Creative Industries – rough place for Graduates

Young people in the UK are still feeling the aftershocks of the recession as almost four in ten of today’s graduates in creative industries are looking for work six months after leaving university, new research shows.

According to International Business Times, young people in the UK’s creative industries are still feeling the aftershocks of the recession as almost four in ten of today’s graduates are looking for work six months after leaving university, new research shows. (IB Times, 2014)

Their research also says that a quarter are still job hunting a year after they graduate.

In creative industries, slow employment is also a common thing. According to the, the key issue in the creative sector is the high competitiveness both to secure employment and to develop within a role. Also, occupations such as those within media and publishing are highly sought-after. On the other hand, job roles like performing arts are at risk of periods of unemployment and may be subject to rapid change.

Academy Class’ client Emma Pateman is one of the people who had to face this problem. Emma is a London Metropolitan University graduate with a BA degree in Graphic Design. After finishing studies, Emma’s goal became to get into the creative industries. “I am a very creative person and enjoy creating and developing ideas and get real enjoyment watching them coming together to form the final piece that helps convey ideas and information to the person viewing it.”, Emma explained.

Emma’s top priority after graduating is finding a job. After spending a lot of time and hard work to get her degree, she wants to move on to the next learning curve, which, according to her, starts when you get your first job.

Although Emma tried to apply for a lot of job vacancies after graduation, she never even managed to secure an interview. “I either do not get any feedback or get told that my skills and experience do not match those required for the job”, Emma complained.

Ms. Pateman explained that while she has been applying for jobs, the biggest issue she came across was the need of industry experience or being able to demonstrate skills in Adobe software packages. While she used Adobe tools to some level during her studies, she did not feel confident to apply for jobs where the employers wanted a lot of experience in using them, as most of experience she had from her degree was a couple of hours of introduction and self-learning afterwards.

When asked about the biggest problems for her to get a job in the creative industries, Emma replied that she found the focus of her degree being more on the creative side of things and that the briefs were very broad and not reflective of the industry where the briefs would be more specific. When applying for jobs, she also found that employers require other technologies or skills like knowledge of HTML, banners and apps. “These things were not even discussed or alluded to on my degree so feel like I am already behind what the industry is doing as a norm”, said Emma.

Emma Pateman felt that to improve her chances to get a job in the creative sector she would need to get some industry recognised qualifications and some extra skills in the area, such as HTML and application publishing.

Ms. Pateman chose to contact Academy Class – a leading digital media training provider in the UK – to consult the training and certification possibilities for her career.

Creative industriesAcademy Class’ training consultants got in touch with Emma to get to know her requirements and why she wanted to do training. “The training consultants were very helpful and took the time to understand my needs fully and gave great advice on what the best courses would be to help me be equipped to get a job in the industry”, said the delegate.  Ms. Pateman also mentioned that she was stuck trying to decide between focusing on the InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop or doing a web design course. After discussions with the client, Academy Class put together a tailored package for the delegate which gave her exposure to all the areas which would give her the skills and experience to help her get into the graphic design industry and also to make her ready for the direction the industry is moving towards, which is digital media and tablet applications.

Academy Class training consultants put together an individual package for Emma Pateman, which was composed of the following courses:

These courses were individually tailored for Emma to meet her goals. InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator were chosen as these are the main applications used within the design industry. Although the client knew how to use Photoshop and InDesign, she has learned it from online tutorials. That’s why Emma chose to learn skills that would be at an industry standard by getting the Adobe accredited training at Academy Class.

The creative sector is moving towards digital media; that’s why after discussions with Academy Class’ training consultants, web design and digital publishing suite training courses were added to Emma’s training course package. “Although web design is not my desired career I am aware that the industry is moving more towards digital media and applications. I also would like to be able to design and manage my own website to display my portfolio of work”, the client explained.

Although Emma is still in training with Academy Class, she told us that she is very impressed with the high standard of training. Emma feels much more confident in her abilities to use the software.

