How To: Creative Careers


Creative careers. A neat catch-all but what does it mean? Your blogger’s definition (you may have another) would be a job cluster that includes making, creating, performing – and supporting same as maybe a director, a technician, an administrator. Everything from music to mime, design to dance, rock to writing, stand-up to stage management. At times this may even spill over into areas such as media and heritage. Which gives you a lot of possibilities, so how do you get started?

As a student it’s imperative to put your head above the parapet and get noticed. Say what? Involvement in student drama, selling artwork on a stall, doing gigs in small (not to say obscure) venues, entering competitions, taking extra courses… you see where I’m going with this. All of which means spending time while not necessarily earning money. But although activities like these many not necessarily swell your bank balance, they lend credibility to your CV, and help you to get up and networking with those who could offer you paid work in the future. And networking is an essential here, not an optional extra.

After university? A step into the unknown in most cases. Your first decision: will your creativity support you or must you support your creativity? A.k.a. can you earn enough as a creative to live “comfortably” (whatever that means to you) or do you need a day job to fund your artistic leanings?

Of course, there’s always the traditional waiting at tables while starving in a garret. Great if that’s your choice, less alluring if it’s forced on you by fate. If you need a regular role, even on a temporary basis, you could either:

a) scrabble for a foothold in the sector where you want to forge a career –for instance many staff that you see in a theatre, from box office to bar, will be “resting” actors and stage crew.


b) get qualifications / training in an area that will give you flexibility to be creative as and when work or commissions come up.

Some examples

> Lew: playwright and director, works in a bookshop part-time

> Alice: actor, language graduate, freelance translator

> Mike: writer, London guide

> Roly: would-be film-maker, tutors A level students

> Ellie: stage manager and supply teacher.

And if you don’t want to live with uncertainty and need a steady wage and a defined job? Again you have options:

  • Put the creativity on the back burner, maybe as a lucrative use of your spare time,(Rose, fine artist, and full-time events manager for upmarket pub chain) or perhaps as something to return to once when you have made your millions ( Jatinder, musician turned banker; Nina, sculptor and qualified solicitor) or
  • Take 9- 5 employment in a creative field as, for instance, an arts administrator or community arts officer.

Where to look for any or all of these opportunities? Try our own dear

not to mention

You have choices. Make them and take them.

Gill Sharp, Senior Careers Consultant


#MondayMotivation: Getting Creative With Your Career


Embrace your creativity this week and swing by the Careers Zone to explore how you can get started with a life in the creative sector. Come and hear from SOAS-based Why Comics? this Thursday at 2pm in SL62 and hear their first-hand tales of a career in the creative industries.

Hear from Emily Oliver about Why Comics, her career path and how she got into a creative industry, alongside any tips for students wanting to follow the same path!

Emily has a track record of launching and scaling high impact social and creative initiatives – aiming to shape our critical systems more equitably, deepen public discourse, and creatively spark critical awareness. Her experience ranges from launching (which become the UK’s largest crowdfunding platform, Crowdfunder), to establishing the arts service for the London Borough of Newham. She has worked at the Arts Council of England, in socially engaged media, and is currently the Managing Director of PositiveNegatives – an enterprise incubated at SOAS.

Come and get involved with all the other inspiring talks happening this week too. All our events take place in the Careers Seminar Room (SL62, Paul Webley Wing):

Tue 30 Jan, 12 – 1pm: Top Tips: Interviews & Assessment Centres: BOOK NOW

Thu 1 Feb, 12 – 1pm: Top Tips: Using Social Media to Get a Job: BOOK NOW

Alexis Fromageot

Insight From Your Fellow Student: Life in the Creative Industries

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Ifeanyi Awachie, MA Global
Creative & Cultural Industries (2016-17) offers an honest insight into her journey in the creative industries so far. 

africa salon instax 2016 - photo by

Ifeanyi at AFRICA SALON 2016 at Yale

Hey! I’m Ifeanyi. I’m a Nigerian-American writer and arts curator. I did my Master’s in Global Creative and Cultural Industries at SOAS in the 2016-2017 academic year, and I’m currently working in the creative industries in London as well as on my own creative platform.

The thing about choosing a creative career path is – there is no path. You have to mould your education, jobs, and experiences into the creative life you want to live. Try doing that while being a working-class, black immigrant – it can be really hard to find examples of people with your experiences and perspective doing the work you want to do.

That said, my experience trying to find creative work and launch my own platform in London has been challenging, enlightening, but ultimately positive. A big part of the reason I came to SOAS was to develop my business, AFRICA SALON, a global events company curating contemporary arts festivals at the intersection of academia and the creative industries. I started the platform in the States and came to SOAS to study African arts and culture more deeply. I chose my course for its practicality – for one of our modules, students can do an internship in the creative industries for credit. I used that credit to work on my company. One of the projects I assigned myself was to host one of my festivals at SOAS. I curated an event called ourselves + others: african feminist re-CREATIONS at SOAS, which took place on November 25. We had a full house, the speakers and performers made our audience swoon, and so many people told me
that the space I created is needed in London. The festival was a kind of taste test for the
potential of my business, and the results were promising.

While planning the festival, I learned about the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa, a work visa that allows international graduates to stay in London and start businesses. It sounded perfect for me – I want to launch AFRICA SALON in London, and of course, keep living in this fabulous, hectic city. After a two-round application process that included pitching my business to a SOAS Enterprise panel, I was endorsed for the visa.

mo(ve)ments - photo by

Ifeanyi and Kenyan creative duo 2ManySiblings

Though I would be starting a company, I needed a way to support myself. I’d practically been applying for creative jobs since the moment I got to London, but no one seemed to be biting. I learned that roles at the organisations I wanted to be part of were extremely competitive, and I started to get discouraged. Then one night, I was at a party, talking to a Nigerian guy about my interests, and he suggested that I get in touch with his former boss, the director of TAFETA, an African art gallery. I visited the gallery, and the director and I hit it off. I started spending more time there, going to exhibition openings, even proposing a collaboration between TAFETA and AFRICA SALON. Though that project didn’t pan out, the director eventually offered me a job. I was pumped. I was passionate about the talent of the artists the gallery represented and excited to work for an organisation where I felt represented as a Nigerian and an African arts enthusiast.

