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Thrive: Our first ever Creative Careers Conference

On Thursday 15th June, we held our first Thrive Creative Careers conference on our UCA Farnham Campus. Here’s how a roomful of careers advisors with the help of some guest speakers can inspire the next generation of creative professionals.

UCA invited local careers advisors from schools based near our campuses and offered a day of informative speakers to give advice and context on how young students can begin a creative career.

First speaker of the day: Jack Griffin — Development Director with Criterion at EA Games in Guildford

Jack joined the industry after completing a BA in Computer Animation at Bournemouth University. He explained how he has found a career in the games industry incredibly rewarding, and why students who are interested in the virtual world should consider it.

He outlined his 9 reasons for working in games — and explained how they should be compelling to students too:

1. Experience enjoyment
The games industry is known for being energetic, vibrant and fun, with many companies sharing their office lifestyle as a playful work environment that focuses on social behaviour.

2. Melting pot of entertainment/crossovers
Due to the nature of the games industry, there are many opportunities to try new things, participate in a variety of projects and work on things you love.

3. Marriage of art & science
Creating video games links art and science through technology, maths and coding.

4. Young industry: learning & sharing
As the industry is so new, communities share their ideas, creations and inventions amongst themselves rather than competing to beat others.

5. Cultural exchanges
With most gaming companies having counterpart offices around the world — for instance, EA Games has offices in China and Canada — there are many options to travel overseas and work in diverse environments.

6. Embracing diversity
The games industry does have a reputation for being male-dominated, but companies are working hard to diversify and become more representative of the population.

7. Massive growing industry
The games industry has now officially overtaken the film industry in size and revenue — and is still growing.

8. Forefront of tech
Many major advancements in technology have come through gaming — for instance virtual reality and motion control hardware, as well as many kinds of software.

9. Diverse career opportunities
There is a huge array of areas to go into within gaming, including programming, engineering, audio and music, production, art and design, project management and many more.

Jack went on to highlight the importance of internships to help students learn which aspect they want to go into.

Next up was Emma-Leone Palmer — London-based artist and UCA Farnham graduate

Emma completed her degree in Fine Art in 2005 — and did not have an easy journey to success.

Emma told us her journey — from starting out teaching art to younger children, through to moving to Italy on her own to work in the studio that once belonged to Raphael, and back to the UK where she now lives and paints, every day.

Emma gave us many insights into her journey — particularly about how much work it took to achieve the success and rewards she can now enjoy.

Emma Leone Palmer with some of her work, and at the Thrive conference. Source: Emma’s Instagram

“There is no wrong or right way into art,” she said. “Just make sure you demonstrate your passion every day, and that you love what you do. Just don’t expect it straightaway — I’m an overnight success twenty years in the making.”

Emma also gave advice on what she wishes she’d known when she stepped out into the world:
- Be discoverable and sell yourself. Create your brand and prove how good you are at what you do; learn social media and build a website.
- Don’t stay in a bubble and don’t be lonely. Surround yourself with creative people and make things constantly, even if it’s not good. Keep creating all the time.
- Network and build contacts every single chance you get.
- Be confident and professional — demonstrate your commitment and live up to it every day.

Following this was Tony Brook, founder of design studio SPIN.

“There is no one way to be successful in the creative world,” Tony began — a theme that repeated itself throughout the conference.

Tony outlined the value of experience in the graphic design industry — and answered many questions from careers advisors who have found it difficult to direct students down this career path.

He explained how university education, to him, was essential to a role in this industry, as it gives students an environment to learn software, experiment, develop their own style and, most importantly, make mistakes. As graphic design is such a creative, unusual industry that takes a lot of risks, Tony said he felt that students need to have a foundation to build on before they enter the working world.

Careers advisors attending the conference asked what kind of students would be suited for a career in graphic design. “You can have a scientific or mathematical mind and still do well in this subject,” he answered. “A lot of it is in the detail. You still need to be creative, though. I think people often don’t appreciate how important creativity is.”

UCA graduate Tina Edwards then gave a talk about her career in music journalism.

Tina Edwards, who graduated from UCA Epsom in BA (Hons) Music Journalism, 2012

Tina graduated from our Epsom campus in 2012 with a degree in Music Journalism. She is now a broadcaster and journalist, and has worked with the BBC, and British Airways, among other companies.

She founded Jazz Standard — a digital platform that rebrands jazz for a young audience, and curates written and video content for it, as well as a radio show and gig series.

The title of Tina’s presentation was ‘How expression an informed opinion can lead to a rewarding career’ — which she proved with her impressive experience, gained only 5 years after graduating.

She outlined the main points of how to get the most out of a degree in journalism (music or otherwise):
- Experiment, be creative and make mistakes; this is the time in your life where the risk is low enough that the reward is really worth it.
- Be proactive: seek out internships and opportunities all around you
- Expand your knowledge in your own time: read around the subject, go to events, talk to people and learn more.

Finally, Gabi Mind, co-ordinator for the Extended Diploma programme at UCA, talked about the options available to students who want to enter into art and design education.

Above is a flow chart which shows the options students can take, ranging from beginning after GCSE through to postgraduate study or employment.

To find out more about Creative Careers and upcoming events, visit our website.