Creative industriesEmma found it difficult to get her CV noticed when she was applying for jobs. That’s why she sees a lot of benefits being able to finish training courses at Academy Class. “Academy Class is an Authorised Adobe training provider, this is a great benefit and gives me the confidence that I meet the industry standards for using the Adobe programmes”, said Emma. The training centres are also equipped with both MACs and PCs so you the delegates get to understand the programmes and techniques using which ever system they have at home or work.


Emma also highlighted the importance of the certificates she will get after finishing her training and passing the exams. She said that even though she has experience in the software’s, she feels that she only knows how to use them in certain ways, and that she is not sure that those are the most efficient ones.  Emma believes that the certificates will let her stand out as she will know she can use the software in the way they are intended and the way in which she would be expected to use them when in the industry.

“I hope after I have completed the Academy Class training courses, my CV will be much more noticeable to employers and therefore help me obtain a job within the design industry. I also want to use the skills and knowledge learnt from these courses to produce my own website to promote my work”, Emma Pateman explained.

After training at Academy Class, Emma Pateman will not only have improved her design software skills, but she will also have new knowledge and skills in web design, HTML, CSS and most importantly – Emma’s going to be a certified user of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, which will be directly beneficial in helping her to become more noticeable for the employers in creative industries.

Academy Class is very glad to be able to help the young people in the UK to make it to the industry. “The creative sector is harsh; the competition is huge and it gets even harder to stay on top of it. This is why continuous self-development, skills improvement and qualifications are really important as this will allow you to become more competitive in the industry”, said Academy Class’ managing director Mark Young.

Academy Class wanted to go the extra step and help Emma Pateman even more with her search for the first job. That’s why we turned to our partners – Purple Consultancy – who are the best company for a creative to go to in order to get tips on the career, connections and find employers.

Folio Critique with Matt Nudds

Creative industriesPurple Consultancy, a specialist creative recruitment consultancy, doesn’t get many requests to place graduates into agencies. However, as they have extensive knowledge of the industry and what employers look for, they wanted to help and share their advice with Emma to assist with getting her ready for interview.

Matt Nudds, a Director at Purple, is a design graduate himself with over ten years’ experience in recruitment. He was therefore the perfect person to meet with Emma and offer her some guidance.

Crafting the perfect creative CV

The CV was the first thing they discussed. Within the creative industry, the CV should be informative yet simple – it’s the portfolio that should show the creative ability of the candidate. Ideally, the CV should be two pages maximum. You can easily cut down the length by reducing text size and decreasing page indents. Bullet points are also good as they allow the employer to read through the CV quickly, taking in information at a glance.

The portfolio is where the candidate really gets to shine.  While there is no right or wrong when it comes to showcasing your work there are some tips that Matt wanted to share with Emma, on what clients will look for and what will make her more employable.

Preparing the portfolio

The portfolio is where the candidate really gets to shine. While there is no right or wrong when it comes to showcasing your work, there are some tips that Matt wanted to share with Emma on what clients will look for, enhancing her employability.

Creative industries

First Matt discussed with Emma how to select what work goes into the folio. The best way to do this is to lay all your work out and view it objectively and see if there are any running themes.  Do different pieces show different strengths or skills? What are your favourite pieces? Which pieces are you least excited about? What would be the most relevant piece for the specific role you are applying for? Ask yourself all these questions and then pick between 5-10 pieces that you feel really expose your personality and talent.

Matt next discussed portfolio presentation. Emma brought her work in a photographer’s box – a great way to present her pieces, as they followed a storybook format with a running theme.

Emma explained that usually she would have presented her folio in an A2 folio, but this is a reasonably old-fashioned way to present and makes it difficult to show flow of your work. Matt’s advice to Emma was to create a PDF version of the folio. This format is easy to send digitally and allows the viewer to see the flow of your work moving back and forth through the file. It also enables you to group the work by theme.

Commercialise your work

Throughout Matt’s portfolio session, the key message for Emma was to make her portfolio and her work commercial. Being commercial is one of the most difficult things for a grad because you need to demonstrate how your university projects could transform into a commedcial campaign.

