Tweet your way into a top job
Online and social media are now so important for companies that they are willing to pay young people to help them bridge their digital divides
Rising unemployment and better access to the internet have completely changed the local job market. Despite the Youth Development Index urging big business to support youth employment, the youth job market is increasingly filled with individuals intent on paving their own way. As a result, previously unexplored jobs are becoming more common as young people carve out new spaces in established, traditional companies or by striking out on their own.
This creative, youth-driven market is focused on growing new and established brands, developing internet-friendly products and services and using social media to market these initiatives. And because many universities haven’t quite made the shift into this “digital age”, much of the employment in these industries comes from what the individual can do, rather than what they studied.
According to a 2008 report by the department of labour, there were close to 4 000 people employed in the field of creative production – encompassing advertising, design and film making. This is considered to be just the tip of the iceberg when one considers the expansion of internet-based businesses since then.
For example, co-founder of The Bread, Anthea Poulos, studied sociology and politics – and while previously this may have meant a career in government or academia, she works with brands like Ray-Ban, Levi’s and the Foschini Group to make them appear more appealing to younger people who are more interested in Twitter and secret-location parties than in TV and newspapers.
“The term ‘youth culture analyst’ is one I came up with. But essentially, it’s about using what I know about the youth and their habits to help businesses respond to them more appropriately,” says Poulos.
Marketing agency BrandedYouth recently conducted research into youth trends in an attempt to figure out when the shift took place. Their report argues that the idea of a personal brand is central to South African and international young people, who use their work and lifestyle choices to reflect their beliefs and interests. Instead of studying something like accounting, which is perceived as run of the mill and inflexible, the youth is turning to tech-based careers as an extension of its personal interests.
This is reflected in the fact that while the majority of students are still being educated at universities, ever more are opting for advertising and marketing schools such as Vega, AAA and Red & Yellow to get a specialised set of skills to pursue these emerging jobs.
One job that has become incredibly popular is that of socialmedia manager. These days, everyone from Superga to Standard Bank employs a social-media manager.
Aside from the fact that this gives staff the opportunity to use Facebook, Twitter and other platforms for work purposes, these managers command pretty high salaries for building a “presence” for businesses online – especially when working for older, more traditional companies that have never engaged with these platforms before.
In light of these changes, new workspaces, labour organisations and clubs have emerged to support initiatives that do not neatly fall within the corporate space.
Business workspaces, or incubators, are becoming increasingly popular. JoziHub in Milpark is one such incubator, which houses anyone from app developers to digital artists and graphic designers, who work individually and with each other, but without any overarching business structure.
Similarly, because many of these jobs don’t have the protection of a corporate structure, new organisations have sprung up to protect and inform workers in such industries. The Creative Circle, for example, which holds monthly awards, is a not-forprofit organisation “dedicated to promoting creativity as a business resource”. Such organisations reflect the increasing attention being given to “alternative” employment.
The tide is turning. Even where there aren’t entirely new jobs, there is an evolution in terms of what is expected from old jobs. Newspaper reporters are expected to have online skills, photographic shops must print digital photos and travel agencies must compete with easy-to-use airline websites.
But big corporates still have a monopoly over financial success. Many so-called creatives complain that investors and employers are wary of tech-heavy, social skills, which are hard to immediately quantify in terms of a bottom line.
“There’s some serious pressure out there. On one hand, the older brands have a formula that works, so it’s hard to believe they need a brand analyst, and on the other, when they do work with us, it’s on a tight budget – but we still have to prove ourselves,” says Poulos.
1. DIGITAL DESIGNER/ILLUSTRATOR
2. APP DEVELOPER
3. SOCIAL-MEDIA MANAGEMENT
PICTURE PERFECT Khensani Ngobeni and Amanda Sibiya