Having been involved in the creative industries education for over decade now, one of the most common questions students ask in interviews (and parents ask on open days) is about ‘getting a job’ at the end of the course. As if a graduating student can simply go and trade in their degree certificate and swap it for a ‘good job’. If only employment was this easy.
‘Getting a job’ in the Arts has always been a difficult undertaking; with no boxes to tick it can be a complicated process finding an appropriate vacancy - and so ensues the hellish time of resume writing and job interviews.
A drastic [most revolutions are] but more appropriate approach to this situation is not to think of ‘getting a job’ as ‘getting’- the mere word suggests a degree of affordance, of being gifted employment - but rather as ‘creating a job’. ’Creating’ is about being pro-active and entrepreneurial; it involves going out, attending events, talking to people, doing internships and apprenticeships – essentially increasing your exposure. After all, how will employers know they need you in their firm if they only see your skills in a nice little list on a sheet of A4? You must make yourself indispensable, and for that you don’t need a resume. You need guts.
More after the break...
This route is more common for those in the arts, a scene where events and exhibitions happen every day, and a scene where it is difficult to read a person’s qualities and talents in print. If you don’t look all that good on paper, it means you are different - embrace it - you just need to find a better way to speak to your audience. Understandably this may not be as suitable in all industries, but essentially it works on the same principles as networking. It is about creating your own opportunities.
Architecture graduates in particular have a hard time of things when it comes to job seeking. At the end of their 7 years of study they hope to be appreciated, even rewarded for their hard work, but often the hardest times are still to come. Architecture students are more often than not hired on their ability to use XYZ computer program rather then on their ability to problem solve, think differently or challenge the system (see Zaha/Gaga divide for more detail.) And people who challenge the system don’t usually write good resumes.
The idea of “creating a job” is not ground breaking stuff; there is a long list of vastly successful entrepreneurs that generated work for themselves, rather than climbing the commercial ladder. I remember being told as a student myself that ‘life happens whether you are paying attention or not.’ It wasn’t until years later, when I found myself clasping a redundancy letter, that I began to realize that in order to stand out from the crowd, you didn’t just need to be different – you needed to be seen and heard to be different. This of course will vary from person to person, from artist to sculptor, from architect to painter, from photographer to ceramicist, and it’s not about the big gesture or shouting the loudest, it’s about identifying your goals and forging a constructive path towards them.
Too often the resume is the objectification of oneself, breaking down creative life into standard subsections such as experience, skills, interests.Instead you could become the personification of your resume – wear your talents outwardly, exercise them daily, be confident about your indispensability. In doing so you will make your own chances and create yourself a career, not just a job.
Gem Barton, based in Brighton, England, is a writer, academic lecturer, curator and designer. As a regular contributor to journals and magazines such as Mark, Blueprint, Design Bureau and Inhabitat she explores and share her passion for architecture and design. Gem's column 'The B-Side' will look at the alternatives to architectural traditions and explore what it means to be knee-deep in the 21st century design world. Follow her @gem_shandy