March 10, 2015, by Mary Strickson

Arts jobs: the journey

By Mary Strickson, student blogger

When I finished my undergraduate degree I felt the same as some final year students may now be feeling: worry, panic, fear of entering the ‘real world’.

I found myself needing to consider what my ‘dream’ career would be, hearing that awful question asked by my parents and friends: ‘Do you know what you are planning to do now?’ I had absolutely no idea. Not a clue. Third year had been so focused on my work, I had been so extremely busy that I hadn’t taken a second to think about it!

I started applying for jobs

I had always wanted to do a postgraduate degree but couldn’t work out how to fund it. I knew I wanted to work in the arts but didn’t know what I wanted to do so I applied for anything and everything. I had to work out what skills I had developed during my degree that could be applied to jobs!

I emailed galleries and museums to enquire about volunteering opportunities

I like to keep busy and I realised I wanted to do something new and exciting with my time. A year later, I am so glad that I did as volunteering has taught me so many new skills and it’s been so much fun! I’m currently involved with five different projects and organisations. Volunteering pushes you to do things that you wouldn’t have thought yourself capable of before; it has given me confidence and I’ve met lots of new people.

I returned to the classroom

After a few months of job searching and volunteering I missed academic study. I began an online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) with the University of Edinburgh through Coursera about Andy Warhol, a free online course anyone can do. I really enjoyed it and I decided that I had to find a way to get back into studying. I focused my efforts on how to fund my masters in art history at The University of Nottingham.

Career events helped me: it’s OK to feel lost

I’ve learned that it helps to think about my career while studying and so during my masters I have attended career events, drop in sessions, CV appointments and skills workshops. I wish somebody had told me back when I finished my undergraduate degree, that it is absolutely fine to not know where your career path is going or where it will ultimately end and that it’s normal to feel lost with your career at points along your journey.

Highs and lows

Some of the speakers at career events reiterated that they didn’t know initially where they would end up today. They had times of unemployment, times of working in ‘stop-gap’ jobs, times of not knowing what they wanted to do. They suggested:

  • that the key is to do something rather than nothing
  • apply for a range of jobs  – it will give you skills for the future even if it doesn’t seem relevant now
  • keep busy – take up volunteering as I did
  • you will find a way – I believed I couldn’t do a postgraduate degree when I left university yet here I am, midway through my masters

Don’t give up and remember, final year panic is perfectly normal!  None of the speakers at the events I attended got their dream job straight away – it takes hard work and commitment. There are highs and lows – none of the speakers had a clue where they would end up today. That’s the exciting part!

If you’re undecided about what to do at the end of your course, we’re here to help. Book an appointment with a careers adviser to discuss practical things that you can do to help you decide where your future lies.

Posted in Postgraduate Taught StudentsVolunteering