This year’s Autumn Careers Festival introduced a special focus on students and graduates interested in working in the creative industries. Three inter-linked events, organised by the Alumni Relations Team, brought together Counterpoints Arts, a national organisation in the field of arts, migration, and cultural change, ice&fire, a company which develops original theatre pieces from human rights testimony, and Galley Beggar Press, an independent publishing press whose authors have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

How to get into arts careers

Over two weeks, twelve alumni and guest speakers shared their insights with students on the knowledge and skills required to navigate the often labyrinthine route into arts-related careers. The key message? Build a toolkit of key skills, from digital marketing to writing successful funding applications. “Start with entry-level jobs which deliver those skills – even if not initially within the arts,” was the advice from Jo Nancarrow, a freelance arts consultant who has worked with the Essex Books Festival and the University’s Art Exchange gallery. Currently, Jo works with Essex Cultural Diversity Project as Digital and Administration Lead, a role which has enabled her to develop new digital marketing and communication skills. Esyllt George, an Arts and Health Facilitator with the NHS, explained how she had developed her creative practice after studying part-time for an MA in Performance, funded by the university where she worked as a career consultant.

Other contributors included alumni who launched their creative businesses by drawing on support from the University’s Essex Startups programme. Abel Akale, founder of upcycling fashion website ONEOFFNATURE, is making waves in the sustainable fashion industry thanks to the opportunities and funding he has secured through the programme. From working in a Savile Row tailors to becoming a style entrepreneur, Abel explained how he also made full use of the web building skills he learnt while studying for BSc Computer Studies at Essex.

The importance of interdisciplinary skills

Another objective of the Festival was to illustrate how many careers demand interdisciplinary skills; a cross-over between study disciplines can really enhance employment opportunities. A panel discussion on the arts and human rights illustrated this: the panel was made up of theatre makers, a film director, and a creative writer, with students from across different departments. The discussion kicked off the 40th anniversary celebrations of the University’s world-renowned Human Rights Centre, including the launch of a new study pathway, ‘Arts and Human Rights’. An LLM student, who specialises in the field of armed conflict, spoke eloquently about the value of bringing creativity into human rights; others were keen to find out how to source funding for creative work and follow in the footsteps of the speakers.

The plan is to build on this special focus area in future – watch this space! For further careers support and news, visit CareerHub.

Photo credit: Counterpoints Arts, José Farinha