Make the transition from creative to creative professional

We asked JMC Academy alumna Serena Kassam for her best tips for school-leavers who want to study and work in creative industries.

For creatives, making art can sometimes come as easily as breathing – but finding a job in the creative industries can be a totally different ballgame. As educational institutions start to welcome students for open days, prospective students are starting to ask themselves: How do I get my foot in the door? And what am I really looking for?

JMC Academy alumna Serena Kassam has been making things since before she could walk. After studying Design and Technology at school, she fell in love: ‘Design is more than just how something looks; it is about using the process to create effective solutions.’

After visiting their stall at a school careers expo, she chose JMC Academy, which kickstarted her flourishing creative career.

She gives us her tips on getting started as a creative, in study and beyond:

QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY 

When Kassam was looking for a design course it wasn’t enough for the course to be amazing: she wanted an amazing cohort to spend her time with, too.

JMC Academy’s Sydney campus was close to the city, surrounded by fun. Even better, the small class size created an intimate learning  environment. ‘I preferred being at a private college where the classes were smaller, and it was easier to develop a connection with your peers and lecturers,’ she said.

The small class sizes also created a learning experience that was tailored to her needs: ‘JMC was receptive to feedback to improve the course and help us learn the skills we were hungry for.’

BUILD YOUR NETWORKS

JMC Academy’s small classes helped her form strong relationships that quickly became invaluable professional connections; she got her first breaks working with people she met through the college. Building that professional profile meant thinking seriously about her creative reputation: ‘It’s important to sit down and gather your work and think about the story of you,’ she told Screenhub.

‘I got my first break from the connections I made at JMC Academy while studying. Often opportunities come from word of mouth and it’s really important to get out there and meet people, learn what they do and share what you do.’

TAKE THAT OPPORTUNITY 

Opportunities are ripe for the taking during study – but you need to be ready to take them! Kassam is a practical learner, who wanted to get out of the books and into a creative workplace as soon as possible. JMC Academy’s hands-on learning model suited her perfectly, and she took full advantage of it.

During her study, she was lead designer for the 2019 Ledger Awards, took internships – and even tried voice-over work. ‘One of my highlights recently was doing the voice-over for Alan Chen’s graphic recording about Design and Visual Communication for JMC.’

This experience helped her grow into new creative spaces, despite naturally being reserved: ‘It was exciting to be part of the project and channel my passion for the value of design into my voiceover.’

JOB READY, LIFE READY 

Choosing further study isn’t just a matter of preparing for work; a good course prepares you for life too. Studying taught Kassam an invaluable life lesson in skills beyond the classroom of workplace: resilience.

‘What I learned in Design was applicable beyond the work I did in class. At every step, we are encouraged to evaluate what we did and how we could improve. I grew to see the value in not only reflecting upon my work but also my own life.

‘Design is all about getting your crazy ideas out there, trying and failing, and iterating and learning from each experience to work towards the best solution. Doing anything can be a bit scary, but you learn a lot about perseverance and growth from design.’

BE YOURSELF 

Ultimately, Kassam wants to pass the confidence that JMC gave her on to the next generation of school leavers: ‘Deciding what career you want is a really hard choice, but I think a good question is what don’t you want to do?

‘I would motivate younger Serena to embrace her passion and not be afraid to try and be bad at things at first.’

JMC Academy is Australia’s leading private tertiary education college offering courses in the Creative Industries with campuses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Book into an open day on 22 May.

Jini Maxwell is the Games and Digital Content Lead for Screenhub, where they write about the people and circumstances that create videogames. They also write a monthly games criticism column for The Saturday Paper, and host ACMI's Women and Non-Binary Gamers Club. You can find them on Twitter @astroblob

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