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How my arts degree led to a career as a digital entrepreneur

ManpreetDhesi16 September 2015

This guest post is from Zoe Amar, Director of Zoe Amar Communications
Zoe Amar headshot

Earlier this summer Forbes proclaimed that arts degrees were the hottest ticket for a career in tech. It reminded me of my own journey from a BA in English Literature at Warwick to running my own digital marketing agency, working with clients such as Charities Aid Foundation, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and The School for Social Entrepreneurs. Careers in digital and communications are popular options for undergraduates, as is eschewing the conventional graduate scheme for life as an entrepreneur. UCL have asked me to share what I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Accept that any career path you choose may be circuitous and involve some risk. After graduating, I was an English teacher for a year before heading to law school then working in the City. But even though I did well in those jobs and learned a lot, there was always something missing. I quit my job as a lawyer and thought long and hard over what I wanted to do next, aided by John Lees’ invaluable book How to Get a Job You Love. It was a bit scary to walk away from a well paid job but without doing that I would never have ended up in a job I love so much. I took a placement doing marketing on a pro bono basis at a national charity which specialised in digital services.  Just a few weeks in they offered to create a new role for me as head of marketing, and after I’d been there for 5 years I left and set up my own agency. I’d say learn whatever you can from every job you have and follow your instincts about what is right for you.
  2. Digital doesn’t mean that ‘soft’ skills are redundant. As the Forbes article showed, digital is evolving rapidly and requires strong technical and analytical knowledge. Yet people skills such as being able to ‘read the room’ and nurture client relationships are necessary to capitalise on the benefits of digital. Much as I love it, digital is just a set of tools. It’s how you use them that counts.
  3. Being an entrepreneur is hard but rewarding. It might sound glamorous but running your own business means taking on a lot of risk and round the clock hard graft. The upside is that it stretches you and is incredibly empowering. It’s also offered me amazing experiences such as working with household names, giving a lecture on digital strategy at Cambridge,  and doing a bit of radio and TV. If you have the opportunity to work for yourself I urge you to take it. I’ve run my own business for the last couple of years and recently blogged about everything it has taught me.

I’d recommend that anyone starting out in their career is open minded and learns everything they can.  Work isn’t one linear path from university to the corner office anymore; it’s a journey. Enjoy it.

Zoe Amar is Director of Zoe Amar Communications. She also writes for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network about how nonprofits use digital, and is a trustee of a national charity.

To discuss career options, book an appointment to see a Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.