If you are unsure about how to take the next step into a career in the creative industries, read on.
Six years ago, Piers co-founded a WordPress design / development studio and today he heads up the user experience design and project management in the studio, regularly publishing blogs on website design topics – see below. We asked him how he came to be where he is today and the route he took from school. Here’s what he told us …
I was planning on going straight to work after sixth form
When I was 18 years old I had already made up my mind that I was not going to University: I had spoken to my parents about it and – perhaps unusually – they had actually encouraged me to seek out an apprenticeship rather than try and find a place in further education. On top of that, I had grown up in a family where my parents ran their own businesses, their parents ran their own businesses and even my sister has her own business – so it seemed as though they clearly wanted me to get into the world of work as quickly as possible.
Until a friend inspired me to consider Uni instead
However, during the Christmas break in Year 13, a Uni friend told me all about the course he was on. I had always thought that people at Uni studied science, maths or other classic subjects, but my friend was studying a mixture of computer programming – even though he had never done it before – graphic design, hardware design, and human computer interaction. I never knew these options existed and it sounded like something that I would definitely be interested in. And having always enjoyed media studies in sixth form, I certainly felt that any further progression would be good for me.
The course I chose was called Digital Art & Technology, and it sounded fascinating. With my A-Levels in Media Studies, Psychology and Business Studies, I had enough to get accepted on the course and I spent two years learning a whole range of skills and about different pieces of software that I had never been exposed to before. I learnt graphic design and typography, I learnt how to code basic websites and most importantly I learnt how to work well in a group.
Creative courses attract a wide range of different people
The creative world is amazing because it brings together people from different backgrounds and with very different skills sets. On my course there was a whole range of people, some were very into programming, some loved graphic design and some just loved being creative and didn’t mind what medium they were working in.
We were encouraged to take a year out on a placement
After two years, we had the chance of a year in work and this for me was really great. I learnt more in my placement year than I did in all the other three years at Uni because I was working 9.00 – 5.30 every day doing website design and website development. But I hadn’t actually done any website design before and so was very apprehensive about going to work on the first day. And because I was not feeling very confident, I thought that if I wasn’t getting on with the design work, I could always fall back on a job in the sales department instead.
I realised that my skills were best suited to creative roles
However, soon after arriving I realised that the people selling the websites in that company had absolutely zero creative skills and that I was much better placed in the studio than in the sales department after all.
A year in the workplace is worth five in the classroom
In my opinion, if you want to speed up your learning, reach out to businesses and ask for an opportunity to spend time in their office. You will be surprised how many will be keen to accept a young person into the workplace and you very quickly learn about how to work in a team, how to work commercially and – most importantly – how you can have a career in the creative sector.
After my year in industry designing and building websites I returned to complete my degree. And this is when my journey into the creative sector started to take off …
I chose to become self-employed after graduation
After graduation one of my course mates and I decided that we wanted to try and set up our own website design and development businesses whilst also offering a creative photography service. We decided that Bristol would be the place to do it as it had a reputation for being a creative city with a good business network.
And had to overcome a few hurdles
Unfortunately, neither of us had any experience of running our own business. I had also only done one year of website design – on a placement – and my friend had only got one year of being a studio photographer under his belt. However, this is what is so amazing about the creative sector: if you have a passion and a desire to do something then you can set it up for yourself at a low cost and offer it out as a service to people who need it.
We chose website design, but I know of other people who set up graphic design businesses, video companies, wedding decorations / planning and even a mobile app business. All these people did it themselves with just a passion for their chosen creative skill.
The creative sector is great because there is a role for almost everyone
If you are a keen mathematician or programmer, then maybe you would like to get into coding and building complex database systems. And if you love working out why people do things in a certain way, take a look at becoming a User Experience designer.
Love engaging with people on Social Media? Then you can be a social media manager. And you could be a project manager or account manager if you are great at being organised and have fantastic people skills.
If you are an artist with a real eye for detail and a desire to draw, then you could become an illustrator. And if you like coming up with logos and designing posters, then you could become a digital designer or more traditional graphic designer.
I honestly believe that as the creative sector grows there will be opportunities for just about everyone. And the main problem at the moment is simply (a) that people don’t really know what kind of jobs are out there in this fast moving world, and (b) that new job roles are simply popping up all the time, such as Product Manager, Customer Experience Designer and Virtual Reality Designer.
A very important lesson that I have learnt over the last six years running my website design and development business is that you can never afford to stop learning new things.
The creative sector is an amazing place to work, especially in the technology area because everything moves and changes very quickly. And this means that if you are willing to spend time and learn about a new piece of software, or start using a new social media channel early on, people will look to you for that particular skill.
How people design things now is very different to how people designed them even five years ago and, in another five years’ time, it will be totally different again. The key to working in the creative sector is the ability to learn quickly!
Thank you Piers! @atomicsmash
Read the highly informative design blogs on the Atomic Smash website. They are also signposted from Careersnearhere: https://www.careersnearhere.com/inspiration/entry/8659/?pagenum=2
Careersnearhere.com: It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started.
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