Hosted by founder, editor, writer and creative director of The Pitch Fanzine, Sherry Collins, this discussion from the 2021 New Blood Festival looks to offer up advice for emerging creatives around nurturing their creative ambitions in line with their values. Panelists Rakesh Chadee, freelance design director and creative strategist; artist and graphic designer June Mineyama-Smithson; and Disney+ head of marketing Jayanta Jenkins share their first steps into the creative industry, how to recognise when it’s time to change jobs and how to turn setbacks into opportunities.
Watch the video above or get the need-to-know here.
If you don’t see people like you doing what you want to do, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it
As Jayanta Jenkins acknowledged, it’s never been “particularly easy for women or people of colour” in the creative industries, leading to a very different kind of self-imposed pressure. “If you don’t see people who look like you, it doesn’t mean you won’t be included or can’t be included,” he says. “Anything that felt like an obstacle or hindrance I’ve turned into a fuel.”
Rakesh Chadee agrees that the anger born of inequality can be a powerful energy. “When you look at the industry from an ethnic point of view, it does fire you up to try to reach those levels you might not think you’re capable of or entitled to. It really puts a rocket up your butt.”
Don’t be fooled by the creative industries’ ‘work hard play hard’ reputation
While certain “old school” agency folk might cling on to the “Mad Men” reputation of long hours, boozy lunches and the odd whiff of “idea-powder”, that doesn’t mean those were the “good old days.” Things are changing: destructively long, unhealthily fuelled hours don’t equal progress in 2021. The key to achieving not only a successful career, but a healthy mindset along the way is “approaching this industry with a high degree of thoughtfulness and purpose,” according to Jenkins.
If you feel you aren’t progressing, re-evaluate
The creative industries might be competitive, but that doesn't mean you have to settle in your job just because you got it. If you feel you aren’t progressing, or you’re not being valued, re-evaluate.
“When you're in an agency you get lost in that environment – you think it’s home, it’s the be all and end all… until you apply for another job,” says Chadee. “Understand that it's normal to move around, it's normal to start to dislike what we're doing. Maybe it's just been too repetitive, maybe you've outgrown that environment.”
After a while, sometimes what was once the perfect job no longer quite fits – and that goes for both employer and employee. June Mineyama-Smithson was really happy in her role as a full time graphic designer in a small agency – until she wasn’t.
“The company was growing, and I was growing as a designer – but I wasn't the designer that they hired, and the company was not the company I, at the time, was hired at. There was a gap between what I needed, and what the company needed,” she explains. “I was trying to press my creative ideas into client work, which of course did not meet the client's needs at all.”
It was the push she needed to go freelance, and to start working on self-initiated projects like selling prints to “let off creative steam”.
Wherever you are in your career, remember to keep networking
You’re never too old or too experienced to send out a cheeky DM or several. You’re also never too young. “If I could give my younger self advice, I would say keep talking to recruiters – even in those probation period months – because you don't know how it's gonna go,” says Chadee. “Don't lock yourself in… there's so many cool agencies out there. It's a matter of networking and sending someone a cheeky DM on LinkedIn and seeing if they respond. I've manufactured a few conversations just by sharing a link, it can be as easy as that.”
Have a plan, but don’t be too hard on yourself
The creative industries are always competitive, but they’re especially tough at the moment. Although Jenkins always had a very firm plan of what he wanted to do and where he wanted to work – and he achieved it – it all took time, and setbacks to get there. “We only talk about the things that make the highlight reel, but it’s okay to fail,” he says. “My failures are as much a meaningful part of my journey that are meaningful as my successes – they help you learn how to muster your energy and achieve.”
“Don't be too hard on yourself during the application process and consider what the landscape is like at the moment – it's hyper competitive,” Chadee adds. “Just stay positive and keep going at a steady pace. Don't burn out by applying for absolutely everything.”
Mineyama-Smithson offers some perhaps unexpected advice. “Identify your strengths and find people who are a good match, who need your skills. Also, just forget social media if it’s giving you not-great vibes. Followers and likes, don't give you a job – there’s no money there. It's really not a representation of yourself. Not getting a job in this climate is not a reflection of your ability, talent, nor personality.”
She compares finding the right job to dating: ”It's a two way street. You need to like that company, as much as they would like to hire you.”
The best way to make sure that street definitely isn’t a cul-de-sac? It’s all about your portfolio. According to Jenkins, it’s “as much as a thing to weed out people as it is for them to weed you out... If someone doesn't want you or doesn't like your work that may be a really good sign for you, ultimately, even if you want to work there.”
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