There’s a huge chunk of undergrads in creative degrees, all wondering what we will do after graduation. In fact, most, if not all, of us have had someone at least once tell us that our degrees are “useless” and that we’ll end up working a 9 to 5 job in a totally unrelated field; but I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. As of today, I still have two more assignments due before my graduation in July. I have a rough idea of the grade I will be obtaining, but that doesn’t seem daunting anymore because I’m now a full-time writer. Throughout my time at university, I’ve received a vast amount of advice on securing my dream job, from networking on Linkedin to embarking on a master’s degree and even attending careers fairs at the university itself. I found myself in an abyss of different options, not knowing which ones would work and which would fail, so here are all of the steps I took to get into the creative industries when I didn’t really know how.
One thing that I will never beat around the bush with is how beneficial obtaining valuable work experience is whilst at university. If your course is anything like mine, a two-week placement provided by the university is simply not enough. You need to be doing more. The competitiveness of the creative industry is no joke, and you need to make sure you stand out in a sea of other talented students who want the role just as much as you do.
In my first year of university, I realised how difficult it was to find a placement in my desired field. The options for journalism in Brighton were minimal, which is why I decided to set up a Her Campus chapter at my university. This not only provided me with valuable leadership skills, but I also obtained industry-level knowledge on SEO, editorial, and open-source content systems such as WordPress. Additionally, I also got to learn from the amazing people within the team who specialised in different areas, receive opportunities to attend industry workshops and help other students gain valuable experience through offering out placements. In doing this alongside my degree and other work placements, I’ve managed to max out my current skillset and ensure employability. If you’re lost on where to look for work experience opportunities, you can become a part of our executive board here or join another university society. BRICKS magazine also has a monthly (and cheap) educational platform in which subscribers receive a weekly newsletter with a wide range of opportunities from full-time work to internships and grants.
GAINING MORE MARKETABLE SKILLS
As mentioned before, working with other talented students during my time as a leader for Her Campus Brighton allowed me to add even more skills to my repertoire. Whilst there’s some similarity here to the previous point, they’re separated because you can gain industry level skills without needing to take on a work placement. A controversial take, but let’s be honest, not all of us have the time to take on placements during our studies. So, here are a few other ways you can expand your skillset:
- Joining industry-oriented societies. I’ll probably mention Her Campus an alarming amount during this article, but I truly owe it an extortionate amount of gratitude for getting me where I am now. Becoming a part of an industry-oriented society (e.g. student newspaper, radio, arts, etc.) is beneficial because not only will you be working on projects related to your desired job field, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to meet friends and have a good time amidst the stress of university. These friendships are especially valuable, as you can collaborate together professionally and give each other a platform to show off your work and inspire each other.
- Part-time employment. This one is a no-brainer, as most of us can’t survive university without one, but people underestimate the number of transferable skills you gain from them. For example, working in retail shows tremendous ability to work under pressure, boost communication skills, and become an expert problem-solver working with awful customers all day. Also, not all part-time employment has to be stacking shelves or waiting tables. During my time at university, I’ve worked for charities and political parties and as an IPP (Inclusive Practice Partner) for the uni itself. I worked as little as one day per week in all of these roles, but it made all the difference.
- Embarking on a new hobby or interest. This one is so overlooked, but it’s by far the most important. Sure, not all hobbies are cost effective for students, but they can turn into super marketable skills for the creative industries. For example, you can teach yourself how to make graphics via software such as Canva or become familiar with Adobe software such as Illustrator. If you’ve always wanted to learn a new language, do it. Exemplify your social media management by learning how to boost your own personal audience and engagement.
Additionally, there are tons of free courses and workshops out there that are widely accessible. You can read more about those here if you want knowledge outside of your university course. In some instances, you can also reach out to course leaders across your university and ask to sit in on classes that you feel would be valuable for you.
NETWORKING, BUT MAKE IT PERSONAL (& DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL)
Now, if you’re a student looking to go into the creative industries, you probably know people who made it just off the back of being fortunate to know someone who can help them into the door. However, not all of us have that privilege. So, when I say “networking but make it personal”, I mean reach out to people in the industry who inspire you, people whose work you genuinely love and admire. Whilst connections on Linkedin can help, cold emails work even better. However, as I said with “don’t take it personal”, it’s important to understand that jobs within the creative industries are incredibly time-consuming, so don’t be disheartened if you get no response.
As I love to read and expand my knowledge, a few freelance writers and reporters started to catch my eye. I was genuinely at a point where I truly loved their work, so I made an effort to find their contact details via their website or social media. I would reach out and introduce myself, letting them know that I was aspiring to also work as a writer and expressing why I reached out to them, explaining that I loved their work and would love to learn from them. I’ve been very fortunate to receive a response in every instance I’ve done this. I was even once given a detailed ‘freelance reporter’ document full of helpful advice and industry contacts.
BUILD YOUR BRAND
You’ve probably heard that finding a niche is super important, and trust me, it is. Whilst you probably have tons of interests, core values and beliefs, it’s vital that you find a way to boil this down and focus on one area that truly speaks to your soul. It’s cheesy, but this is what a lot of the ‘great’ creatives are known for. Sure, being skilled in various areas is vital, but your work still needs to have something that ties it all together. It’s significantly easier to market to potential employees and audiences.
For example, as a full-time writer, I’ve worked on various different pieces. However, my core focus is being an entertainment writer, with a lot of my work focusing predominantly on feminist theory. Of course, outside of this, I have other passions, too, such as mental health, culture and political affairs. Still, unless I can incorporate this into an entertainment piece, I tend to stay away from these topics altogether. I then started to build this brand for myself via creating a website, to now more recently decided to work on rebranding my social media to show off my work. As you can see, I haven’t been published in multiple magazines, but shifting my work to entertainment and marketing this landed me a role as a Movie/TV Feature Writer through my site and published material.
The creative industry is a scary field to navigate around, and while I’m grateful to be doing what I love, I’m still in an entry-level role with a lot more work to do to get where I dream of being. Regardless of this, the stereotype surrounding creative degrees needs to be broken. Rather than allowing individuals to shame us for our educational choices, we need to build each other up and prove people wrong. Gaining a post-graduate job isn’t easy, but it’s vital to start using the student life to our advantage and begin walking up to the door now rather than later. If you’re worried about how to balance having fun at university whilst simultaneously working towards your career and obtaining your degree, keep an eye on this space for my next article on my top pieces of advice on time management whilst at uni.