Let’s set the scene. You’re looking for a creative job – perhaps your first role out of university, a step up from your current position, or a pivot from your existing career. Yet with 2.2 million people working in the creative industries in the UK already, you feel like a small fish in a big pond. Where do you start?
From your portfolio and CV to your understanding of what matters to you as an employee, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to finding your dream creative job. We spoke to Dan Thomas, a senior recruitment consultant at Henry Nicholas and a specialist in the design and creative sector, to get the scoop.
Know thyself (and why you’re job hunting)
First of all, it’s time to get introspective. Start by asking yourself why you’re looking for a new role to begin with. If it’s your first job in the creative sector, then realising your passion and getting your foot in the door might be the answer. If you’re already on the ladder and looking for your next role or challenge, you’ll need to think a bit deeper.
“Ultimately, creatives want to be creative,” Dan says.
That simple fact can play a huge role in determining your next career move. For example, you might have been working in a large company with very strict brand guidelines, and the next step is a role that gives you more creative freedom.
Or you might have been in a small team across multiple disciplines, but feel your skills in one area have hit a ceiling. If that’s the case, joining a larger organisation and delving deeper into a specialism could be the stimulation you’re looking for.
It’s also worth considering the scope you have to make the role your own. This applies both to how much you can express yourself creatively as well as how much progression and flexibility you can look forward to.
Salaries, benefits, and beyond
Salary is obviously a crucial element of any job search. With figures across the sector stretching from £23,000 for a Junior Artworker to £95,000 for a Creative Director, there is a huge opportunity for creatives to earn more as they progress up the career ladder.
But salary is only one part of the equation. You also have to think about the company you’re applying to join, and what they do to show they care for their employees.
“I knew a candidate who was happy to take a £10,000 decrease in their salary to work for a certain company,” Dan says. “They’d worked there before, knew the company really well and really wanted to work there again.”
Maybe you want a more fleshed-out benefits package that goes beyond basic pension contributions. Maybe the newfound freedom you experienced working from home during the pandemic is now non-negotiable, and commuting is off the table, or maybe you want to work for a certified B Corp.
“Remember that small companies tend to have more flexibility when it comes to work/life balance and personalising employment contracts,” Dan says. “The larger the organisation, the more likely they are to have blanket rules for everyone.”
Getting your foot in the door
In a competitive market like the creative sector, it can be difficult to figure out how to get potential employers to notice you. That’s especially true for new graduates, who are often entering the market without any guidance on how to effectively apply for jobs.
“It all starts with your portfolio,” Dan explains. “It’s possible for a creative candidate to get a job off the back of their portfolio even if they have no CV. But they couldn’t do it the other way around.”
Not just anything can go in your portfolio, however. Your portfolio is a crucial part of your application, so what you include has to be relevant to the job – there’s no getting around that.
“Too many candidates put in irrelevant information just to beef up their portfolios,” Dan says. “If you’re looking for roles in UX, for example, don’t include your oil paintings!”
It’s also important to be able to explain how you arrived at the final deliverable. Anyone can claim a successful creative project as their own, even if their contribution was a minor one, so hiring managers want to know the path that led to the designs you’re showing them
Lastly, companies want to get a sense of who you are in addition to your work. Creative and design teams thrive on effective, collaborative relationships, so your personality and thought process really need to shine through.
Discovering what comes next
Whatever type of role in the creative industries you’re looking for, it’s certainly easier with someone by your side – like Henry Nicholas’ team of recruitment consultants.
From discussing your options to sending out job applications, our insight into what employers are really looking for will help you find a role that’s both suitable and fulfils your professional and personal ambitions.
Check out our 2023 Salary Guide for more information on what you could be earning, or get in touch today to start the conversation.