Department of American and Canadian Studies

Elliot Haines, Head of SEO at Hallam


Elliot graduated in 2016 from BA Film and Television Studies and American Studies. He explains how it's ok to not know what you want to do, and how trying different things can guide you to your perfect career.

“Growing up I was always very jealous of kids that knew what they wanted to do. The last time I knew what I wanted to do I was 8 and wanted to be a vet! 

A lot of my career choices were based on ‘I’m not ready to decide yet and want to learn as much as possible until the time that I do’. I tried to keep my A levels as broad as possible. I did biology, chemistry, history and geography, so they’re quite split in that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I’ve always been someone who likes to try a lot of different things."

The benefit of joint honours

“I did a joint honours degree as I wanted to keep my options open.

I didn’t even do media studies at A level. It wasn’t something I was interested in when I picked my A levels. I’d always loved watching film, though, and I guess when studying for my A levels I maybe looked at it a bit more objectively, and from a critical perspective. 

I saw 'Film and Television Studies' as part of a joint honours degree and thought it sounded quite interesting. It was one of the degrees that had the most flexibility. I looked at all the modules and thought 'I could easily pick three years of fun, interesting modules from this'.

My course had a good choice of modules. I’d do the analytical side of looking at sources, books, or people’s interpretations, but then also the creative side of analysing film and television. That directly applies to what I do now. The SEO team at Hallam have to be broad across both analytical and creative. You could have your head in analytics in the morning, looking at a client’s website stats and traffic, but also having to write creative copy in the afternoon.”

Undergraduate study

"The thing I enjoyed the most was definitely the flexibility to pick your own modules. For example, I’d have an American philosophy module, a Canadian literature module, then a more technical film module. Throughout the day you’re dipping in and out of not just different time periods, but almost like different degrees! It had that variation I was looking for.

This built up a lot of the skill set required for my job now, like being analytical, creative, public speaking, presentations, sales pitches… it basically gave me a load of confidence and loads of different touch points to improve skill sets that I’m using now.

You often think, growing up, that you have to have one of a certain set of jobs – a teacher, doctor, lawyer. But there are so many jobs out there you don’t even know exist which you could do! The film and TV side definitely helped open my eyes.”

Choosing a career path

"I kind of fell into the SEO industry, but it may be more calculated than I realise!

When I graduated, I did six months of work in hospitality, then came to the University careers department for advice. They had a partnership with Fuse at the time, it was sort of a grad scheme filtering service. The careers department suggested that I look on the Fuse website and see what graduate schemes were up for grabs.

I saw that Hallam were offering a digital marketing scheme, then I pretty much Googled ‘what is digital marketing?’! I thought it sounded quite interesting.

I got invited to an interview at Hallam, and they hired me! I joined as a digital marketing assistant and the deal was that I’d do three months in each department and find out which one I wanted to work in. 

I started in the SEO department then I went to the PR department. Then I came back to SEO and just stayed there, as I really liked it. Looking back now at the skill set required for each team, I’m definitely most suited to SEO.”

Finding the perfect role

"The best bit of my job is building client relationships, it’s really rewarding. The variation of work you do every single day is pretty crazy, too. Particularly working in an agency which is pretty fast-paced, it’s really exciting. It’s something I thrive off.

I like the mix between analytical work around understanding the performance of clients' websites, but then also the creative side of creating content. It does genuinely feed into what I was doing in my degree and is probably why I’ve ended up here. I’ve almost subconsciously chosen this by my skill set and how I wanted to choose a career. 

For me, being successful is getting some kind of reward feedback from helping people, or building relationships. I also don’t want to ever feel like I am stagnating, or part of the rat race, not doing anything exciting.

I've got no plans to leave Hallam, I really enjoy working here. They invest in your training and learning and really care about your progression. You're constantly learning."


Go further


 Elliot's advice if you're considering joint honours

  • “I would really advocate joint honours and a degree where your modules are as flexible as possible. Even in my job now, I’ll do something every single day that’s quite scary and new to me, but you do it and get that reward and have a different skill set as a result. I’d say definitely pick a degree that makes you do that.”


Department of American and Canadian Studies

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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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