May 17, 2016

Since graduating from Cardiff Met, I am very happy to have recently been offered a full time job in London as a Display Coordinator for a company called Anthropologie; a chain of lifestyle shops specialising in quirky, artsy and ‘boho chic’ clothing and homeware. My job involves designing, making and installing window and in-shop displays, working to seasonal themes set by the head office. I make displays for shops in London, Paris and Nice, so I get to travel to France to install new displays 3 times a year.
Working on a window display

Working on a window display!

Having spent a considerable amount of time and energy applying for jobs and internships after leaving uni and feeling I was getting nowhere, this opportunity actually came as a result of networking and volunteering, and didn’t even require an interview. I personally feel that when you are at the very beginning of your creative career it is more valuable to show what you are capable of by doing it voluntarily, rather than trying to convince people via countless application forms (although this may not apply to everyone).

When I finished my art degree, I gave a month of my time to volunteering full time for a theatre company. I worked as a design assistant, creating sets and props. Sacrificing this large amount of time put me seriously out of pocket but it was worth it as it meant that I could work intensively on the project, gaining proven skills and work experience. I shamelessly sold myself – in other words ‘networked with’ the woman I was working for, reminding her several times that I was looking for similar work and for her to keep me in mind. This, doubled with the fact that I worked my arse off, resulted in her contacting me a few months later with some freelancing work for Anthropologie in London, which in turn lead to gaining this full time position.

If you are committed and good at what you do, your practical skills and creativity will be an asset to someone. If you can’t get a job designing or making things, then volunteer and put yourself in a position where you do. Keep exhibiting your work and getting involved with arts organisations, so that when you meet people that could offer opportunities or contacts you have something to talk about. Believe me, ‘networking’ is a word that used to make me feel sick, but I have learned that it is simply a case of getting involved with things, sharing information about yourself, and collaborating with other people. Statistically the more people you talk to, the more luck you will have. So don’t be shy, get out and mingle!
As an art student you are a particularly creative person, remember that this is an attribute that not everybody has. Don’t give in to the perceived ‘safety’ of mediocrity and settle for a full time job that stifles your ability to be creative. If you can’t get your dream job then maybe go to work in a gallery, art college, book shop, music shop, or theatre; be a life model, run away with the circus, join a naturist hippy commune on a mountain in Spain, do anything that feeds your creative drive instead of stifling it. Alternatively, you could opt for working part-time, and commit weekly time to your practice.
Leaving art school is not easy but with commitment and determination you can find a place in the professional world that requires somebody just like you!