Embarking on a new career is a daunting prospect. Whether it’s your first time or you’ve decided to try something different, a journey into the unknown inevitably awaits. For some of us, there’s a need and desire to minimise risk on this journey. That can be through choice or necessity and is totally fine.
The most important thing when deciding on your next step, is that it works for you.
For others, a more precarious path lies ahead. While the risks are higher—in some respects it can be argued—so too are the rewards. Personally, the prospect of choosing a career seemed daunting for a long time. My mother had always raised me to believe that I could be whatever I wanted to be, but that almost infinite range of possibilities left me anxious to make a decision in case I got it wrong. Like the parents of many of you reading this, my parents’ generation worked in a very different environment. A minority went to university and it was the norm to have a job for life, or at the very least, a trade for life. It was that pressure that I found so intimidating. Knowing that I wasn’t yet drawn to a particular industry enough to confidently say that I wanted to dedicate the rest of my working life to it, I avoided a decision as best I could. Having worked in bars during my studies, I graduated with an MA in Sociology. I went full time in the bars and I would never have imagined writing this short piece as the Founder and Editor-in-chief of an independent magazine.
It wasn’t until a workmate lent me a copy of Boat Magazine’s first issue that something clicked. Finally, I felt excited at the prospect of trying to make a profession out of the fascination I had with this independent publication. A couple of internships and seven months later, I took up residence on my long-suffering younger brother’s sofa and set about trying to create a magazine of my own. Inspired by the other people I’d met who were working in these often unpaid or underpaid positions in the creative industries,
Intern was going to be for and by the creative youth.
It was going to prove that their work had value, create a space for a balanced discussion about creative careers and help people make better decisions about their future.
Three years and four issues later, I’ve seen a lot of ingenious ways that people have made their career work for them. What unifies all of their stories though, is that they put themselves out there in one way or another. Again, that can be terrifying, and all of us will experience rejection in our working lives, but having the fortitude to keep at it is invaluable. Whether it’s trying to secure a position at a studio or company where the work is guaranteed and steady, or enriching your personal brand as a freelancer, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
The good news is that these days there is far less stigma attached to having a number of different jobs or specialities. Many companies are drawn to working with freelancers, so opportunities are always out there, but they don’t come without a fight. It’s imperative to communicate that you (and with it, your work) have value. It sounds obvious, but rather than asking someone if you can do an unpaid internship, ask for a meeting to show them your portfolio. Be confident in what you can offer, don’t worry about areas where your skills need to develop further, you’ll spend a lifetime learning and evolving and so too will the people that you’re contacting.
No one has it all figured out, most of us are making it up as we go along.
You’re the master of your career, no-one else. You define the narrative, let others respond to it. The more confidently and consistently you communicate that narrative, the more effective it will be. You’re (for the time being at least) in the business of communication, so the development and evolution of your own personal brand is the perfect case study to get tucked in to.
For some great examples of the different routes into the creative industries, Issue Four of Intern is out now. Each issue features 30-40 emerging creative contributors from around the world, all of whom are paid for their work. When Alec isn’t working on Intern, he’s running workshops, writing for some of his favourite magazines or working as an Associate Lecturer at Leeds College of Art.
Huge thanks to Alec for writing this exclusive piece for us. Intern Magazine was designed by She Was Only, and the fourth issue is in stores now! Keep up to date with Intern by following them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
We our extremely proud to host guest authors such as Alec on Shillington Design Blog. Have a look through our archives for more enlightening content from industry professionals.