Portfolio working: being creative in the 21st Century marketplace

You might have noticed from recent blog posts that I have been giving a lot of thought to my future, about what’s going to happen to me after I graduate.

I’ve been to a series of lectures by Mike Press about creative futures.   He believes that the future belongs to the T-shaped practitioner, by which specialist knowledge skills are balanced by cross-disciplinary inter-personal skills.  In the past, feedback from employers has been that those with design degrees have often lacked the skills for effective collaborative working, and this is something which in now starting to change with regard to how higher-education design degrees are taught.

Recent research by The Institute for Employment Studies (IES)  research has shown the predominance of portfolio working (having numerous different means of employment running concurrently) in graduates from art and design.

The emphasis on portfolio working gave me pause for thought, because this is something I have been doing for many years, well before my return to university as (in theory) a grown up.

At one point, shortly before I started at DJCAD,  I was a project manager in the NHS, working weekends in The Little Bead Shop which will, by the end of the month, be the Art Clay Scotland Jewellery Studio (more on this to follow soon), I was doing freelance copywriting, selling creative writing pieces on the side and making and selling jewellery.

I have two degrees already (an M.A Historical English Language and an M.Phil (Research) Historical English Language), a background in performing arts, I’ve been a pianist, a singer, a copywriter in an advertising agency, a regulator for a regulatory authority, a string of project management jobs… to be honest more varied and diverse jobs than I care to remember (because it shows my age more than anything else) but there has never been a point in my life that I can remember, when I’ve just had one job. Ever.

It makes for an interesting and varied CV, to be sure.  But that, in itself, is not without its problems too.  Any of you who have ever gone via recruitment agencies for work will have had this experience: they only ever look at the first two things on your CV. And if your CV is in chronological order and your last two jobs were bar work and the third was the Director of an agency, odds are fairly high that all you will get offered are customer service positions. So you need to get creative with your CV. Make sure that what you want to get seen first, is what gets seen first.

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that we are living in a time with no set employment progression – getting one type of job does not dictate your progression to a similar position at a higher rate of pay, or even to a similar type of job should you decide to leave.   This is true, it has been established.  However… it does not change the initial reaction of employers/recruitment agencies et al when they see a varied CV.  And I suspect that this is an attitude that will not change in a long while, because when it comes to employment, certain things have been done in a very uniform way for a long time, and those kinds of habits are hard to break.

I have many and various CVs, and yes, I do tailor applications individually to every job.  The trick is to always be prepared.  Look at your many and various jobs and pull out the shared skills required between them.  Make a separate section and spell it out.  Because ultimately, to progress in this climate, you need to brand and market your biggest product with confidence  – you.






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