leave your fears at the door
A fearless attitude is not a trait confined to young people. But being unfamiliar with technology can scare people off applying to digital roles.
Not having grown up tweeting can be an advantage. In fact, being a novice can give you valuable insight into the usability of a product – and you'll probably pick things up faster than you think. In the social media arena, networks like Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter are becoming important business tools, and you have everything to gain by getting on board. Olivier Binse, director of strategy for telecoms and media at Deloitte, says: "What matters is to embed a culture of observation and learning to experiment and test different approaches." That openness to experimenting with new technology doesn't have an age limit.
The market moves fast, so don't pigeonhole yourself. Across industries, distinctions are collapsing and there's room to be inventive with your job title if you're confident in your core skills. Roles like SEO analyst, content technologist, and social media manager didn't even exist a few years ago.
These positions play on the strength of evergreen skills like analytics, writing and communications. Look at what other people who are now in digital roles used to do – they may have switched from customer services to customer engagement, from statistician to digital data analyst.
There's no reason why you can't augment your current role with a little extra training and imagination. You might also bring to the table skills from outside of work. Do you write a blog? Perhaps you run a Facebook page for a local organisation?
When planning your next steps, focus on what is important to you – your values, interest and ambition. Successful careers are built around a genuine passion for what you do.
Play to your strengths
As well as tech-savvy coders and designers, companies need people who can see the bigger commercial picture. Experienced professionals will often already have at least some of the skills required by employers in the digital sector.
Here are three areas where you could prove that older is wiser:
1. Communications and leadership
Leadership improves with practice and recruiters for senior digital roles look for traditional management skills and experience. Employers will value a track record of balancing the daily demands of scheduling and management, in parallel with developing longer-term priorities.
Teams also need good communicators not just for internal efficacy but also to influence and educate people about digital strategy. The ability to demonstrate diplomacy and the enthusiasm to motivate staff will be appealing for any senior digital position.
Measurement is a critical aspect of the digital sector, with businesses striving to justify their campaigns and budgets. Analytics is an area for accountants, engineers and statisticians to transfer technical and detail-oriented skills to a digital environment. Data is used to inform many decisions, from marketing to business strategy, so by developing your analytical skills, you can add real value to your company.
3. Commercial awareness
In a digital world of almost instant action and reaction, the ability to see the wider business implications of a digital strategy – in marketing or e-commerce, for example – is a real bonus. Commercial experience online and offline is relevant.
Claire Higgins, head of digital marketing at Selfridges, looks for recruits with "a background from a range of sectors to bring fresh perspectives, knowledge and experience." She says they should be "informed about competitors, commercial in orientation, able to identify and deliver the customer and business benefits". This plays to the strengths of more experienced professionals from other industries that are looking to make a career change into the digital world.
You need to get passionate about your career change and immerse yourself in it. This could include courses, training and events which will help you compete in the jobs market. Short-courses and workshops are widely available – even online. Training can help you get to grips with technology, provide an intensive introduction to a new sector, and complement existing skills. You can cultivate your interests by experimenting with new technologies, reading industry journals, news sites and blogs, and by observing everyday trends.
Don't be scared to learn new things and to look for value in skills you already have. Older jobseekers can succeed in a digital world. They can thrive by applying experience to new roles, up-skilling, and approaching the next career move with confidence.