Calling all Arts students! We know that when it comes to securing employment after your degree, it’s particularly important for you to think about how you can set yourself apart from the pack, find your own networks and create new opportunities – and it’s best to start while you are studying.
Don’t feel overwhelmed. Graduating Graphic Design student, Shannon Palmer, has some advice on how to enhance your employment prospects.
Q: What’s the difference between an Arts student and a pizza?
A: A pizza can feed a family of 4.
As an Arts student I’ve grown used to being the butt of the joke — although I’d love to know which pizza chain is making a pizza large enough to serve 4 — I can eat one to myself! I recall sitting in the Liz Jolley lecture theatre and being asked at orientation “who’s here for the money?”. Not a single hand went up. I wasn’t ignorant to the general perception that an Arts degree gets you peanuts, but I was not resigned to the idea that there was nothing I could do about it.
However in our university years, there’s a whole world of resources and opportunities for enhancing employment prospects. Here I’m sharing a few that I can personally vouch for.
Attend industry events
Join your relevant industry association – they often have student discounts (sometimes free!) and run awesome events throughout the year. For Graphic Design students, the Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) and The Design Kids (TDK) are great ones to keep an eye on. Just attending can get you in a room with creative professionals, where the opportunity to network and make influential connections is massive. A friend of mine landed an internship — and now a paid position— at The Brand Agency just because she was game enough to approach the Head of Creative and ask if she could come in one day. Even if you’re not all about the networking, the learning potential at speaker events and workshops is awesome.
Freelance while you’re studying
The first freelance job I did was designing an urban planning report — I didn’t know a thing about the software required, but I took the job and I taught myself. Sure, I wasn’t able to charge a king’s ransom for the work but I learned pretty quickly how to liaise with a client, work to deadlines and communicate to a professional standard. It was great practice beyond the scope of uni projects, and I earned a bit of extra coin to support my growing caffeine habit. Doing freelance jobs or working on a personal side project can add to your portfolio and simply help you get better at your craft.
Create opportunity for yourself
In my final year, the Creative Advertising and Graphic Design grad show was called off, so a group of us worked together to organise our own. We did everything ourselves; designed the visual identity, sourced a venue, partnered with Gage Roads Brewing Co and Cellarbrations, organised sponsorships and catering, sold tickets and hand-delivered invites to agencies and studios around Perth. The event was attended by over 250 people — it gave us valuable skills in new areas, showcased our work to professionals, and earned us respect and praise for taking the initiative to coordinate it ourselves. There’s always a way to turn a negative into a positive; if something doesn’t exist or isn’t working for you, take the opportunity to do it your own way!
You can start boosting your employability the day you enrol in an Arts degree; sign up as a student member of your relevant industry association, say “yes” to extra projects and look for different ways of gaining exposure.
It all adds up — maybe even to the cost of a family-sized pizza.