Top 10 Tips Part 1: Creative Careers

When you graduate, there should be plenty of employment opportunities with fast-growing independents as well as the big boys. And Brexit is likely to lead to a skills shortage in the UK film/TV/media industry. It’s a competitive world, but you have a lot to offer – you’re leaving a highly regarded uni, with a great education, skills & practical experience. Don’t underestimate your value, even as new graduate. It’s a question of being proactive, and selling yourself well. So here is part 1 with 5 of our top ten tips…
In this article…

Career direction

Build skills

Personal characteristics – what’s important?

CV & portfolio

Gain experience


1. Career directiongirl with arms up looking confused

Whether you’re clear what you want to do, or have no idea at this stage, don’t feel overwhelmed by trying to find the perfect first job. Career development is an ongoing process and you’ll probably change jobs or even direction several times in your working life. So think about what you’d like to do for the next couple of years, and just give it a go!  It might lead to your dream job or it might be your worst nightmare. But whatever the outcome, you’ll learn what you do (or don’t) want to do, you’ll gain valuable transferrable skills and it just might open other doors…

Starting points: Passion • Skills • Personality
Go into an area that you enjoy. If you’re passionate about what you do, you’re far more likely to be successful! Think about your individual skills, your strengths and weaknesses, what drives you, and how you like to work. Do you prefer teamwork or individual tasks? Do you thrive under pressure or hate working to deadlines?

Even though your first ambition may be to get a foot in the door, decide where your aspirations lie and take steps towards that. Be specific with your research, so you don’t waste time pursuing things you won’t enjoy. Here’s some good starting points for anyone who is unsure where to begin:

Hello Grads – Choosing your direction
How to choose. What are your options?

Creative Skillset
Helps young creative talent to start & build careers in the screen-based creative industries

Hiive – job roles
Professional network for creative

National Careers Service


2. Build skillsphotographer

Whatever area interests you, find out what skills are expected and stay on top of technological developments.
Teach yourself online, or consider taking further courses e.g. a Masters degree at Westminster University or the NFTS (National Film & Television School), where you may need a few years’ industry experience before applying.

Keep learning!

BAFTA youth mentoring
Using expertise to inspire & educate others


3. Personal characteristics – what’s important?thinking about strength and weaknesses

Media and entertainment is highly competitive, so you need to be motivated, dedicated and tenacious – inevitably, there will be disappointments along the way, but don’t give up.

Are you a creative whizz, a talented techy or an outstanding organiser? Film and TV production involves hundreds of diverse jobs, and the logistical/technical roles are just as essential as the creative ones: accountants, planners, production engineers etc.  Work will mostly involve sizeable teams collaborating on projects; if you’re more of an independent worker, perhaps consider a more technical role.

Remember people recruit people they like – show that you’re good to have around and willing to get stuck in.


4. CV & portfolioMan holding CV

Your CV/portfolio is often your first communication with a prospective employer – employers generally scan a CV in about 30 seconds to judge whether you are what they are looking for. So you need to create a strong first impression!

Make sure your CV is well-presented, short and relevant.
Highlight qualities and experience (or transferable skills) that are most important to each job you apply for.

Portfolios should include plenty of examples of your practical work, so start building it up while you’re still at university, either via a personal website, online blog or create an eye-catching presence on Instagram, which is often used for hiring creatives. And make the most of FOLIO – a new initiative by your university, where you can upload and publish your work and make it discoverable. (You should be able to find this on your internal system but do ask a tutor if you can’t)

HelloGrads – CV Tips


5. Gain experienceNew employee shaking hands with new boss

Experience is going to give you a competitive edge, whether it is through Internships, work placements, or personal projects. It will help you find what you enjoy (or not), build transferrable skills and make useful contacts.

Internships/work experience

Just be careful. If you are working/training (not shadowing) for more than a few weeks, you should get paid at least the minimum wage. In this competitive environment where young people are desperate to get a foot in the door, some unscrupulous firms take advantage and don’t pay. But there are plenty of good, reputable firms.

So protect yourself: Do your research and ask the right questions.
Check Ts & Cs – what’s the pay, what’s a day? (You will often be required to work long hours to meet deadlines, so when does overtime apply?).
Don’t be bullied by an employer, stick together with the team.

Interns are now protected by law – If you can prove you were a ‘worker’ but were paid less than the minimum wage, it may be possible to claim ‘back pay’ via HMRC.


Consider joining BECTU, the media and entertainment union. They website offers lots of Info, events and resources, and if you have a problem with an employer, they may take care of legal costs.  Check out the BECTU Student Register – a contact scheme to put you in touch with industry developments and opportunities.


Make short films amongst yourselves. The 20 minute film ’The Silent Child’ won an Oscar.

You can even do it on an iphone, as expertly demonstrated by Steven Soderbergh’s horror-thriller ‘Unsane’. Experiment, work on projects that make you feel good and learn from your mistakes.

Find out more:

Grad Bites: Life as a creative
Features (RKZ) Rikesh Chauhan who studied Commercial Music at Westminster University, and is a musician, creative and most recently, men’s fashion designer.

Grad Bites: Life as a designer
Bronwen talks about the ups and downs of working as a graphic designe and shares her tips for getting started.

Q & A…Hear from musicians
We asked professional musicians what it’s like to make a living from something you’re really passionate about


For our next 5 tips click here


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