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One of my favourite questions is to ask is: what advice would you give to your younger self?
Be brave, ask questions, and trust your instincts are often top of the list. Get support, practice self-care and remember to breathe are also common answers.
It seems that we oldies would have valued someone kind saying, ‘Go for your dreams, but don’t be too hard on yourself if things fail, because somehow, you’ll survive’.
And for the most part that’s true – things do have a way of working out. You will get a new job, you will develop supportive relationships, and you will even recover in some way from that injury or other health issue that threatens to hold you back.
But is being optimistic enough when you are starting your journey working in the arts and creative sector, in a world where the average worker will have 17 employers by the time they retire?
Where are the practical tips that could help you now: to get your foot in the door or make the most of your qualifications and experience?
From an oldie who has watched a lot of people move forward in their careers, here are some tips that will really help.
While recruitment is changing, and many jobs are by word of mouth, your first impression can still be a CV or résumé. Keep it short, make it authentic and never lie. Keep in mind that the person reading it is likely to be busy, reading lots of similar documents, and, if they’re like me, hates doing recruitment. Make their job as easy as possible: speak in the first person, use everyday language, avoid jargon and only include what is relevant for the job at hand.
Your referees are gold at any stage of your career, but especially when starting out. You don’t need a long list of people, but you do need a couple with whom you have a positive working relationship and who can speak to your work ethic and personality. as well as outline your job skills. Keep them up to date with your professional development, thank them for their support and always let them know when you are applying for new work or using their name.
You need them now and you will need them later, doubly or even triply when working in the arts and creative sectors. Jobs and opportunities are rarely advertised and often come through word of mouth and referrals. So, forget being discovered for your genius and make a commitment to being seen and heard – at events, in online conversations, and in asking for and giving advice. Your network is only as strong as what you put into it, so be generous if someone asks you for help.
My career started before the internet was a “thing”, so my profile was limited to people I had met and knew. Your profile is an open book to anyone with a smart phone and your social media will be checked. So be smart, keep it clean and keep it relevant. Imagine your future ideal employer is watching – and work back from there.
Not all jobs are “dreams” and not all experience is life-changing. Sometimes you do need money to pay bills, become independent and build up your resources. Do not be afraid to accept jobs that are less than ideal but which keep you going while you finish training, gain experience, or even work out your next career step. Be grateful for these opportunities and respectful of your colleagues, and these journey jobs may lead you somewhere you may never have imagined.