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Creative Careers: Advice for Prospective Applicants

April 8th, 2016

5 plus 5 equals 10 but so does 7 plus 3. Just as you can get to the same answer in different ways, there is no one path to follow for a creative career. I learnt this while undertaking work experience with Creative Access. My week with Creative Access gave me fantastic insight into their work helping young people from BAME backgrounds to pursue their passions and follow their dreams in what can be a cut-throat and competitive environment. Here are some of the things that I learned.

First and foremost never let someone who gave up on their own dreams talk you out of yours. Parental pressure can result in the tragedy of young people shelving their talents for the sake of more ‘stable’ professions. At a masterclass organised by Creative Access, DJ Angie Greaves recalls how “Being from a Caribbean family, my parents wanted me to be a teacher, a nurse or a doctor, but I was addicted to radio.” Her message was clear, if you have an addiction that you want to make your career you should give into the craving.

The creative sector may be a harder climb than other sectors and you will not reap financial rewards for a while, if at all. The difference is that once you are at the top of your Mount Everest the level of satisfaction is unparalleled. In the words of LBC Producer Jagruti Dave “One of the most rewarding moments of my job is when someone calls up to say they’ve burnt their toast or they can’t get out of their car because they’ve been enthralled in one of our discussions and can’t stop listening.”

While it is not a necessity, university is often at least a stop-off on the way to the final destination of a creative career. While getting good grades is important, what is paramount is that you take advantage of the opportunities for both personal growth and experience in your chosen creative sector. The candidates Creative Access meet who are the most successful have almost always been involved in societies, worked on personal projects and gained work experience in their preferred field.

In the middle of a Physics or Engineering degree and convinced this rules you out of a creative career? You need not worry as many creative businesses actively look for employees with science backgrounds. In fact, Creative Access recently placed a medicine graduate in a publishing house! Rest assured that while arts and humanities may be the traditional route into the sector, having specialist knowledge can be an advantage.

Your CV is your entry pass. This is what the Creative Access team will use to decide whether you fail to meet the criteria for the internship or whether you are a VIP who should be shortlisted. Given the extremely high volume of applications that Creative Access receives, you should make sure that your CV allows you to stand out.

Your cover letter is also extremely important. It is always important tailor the cover letter to the role you’re applying for. See it as a sales pitch by bringing up your academics and why they matter, all your relevant experience and what it is you’re looking for.

In both your CV and cover letter show your strengths and skills with short, sharp bullet points. You should be VERY careful with typos. In roles where writing and attention to detail are pivotal a small mistake can have a big impact on how you are perceived as a potential candidate. Don’t forget that if you need help you can attend a Creative Access CV surgery?

Getting on the bottom rung of the creative career ladder is in itself an achievement. Once you get your first internship or work experience remember that this is just the start of your journey. In the media it is widely acknowledged that who ends up where is dependent on luck. Nevertheless, you can make yourself more lucky with the right attitude and a lot of hard work. As well as digital, production and writing skills, you may end up becoming a top tea-maker! Regardless of whether or not you have a first from Oxford no task should be beneath you. Kiss DJ and presenter Neev Spencer recalls how she even worked as a receptionist in a radio station purely to get experience. The trick is to learn your trade inside out, acquire as much knowledge and as many skills as possible. Then when you are given the chance, show what you’re made of! Whether it is being asked to write an article or edit a video – there will be make or break opportunities for your future career.

Ultimately, those who apply for Creative Access internships should not turn the volume down on their ambition. If you know exactly which peak you want to get to the top of, you will have the entire team behind you. Similarly, if you are unsure what area to focus on you will be helped to find your feet. Making the jump from university to the professional world can be trying and testing and yes, you may face a few rejections before landing an opportunity. Regardless, it is better to take a few ‘so whats’ in your stride than to be haunted by ‘what ifs…’