Delighted to have this great guest post from Edinburgh philosophy alumnus George Gunn, Content Strategist, The Leith Agency.
Although written from the perspective of a philosophy student, a lot of the messages apply to many other students studying non-vocational degrees.
Interested in advertising? Come and hear more about Digital Media & Advertising this Wednesday 2nd March, part of CCCF16 . Brian Coane, Chair IPA Scotland will be on the panel.
What can you do with a Philosophy degree?
Philosophy is a truly fascinating subject to read at university. You’ll debate the existence of god, immerse yourself in the thinking of the Ancient Greek heavyweights, start to doubt the existence of everything, became baffled and frustrated by logic, finally ‘get’ logic (a memorable moment) and have the opportunity to explore topics as diverse as morality, language, free will, politics, feminism, religion, psychology and even time travel.
Where many Philosophy undergraduates and graduates struggle, though, is in deciding what comes next. There’s no denying that dualism and time paradoxes make for tremendous pub chat, but the subject matter doesn’t immediately lend itself towards an obvious career path. You may find yourself at this point casting jealous glances at the likes of engineers, teachers and medical students, whose more vocational knowledge sees them transition into ready-made jobs.
But fear not, because it’s the unique skills developed over the course of a Philosophy degree that will pique the interest of potential employers and set you apart from other job applicants. According to prospects.ac.uk, Philosophy graduates are found working “for almost every type of employer in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors”. Conceivably therefore, your Philosophy degree can take you anywhere. Though perhaps it’s this very knowledge – that you can go on to do anything – that makes the ‘what comes next?’ predicament so bewildering.
For those looking for inspiration, therefore, its worth noting that the world of advertising and marketing remains one of the most popular destinations for Philosophy students. In fact, three members of my small team have Philosophy degrees. And what’s more, the rapidly growing world of digital advertising is opening up a whole new range of jobs, ideal for philosophically-trained minds, that scarcely existed when I graduated in 2012.
So, why do a large proportion of Philosophy graduates find themselves working in advertising?
1. Analytical thinking. Advertising – i.e. effectively and persuasively communicating an idea to a target audience – is essentially one big problem-solving exercise. Philosophy students’ expertise in objectively assessing situations, empathising with different opinions, discovering unique insights, generating left-field ideas, and appraising the pros and cons of proposed solutions with a keen eye for detail, makes them extremely suited to every step of this process.
2. Effective communication. If anyone has experience of presenting ideas in a clear and well-constructed way, it’s us Philosophy folk. Strong communication skills (both orally and in writing), defending a point of view, constructing useful analogies, and persuading both clients and consumers to take on a new point of view are all essential skills in the ad industry.
3. Research and investigation. Advertising agencies rarely just pluck ideas out of thin air. Instead, the process typically starts by locating and sorting through large amounts of information. Once this information has been sifted through and clearly summarised (usually by Planners), the Creatives do their thing. Again, those long nights of poring through reading materials – and plucking out the key bits – give Philosophy graduates invaluable experience here.
Advertising is both an art and a science, where analysis and imagination combine. As it turns out, almost the exact same could be said to describe a Philosophy degree.
Looking to kickstart your career in advertising? Here’s your chance. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) Scotland are calling young creative minds – budding strategist, strategists, technologists, designers, writers – to show their talents.
Your challenge? Answer a live brief to get Scotland working as one towards reducing its carbon footprint. Rewards for winners include a £1000 cash prize, paid work placements and industry mentoring. To register and download your brief go to ipa.co.uk/IPAScotAwards