Navigating graduate life: How to find your creative career
“So what are your plans now?”
This is the inevitable question which many graduates encounter upon leaving university. Everyone from relatives to polite conversationalists are interested in what you are going to do. The only problem is: you’re not quite sure yourself.
As we emerge from the relatively structured and familiar cocoon of the education system, beginning a career in the professional world can be intimidating.
For graduates who are interested in the creative industries the experience can be even more mystifying. Jobs in Investment Banking or Law often have a clearer, although no less difficult, pathway. There are many schemes and internships advertised in these sectors, whereas working in the Arts and Media typically have fewer placements and high volumes of interest.
If you are passionate about a creative career it simply means be prepared for a less conventional route than your friends in Finance.
Whether it’s PR or journalism, embrace the lack of career structure in a positive light. It creates an opportunity for you to sell yourself and your qualities in a unique way.
Here are a few tips for putting a creative application together:
1. Do not diminish yourself: Many career advice websites tell us that graduates are all equally well qualified, and so standing out from the crowd is important. Whilst that is true, this does not mean you should diminish your own academic achievement. Creative jobs rely heavily on cover letters. Therefore, having confidence and belief in your self-worth will shine through in your applications.
2. Graduate websites and apps: Platforms such as Milkround, Mediargh, Gothinkbig, Debut, and LinkedIn can filter jobs by sector and requirements, help you showcase your skills to a wider network and connect with employers. Debut is one particular app which allows you to create a profile based upon your qualifications, experience and sectors of interest. While this filters potential jobs for the user, it also enables companies to ‘talent spot’ eligible graduates and fast track them through the application process.
3. Writing your application: Whereas other industries may have specific questions and aptitude tests for jobs, creative industries usually ask for a CV, cover letter and a portfolio of work. It is important to send these out to any companies which interest you, even if they are not advertising. A successful cover letter should show an understanding of the company’s core values and how these align with your own skills. The Guardian has many helpful articles on making effective applications.
4. Search around your ideal job: Sometimes your dream job is also the hardest job to get into. Being open to roles connected with that job can offer you a door into that sector. For example, if you are interested in publishing you may have found that the big companies only offer randomly selected work experiences. Consider Literary Agents and independent publishing houses which advertise paid internships throughout the year.
5. Smaller/regional businesses: It is true that independent companies are often more willing to take on interns. Exploring options outside of the cities can also mean a more supportive working environment with more mentorship opportunities.
6. Gaining experience: Work experience is especially crucial for creative jobs, and its benefits can be infinite. Your CV will benefit from the skill development; however it is also a way to broaden your contacts and consider different industry areas. Furthermore, you can never send too many applications.
7. As with many industries it is all about who you know. You might be thinking that you do not have any contacts in your preferred sector, however knowing someone in an alternative field can still be advantageous. A friend in recruitment or consultancy, for example, can be an asset in working on your CV.
Good luck and happy job hunting!