In today’s extremely competitive and demanding corporate business world, to have an Arts or Humanities degree could be quite pointless. I am not generalising, rather speaking from personal experience and observation. Having a History of Art degree has not only let me down but my peers as well, those who were top of the class are struggling to even land an entry-level job in not only the arts world but in other business sectors too; such as retail, sales, administration etc. Recruiters find Art graduates to be either too qualified or too underqualified. It seems what they value most is experience more than academic qualification.
The reason that Arts and Humanities degrees have lost their value is because higher education is accessible to all. Student Finance is willing to pay for just about anyone’s undergraduate course, disregarding their level of intelligence, age, qualification or skills. Also, anyone can get a degree in just about anything! Employers do not even look at the status of the university of attendance, since there are so many popping up from all around the country.
Anyone with a Science, Engineering or Mathematics degree is sorted for life, which is why I regret doing my Art History degree as it has been nearly one year since I left university and still trying to find a stable job.
But don’t distress! If you are thinking of enrolling on an Arts and Humanities undergraduate course in September, here are some tips from me on how to be a successful graduate when you leave university. My tips are credible as they are made up of all the constructive feedback I gathered from employers that advised me on the areas of improvement I need working on. If I knew these while at university, I will not be in this situation. Make sure you use your three years efficiently while studying by ALWAYS BEING ONE STEP AHEAD:
- Ensure that you gain a part-time job/ internship/work experience/ work placement to complement your degree and enhance your CV. So doing some voluntary work at different art galleries/ museums/ arts venues in your three years will be very beneficial for you. Remember recruiters are looking for experience and practical skills more than academic qualifications because it is all about the survival of the fittest in the business world at the moment. So if you do not have the adequate skills and experience on your CV, alongside your degree, then you might as well say goodbye to your dream job and sign up to Job Seeker’s this instant, since this is what you will be doing. Try out different sectors in the organisation you apply for. Don’t just stick to one. Try front of house, administration, marketing, social media and conservation. Also do not stick to just one part-time job or voluntary position, apply elsewhere to various organisations in different parts of the UK or abroad.
- Try out a Distance Leaning Course or even a Short Course to enrich your CV. Do some research and go on indeed or reed and look for your dream job. Then look for the ‘person specification and essential skills and experience required’ section. You will find a long list but make sure you tick all the set of skills and experience in order to guarantee that you will get the job. On top of that, find an additional course that will contribute to your course, like doing a distance learning course in finance, accounting, administration, marketing or business management because you know you will require these skills with your job. The best solution is to do courses aimed at gaining specific skills. Whether it be IT, customer-service, team leading and time-management, there will always be a course available. These are also the common and general skills you will most likely be asked to demonstrate proof in an interview. They will help you with any job you apply for because they are the basic protocol that every employer ask for. What you lack in your practical experience, you can compensate for by applying for these courses. Ideally you will have gained all the skills you need when you do work experience/ internships but just to be meticulous and show your passion for your perfect job, try out these distance learning courses. Some courses are free or affordable but you might want to save up your loans and grants, even ask a member of your family to pay them for you, as it will be a huge stepping-stone for you.
- Do some networking. Attend conferences, talks, and exhibitions. These are the places where the elites hang out. Engage in a conversation about something that will interest them. For example, you can introduce something new to them, praise their talk and even challenge their views to really impress them. Make sure you get their contact details so you can build you network of influential people to contact when you are in need of help and to also build your profile on LinkedLn.
- Work on or lead a small independent Arts/ Cultural/ Political Project with your peers. Many employers will want to know what you do on the side to find out how serious you actually are about the Arts and Humanities and they would also like to know what difference you can make when working for them. So doing a small art project with a bunch of your friends, whether it be setting up your own art exhibition, fashion show or carrying out a project to pressure the government to implement a policy, will look superb on your CV. Even if you and your friends can come up with a theme then create artworks to go with it. Then you must advertise it on different marketing platforms, invite established arts people, invite the V.I.P you met at the talks you went to (remember you kept their business card!), send posters to relevant organisations and charities for sponsorship to attend your show, contact the press, get funding by the artscouncil or Crowdfunder, find a venue and come up with dates to launch it. Whatever you do, remember to archive everything. Create a Project proposal on Word processor, document all the research and information you have, create databases, and photograph everything to show your organisational skills and bring it to the interview as proof. Don’t worry if not many people attend it or only you and your family and friends come to it. It’s the effort that you put into the project that matters and employers will certainly dribble at the thought of you managing or leading an independent project on top of your studies. It’s gold!
