Hot on our posting of yesterday comes a new report from the Institute of Employment Services. Self-employment, freelancing and multiple contract working are key characteristics of the careers of creative graduates five to seven years after graduation, according to a new report published today.
Creative Career Stories provides a snapshot of the lives of arts, design and communication graduates five to seven years after graduation. The authors, from University of the Arts London and the Institute for Employment Studies, believe that the report offers vital information for universities and colleges as they prepare students for the careers they will enter.
For the majority of the graduates surveyed, the transition from education to employment was not as clear cut as can be the case in other sectors. At the start of their careers, creative graduates rarely find work through job advertisements and instead rely on word of mouth or contacts from student placements to begin paid employment. Many of those surveyed reported that freelancing and contract work were the only types of work available to them at the early stages of their careers. However, the researchers found that as graduates establish themselves, they moved between employment and self-employment, with many building ‘portfolio careers’ that combine paid and unpaid work, creative practice, study and informal learning.
Graduates were aware of the likely complexities and challenges of their career choice from the start and were willing to accept them for the high level of job satisfaction they experience. However, many report that they would have liked more preparation during their education, including:
* built-in business skills and entrepreneurship on courses, such as the basics of freelance practice
* help to build contacts and understand the best methods of finding work
* work placements and industry experience through projects
* help to understand professional requirements and client needs.
Nearly half of them have portfolio careers. 25% of them had started a business.
‘Graduates appeared to be comfortable with testing themselves in different kinds of work,
often as a portfolio of activities, and there was some reticence about making a commitment
to a particular direction early on. There were frequent job changes and periods of unpaid
work to gain insights into different sectors, new experiences or develop new skills, sometimes
interspersed with travel.’
The study found that the four key drivers for portfolio working are:
■ creativity – maintaining a focus on creativity and control over its direction; blurring
distinctions between ‘own work’ and ‘other work’ with sometimes four or even five
activities revolving around creative practice
■ the contract economy – adapting to the opportunities available, with freelance work, parttime
work and self‐employment continuing to feature strongly
■ personal and creative development – a wish not to stand still but to gain new experiences,
develop new skills, often on the job or in unpaid/voluntary roles, and engage in
development activity and further study, both informal and formal
■ peers, contacts and collaborators – work opportunities will often come about through
contacts and networking; collaborations may be formed to build teams to meet the needs
of multi‐disciplinary contracts.
Many people sill feel that a portfolio career is something that will ‘make do’ until a ‘proper job’ comes along. This viewpoint overlooks what we keep finding which is that once people have tasted this career work style many of them like it and wish to continue with it.