The creative industry has become a key part of the UK economy, making up a steadily growing portion of the job market. In 2013, creative industries employment accounted for 5.6% of jobs in the UK, that is 1.71 million jobs. However, creative employment has always been famously competitive, with many more applicant per paid position.
An October report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) noted that Fine Arts graduates are at the lowest levels of employment, or in further study, compared to other degrees. Despite this, most creatives aren’t being discouraged.
In his advice to aspiring artists, Royal Academy’s Michael Craig-Martin advised aspiring artists that the most important feature is desire. Being passionate and having an overwhelming drive to succeed can compensate for lack of talent, because desire can’t be taught.
While passion and enjoyment are ideal when considering a future, long term career, financial ability to continue is of serious importance. Here are four things in which you can improve your competitiveness on the creative job market and make your future career financially viable.
Learn as much as possible from professionals
When it comes to any of the creative arts, be it painting, filmmaking or writing, experience is inviable.
Because employment can be hard to come by, as we learned in the HEFCE report, even for those with educational and freelance or unpaid experience. Working with or under professionals in your chosen field then becomes very valuable.
This means making the best of your education, of course, but also actively seeking contact with people who are already doing your ideal job. This will allow you to pick up tips and tricks, but also help you get your foot in the door of your industry of choice. You can do this through internships and workshops.
In his tips for teenage writers, author John Scalzi stresses the importance of learning about the publishing industry. He suggests to check author blogs and to read their advice, as acquiring information early on will be one less thing to do when trying to get in the business.
Artist Owais Husain took apprenticeships in both New York and India during his educational years. He in turn incorporates passing on his knowledge to the next generation of students into his artistic practice. This past September (2015) he held a workshop called House of Cards at Singapore’s LASALLE College of the Arts where he spent three days collaboratively working with the students to create pieces for an installation on the topics of artistic expression and identity, giving them a hands on, professional experience of creating a work of art.
Getting your chance to work for or with industry professionals is fantastic experience, but it can also be your chance to get a foot in the door, make connections and impress employers.
Develop your people skills
The Creative Skillset’s Workforce Survey 2014 found that 54% of the respondents had found their job in the creative industries through informal recruitment methods. This can only stress the importance of making contacts in your industry as soon as possible in your career, as opportunities often don’t come through a job board.
People skills include verbal and non-verbal communication, but also listening and negotiation skills. You can develop your intrapersonal skills in your everyday life, but you should also attend networking events to see how other people in your field interact with each other. This means going to events, talking to people and learning from your interactions to build better rapports.
House and dance music producer Marc Kinchen said that people skills are as important as the music made by a producer. “The business is full of different types of people and you have to be able to suss them out and adapt.” Being able to identify the best way to interact with influential persons will encourage them to take notice of you. Get their attention and they could be your entry way to success.
Publish, exhibit, submit
Charity Creative & Cultural Skills says that a creative’s portfolio “is essentially your calling card – the better it is, the juicier the role you could land”. A body of work, whether it is a personal blog, online site or as a physical piece, needs to be accessible.
Opportunity won’t always come for you so you need to be proactive in putting yourself forward. You should be able to point people to examples of your works, such as a business card with a URL for your online portfolio. This gives whoever you are networking with proof of your abilities.
The CV of anyone who works in the creative industry also needs to show not only what jobs you’ve had, but also what exhibitions, commissions, awards, collections, publications you have obtained. If you are looking to work in the creative arts, you have to enter competitions and put yourself forward for exhibitions to show you are keeping active.
In their CV writing guide, the University of the Arts London suggests to put this section straight under work experience. The more experience and variety you have in your pocket, the more interesting you will be to employers.