- Create a blog or portfolio. This is another way to show your passion and interest in your area of expertise. Whether it be art, creative writing, journalism, fashion or photography; employers will be impressed with the amount of time you’ve put into your blog or portfolio. It will be your personal repertoire of your talent and interests!
- Join a temporary recruitment agency. This will not only give you extra pocket money but also build your set of skills in different business sectors and really immerse yourself in the working world. Try Blue Arrow or Pertemps, as the recruitment consultants there will help and support you with finding temporary jobs in specific areas.
- Work on your CONFIDENCE and COMMUNICATION SKILLS in preparation for job interviews. Academics are stereotyped as not being people-orientated. What you need to do is prove them wrong. Doing oral presentations at university in front of your peers and lecturers can help with your confidence and communication skills. But you need more than that. You need to know how to speak and how to show confidence when you speak to another human being. For that I will refer you to a character that has truly inspired me to gain confidence, that is Viola Davis’s character, Annalise Keating, in How to Get Away With Murder. She is the embodiment of courage and self-belief. She speaks with such confidence, aggression and poise. She is the perfect role model that you should look up to in your journey to finding self-confidence. Read and watch movies, listen and learn to speak like politicians and someone who has control and know what they are talking about. The plan is to talk as much as you can, with as much confidence as you can show. Even throw in a little bit of sass or comedy to build rapport. Practise with your friend or family. Discuss different issues, engage in debates and talk about multiple topics and interests to really get you going on a rant. Tell them to ask you questions that will require subjective but in depth answers that make you create a logical argument with yourself or even them. Talk about things you are passionate about. Speak about philosophy, sociology, art and politics. Be a tad rigorous too when talking to them to persuade them to agree with your point. Practising to talk to someone else you know will definitely be a confidence boost.
- Learn a foreign language. Mandarin, Spanish, French, Japanese, Hindi or whichever one you choose, it will help you immensely in your job search. You can even find a job abroad and be in high demand because you will know English and a foreign language. Mostly all Arts organisations will look for bilingual people to work for them. International employers love that too. You can even teach English overseas, rich parents in poor countries invest big money into providing the perfect education for their children, especially if you go into private tutoring abroad too.
- Be culturally proficient. Go travelling. I don’t mean to go on your lads holiday to Ibiza but to culturally rich places like Rome, Florence, Barcelona and Greece. Really explore the horizon and immerse yourself in different cultures. You can even carry out some primary research, and do some networking, while you are there to really impress your assessors in your presentations, essays but especially your dissertation.
- Find a hobby. Dancing, basketball, reading, poetry, art etc. Do some humanitarian work, help the elderly, guide the blind and do some fundraising. Join your university’s sports team and learn a new fun skill! Whether it be juggling, painting or dog grooming; just go wherever your heart leads you.
- BE ONE STEP AHEAD ON YOUR COURSE. That means start studying, researching and reading in the summer holidays to make sure you are one step ahead and have already explored the modules and topics that you will be learning the next year. Ask your professor for next year’s reading list, core books you will need or the module outline so you don’t go into your next year clueless!
- Do not let Depression stand in the way of your goals. Show resilience. I am sure we have all seen 13 Reasons Why by now. Though the show is incredibly touching and well composed, the message it sends out is one of weakness and defeat. Do not let people or employers get you down when they reject you. We all go through rejection and learn from it. Just find new ways to improve yourself and keep going. Make a “Motivation” playlist on Spotify and listen to it when you feel down. Talk to your friends and family about your struggles with finding a job. Ask them if they know anyone that will be able to help you with your job hunt.
- Engage in recreational activities. Don’t forget to make time for yourself. Thing will get pretty overwhelming in your three years so make sure you do your best to not get into problems or take part in things that will create more stress for you. Stay away from the ket, don’t get yourself involved in arguments, avoid sleeping with your housemates and just don’t be a bitch. Go clubbing with your pals, have a spa day with your gals, binge on Netflix and shop ‘til you are practically but not wholly in debt. DO NOT FORGET YOUR MAIN GOAL of getting your dream job after you leave university. All the tips I have listed will help you achieve this goal or even enhance your employability. Don’t just leave university solely with your academic degree but build around it and shape it into something that is actually worth £27, 000.