Getting the right careers advice for the creative industries

 11 November 2016

Careers in the creative industries don’t always have set routes to 'getting in' like many other sectors do. Experience, passion and talent can often be more important than formal qualifications. Dianne Gillies, editor of careers website Planit, writes about how to make a start in a competitive sector.

How do young people know what the best thing to do is?
How do young people know what the best thing to do is?

In relation to the creative industries, young people often hear comments such as ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ and ‘you have to be in the right place at the right time’. Clichés they may be, but in many cases, there is some luck involved and it is one of those industries where networking and making contacts does make a difference.

So, how do young people know what the best thing to do is? How do they know which is the best route into their chosen creative career? It’s not as straightforward as saying: ‘go to university, get a degree in teaching and then apply for teaching jobs’.

There is a genuine risk that young people are discouraged from following their chosen path due to the lack of specific careers advice.

What information can help?

At Planit, our approach is to provide comprehensive and up to date information. We provide facts, figures and information on the different creative industries, from art and design and performing arts, to gaming, in the hope that young people can get some insight into trends and what the job market is like. For example, if there is a bigger concentration of jobs in one location than another.

In our job profiles, we include details on the usual things like typical duties, salaries and qualifications, but also on aspects of creative careers that young people may not have considered. For example, that they may need to be willing to move around for work or may need to have a second job for income whilst trying to establish themselves in their chosen career path.

It’s not as straightforward as saying ‘go to university, get a degree in teaching and then apply for teaching jobs’.

Then, there are the personal skills and qualities required. In addition to a passion for and talent in their chosen creative area, it’s important to know from the outset that they will need determination to succeed.

They have to be willing to accept constructive criticism and also be resilient to deal with rejections.

The creative industries cover so many different careers, that when conveying information on a website it can sometimes be difficult to be specific enough for each one. It may be that jobs in the technical side of performing arts are booming, but in the performance side, it is much more difficult to get in.

This is why we include career and industry specific resources in our job profiles, where young people can get much more in depth information on their chosen career.

This includes contact details and websites for organisations such as Equity, the Chartered Society of Designers and BAFTA, through to information on traineeships, competitions and job websites that specialise in a range of creative positions.

We have recently started adding Facebook and Twitter accounts, so that young people can like and follow organisations for up to date information.

What do students think?

We were interested to get the opinions of some students working towards careers in the creative industries to see what they thought of the careers advice they had received and resources they had used. We spoke to five final year degree students on the BA Textiles course (specialising in Weave and Print) at Heriot-Watt University.

Use the online careers resources, from general careers websites to specialist ones like Creative Choices and Creative Skillset

They felt that at school, the careers advice focused too much on traditional careers and trades and in some cases, careers advisors weren’t available enough.

At college and university, they felt the approach was much more interactive, with a buddy system that pairs up students with someone from the world of industry and a creative industries careers fair.

When it came to online resources, they hadn’t used any of the creative industries careers websites.

Other things that they said would be useful included: a list of companies that had hired students in the past and a compulsory careers advice session that could be scheduled in as part of the timetable and didn’t clash with other class times.

The third suggestion was interesting, as it is something that already exists – they said that it would be good to have a list of general creative jobs that their degree qualifies them to do. On our Planit website it’s possible to view courses at any Scottish college or university and explore information on all the related careers.

Tips for a creative career

When it comes to careers advice for getting into the creative industries, we would suggest to young people to:

1. Try and make time to see careers advisors face-to-face and if appointments don’t fit with your school/college/university timetable, then make it known

2. Use the online careers resources, from general careers websites to specialist ones like Creative Choices and Creative Skillset

3. Check out the websites of professional associations of the area you are interested in, such as The Textile Institute or the Association of British Theatre Technicians

4. Use social media to keep up to date with events, opportunities and to showcase your work

5. Be proactive about contacting people in the industry, whether it’s for some work experience or first-hand advice – everyone had to start out somewhere and where possible, people will try to help.

Planit is an online resource of careers, learning and school information for Scotland.