Copywriting as a Career Choice

Career Guy

I could use some guidance. I’m a recent college graduate trying to figure out the best career path. My bachelor’s degree is in psychology and I had a minor concentration in marketing. The original plan was to graduate and then land a job with an ad agency. However, now that I’m having a hard time finding a job, I’m wondering if I should adjust. My older brother said I’d have a hard time getting one, especially if I wanted to become a copywriter. That’s why I need some insight. Is my brother right? Are my plans unrealistic in terms of launching a career? I’ve heard that college graduates are having a harder time than ever landing jobs.

Selecting the right career path after college is no trivial decision. Society would have you believe that the transition ought to be seamless, but we know better than that. The ongoing controversy for years was the claim that swaths of college graduates were either unemployed or underemployed, but that myth was thankfully debunked. You can verify the separate state of affairs, too. Researchers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) maintain a public resource highlighting the unemployment rates categorized by educational attainment. They’ve even done you the favor of visualizing the data to make it easier to interpret.

You’ll notice that, while seasonal fluctuations do exist, the trend for college graduates has been positive since circa 2011 (i.e., a constant decrease in unemployment). It’s also important to recognize that the employment rate for college graduates was far less susceptible to short-term disruptions. The dataset presented spans just a decade (2007-2017), but within that period, unemployment for college graduates never exceeded 5 percent. In other words, college graduates tend to have greater stability in terms of job security. Experts at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) came to similar conclusions in their 2016 report on college graduate employment rates. All these findings are promising, but it doesn’t mean that landing the right career is easy to do.

Sharon Florentine at CIO warned college graduates to prepare for a cutthroat job market the same year the NCES published their report. The unfortunate reality is that both Sharon and the NCES researchers may be correct. They’re both tapping into a much larger trend, though. Globalization and technology have had, and continue to have, increasing influence on everything from employment to space exploration. Kenneth Rogoff, the former Chief Economist of the IMF, wrote a salient article explaining the impact of technology on employment. He acknowledges the fact that some jobs are eliminated but also illustrates how many other, more sophisticated positions are then created thereafter.

We can use your career choice as a prime example. Ed Owen at The Guardian wrote a compelling piece describing how copywriting has evolved since its original inception. Things were much different when content creation was consolidated in the hands of just a few and mass communication was unidirectional (e.g., radio, television, print, etc.). The internet disrupted that model by democratizing content creation and distribution. Traditional print copywriting was further undermined by the rise of stratospheric rise of search engines like Google and the increasing popularity of dynamic multimedia.

The digital age forced individuals and organizations to either adapt to the changes or fold under the pressure. Copywriting now has a wide variety of different possible trajectories. No longer are all aspiring copywriters destined produce print copy for the stereotypical ad agency in Manhattan or Los Angeles. Some of the most compelling copy is now written from anywhere in the world and for social media handles and executive emails. Attracting and retaining the best talent isn’t always feasible. The market addressed that problem and now organizations can tap into a professional custom writing service or hire local freelance ghostwriters. New options present themselves every day, too.

This is all to say that your prospects are favorable, so long as you take your career development seriously. Don’t make decisions based just on anecdote and acknowledge that some sources are more biased than others. Your brother had good intentions, but that doesn’t mean his advice is relevant. Exposure to more perspectives is almost always the best way to begin. The resources cited above should aid your decision-making process. One final suggestion is to read what Jon Acuff wrote on TIME, which highlighted 21 things nobody tells college graduates. Just a handful of pointers are career-related — the rest of them cover aspects of personal, social, communal, and political life. Never underestimate the value of those things, either.

“Oh, don’t use big words. They mean so little.”  — Oscar Wilde

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