Creative industries

In Emma’s case, she had a few pieces of work that shared a common theme and she explained how this could be used in an advertising campaign.  This is great practice, as it shows the interviewer that she has the vision and potential to turn an idea into an implementable, commercial project.

The more senior you are, the less projects you will need to show, as you’ll have more to discuss. For example, the more campaigns you work on, the more examples of managing others, and of problems that you have overcome there will be.

Emma is going to go away and do some work on her portfolio and CV and then return to Matt at Purple to get feedback. On from this Matt has kindly offered to share some top interview tips to help her get ready to take the creative world by storm.

Getting in the interview zone

Purple Consultancy also gave their opinion on employment for creatives, What follows is their advice.

What is the current employment market like for designers?

The Graphic Design industry has changed dramatically in the past 5 years from a very specialist model where you would find print, brand identity, web, retail and advertising designers as separate entities, to a multi-disciplined model, where candidates are more diverse and have the capability to cover a range of skills. This has come about so that a design agency can offer more creative diversity to clients and also allows them to retain their clients with a wider creative output.

With regards to the employment market within design, it remains as competitive as ever. The recession saw an influx of grads being unable to secure jobs, but now the situation has stabilised and the normal competitive race has ensued.

Securing that “dream job” is becoming increasingly difficult as quality bars are set very high and more is expected from candidates.

For a graduate trying to carve their way into the industry, the best thing to do would be internships. They offer a great opportunity for someone inexperienced to receive an insight into the agency world, and to gain exposure to clients and management and the day-to-day workings and of what is expected of a designer in the industry. You may also even get a chance to work on some exciting briefs and create some work for your portfolio.

What are the common mistakes the grads make when hunting for a job?

One of the most common mistakes that grads make when hunting for a job is not having enough commercial awareness. They may have a lovely project, but they need to consider how to make it fit for purpose and more importantly, relevant to the client that they are presenting to. If a candidate is going into an interview with a branding client, ensure that the work presented resembles the kind of work the client produces.

The second mistake grads often make is not sending out enough applications. Unfortunately, the demand for junior grad design roles is diminished by the sheer number of candidates applying. Application volume is a huge part of it – you may need to apply to 100 ads, in order to get 10 responses.

For any interview and job application, a CV is vital, but in the world of design it is the portfolio that is the key ingredient. Grads often put too much emphasis on their CV and over-design it. Keep the CV simple and let your work do the talking in your portfolio. The folio is what the employer is interested in; that is what will really expose your design style, your skills, and the breadth of experience.

General Tips on employment in creative industries

The creative industry is so fiercely competitive that to stand out you really have to blow the employer away with your work, attitude and approach. However, it is vital that you ensure you have the basics covered even considering an application. Here are just a few:

1. Connections – Make sure you are as well-connected as possible with an agency you are applying to. Follow their social media accounts, sign up to their newsletter or email communications and connect with them on LinkedIn. Find out who the relevant management are by simply calling the agency and asking for the name of the Studio Manager and Creative Director, or Head of Design.

Then when you are ready to send your application, forward it to all the relevant management in the agency – the more people you send your amazing application and folio to – the higher the chances you are going to have at progressing through to the interview.

2. Research – Ensure that the agency you are applying for is one that matches the work you do. If you work on marketing pieces, apply for marketing agencies. If you have branded design examples in your folio, then apply for branding agencies. Your folio and application should be totally targeted to the agency you’re applying for. This will mean you are likely to have many different versions of your folio and application, each suited to fit the needs of the particular client you are applying for.

At Purple, our jobs are broken down by sector, so if you’re looking for a technology role, ensure you’re demonstrating your technical ability. Similarly, if you’re looking for a creative/design role, demonstrate your creative and design skills.

3. Reference – When you send your application ensure you reference the client’s work, and tell them why would be a perfect fit into their agency. An employee will be impressed if you show a general interest in them, and it will impress them to see that you have done your homework.

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