Like many creative jobs, the gallery role was a great fit, but wasn’t going to pay me a lot. As a young, broke creative, you need to find creative ways to make money; I am constantly doing research to do just that. That’s how I learned about the SOAS Santander Scheme. If, as SOAS student, you find a great position, Santander will put in a certain amount of funding that your employer then has to match to bring your pay up to living wage. With the Santander funding, the gallery was able to offer me a paid internship as Trainee Gallery Manager.

My position at the gallery was to be short-term, so I kept a lookout for jobs. One listing I found made me stop in my tracks. It sounded perfect for me. It more or less outlined the work I did through AFRICA SALON and at the gallery, and sounded like exactly the type of experience I’d like to have next. But I was sure I wasn’t going to get it. It was at a big arts institution, and I’d been burned by those all year. I put a lot of work into the cover letter, but I knew I needed to do something extra to make myself stand out. I scanned my mental list of people I knew in London and reached out to a friend that I thought might have a connection to the institution. She did. I met her contact for coffee. That conversation gave me a better sense of the organisation, and while the person I met had no power in the hiring process, I could tell I had made a positive impression on her, and I crossed my fingers that that would count for something.

I got the job. I now work as Assistant Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. It’s early days, but the role feels like one in which I can make valuable contributions, and the environment feels closely suited to my interests. Next year, I’ll be working full-time at the ICA while developing AFRICA SALON. It feels really good to look back on how things have come together, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to relax. I’m always looking for ways to improve my work, elevate my brand, and stay on top of my various projects and responsibilities. I hope my experience gives you some ideas, but remember – no one can really tell you how to be the creative you want to be. In my opinion, all we can do is seek out those personal connections, be scrappy and resourceful, and keep hustling.

Ifeanyi Awachie

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


Insight From Your Fellow Student: Wok’ing Across Britain with FUN:) Healthy Chinese Cuisine Ambassadors

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Eliot Gee, MA Anthropology of Food (graduating 2017) discusses their time interning at Ming-Ai (London) Institute. 

A few months ago, I wouldn’t have expected to find myself standing in front of a dozen British teenagers at 9am on a Tuesday, explaining how to make sure a wok is hot enough to add oil (“Not olive oil; we want just enough neutral cooking oil to keep your protein from sticking”)… but now, it’s another day on the job!


The FUN:) Project visits schools across the U.K., inviting students to participate in quick, easy, and healthy cooking workshops. Since joining this summer, I’ve found that the work nicely complements my MA dissertation; my research interviews examined how Chinese food is perceived by migrants (specifically, how social and physical wellbeing are linked to food and generational memory), while classroom visits through FUN:) have shown me the day-to-day reality of Chinese food from the perspective of British schoolchildren.

Although South Asian food has been incorporated into the mainstream British taste at both high and low levels of cuisine, knowledge about Chinese food remains surprisingly limited beyond the performative fields of  Chinatown and TV cook shows. Likewise, students’ understanding of Chinese immigrants’ culture and history is limited; most don’t know there was any “relationship” between Britain and Hong Kong. Therefore, it’s been inspiring to see how projects like FUN:) help challenge the negative takeaway association surrounding Chinese food. Offering students the knowledge, taste, and skills to feel comfortable cooking simple Chinese dishes at home is a first step towards broadening their horizons and encouraging more meaningful discussion about the diversity of Chinese cuisine and culture. For example, during our presentation we ask students to guess why Cantonese food might be over-represented in the U.K.

Last year, FUN:) conducted 70 student demonstrations, visiting schools across London and as far away as Wales, Manchester, and Colchester. Cooking in so many kitchens with all different students is always fun (let’s be honest, there are plenty of puns thrown around. The name is supposed to reflect the Chinese word for rice)! Some students have never used a wok before, so even a simple stir-fry is an entirely new experience for them. At recent trip to a special needs school, I helped a boy who was too nervous to initially approach the hot wok… but by the end of an hour, he had cooked a brilliant kungpao chicken to bring home to his family. Compared to my prior experiences teaching language and history in Asian schools, I’ve found it very rewarding to see how hands-on activity can ground even the most “difficult” students and give them something to be proud of. This is in no small part due to the encouragement of their teachers, who are unfailingly friendly and generous with their time, and tea!


We also stay busy hosting free Teacher Training Workshops that encourage teachers to become “cuisine ambassadors” on our behalf, with the bonus opportunity of a cooking skills competition. FUN:)’s sponsor, the sauce brand Lee Kum Kee, invites the winning trio of teachers to Hong Kong and China, where they learn more about the food culture and exchange techniques at a culinary school. I can testify that this year they ate to their hearts’ content, since I had to edit all of the video footage upon their return!


Despite its wide reach, the project is very small, which means there is always a range of work to be done. Currently there are only two of us at the FUN:) office! Kelly, the project coordinator and a SOAS graduate, has been with the project for over a year and does a terrific job setting up demonstrations & workshops, and developing lesson plans (among a couple hundred other tasks). Much of my time has been devoted to updating our photo, video, and presentation material. I filmed, edited, and am currently uploading and writing descriptions for a series of cooking skills videos, available on our newly formed YouTube page for students and teachers. We are also rebooting our web presence– website, Instagram, Facebook– to best connect with interested would-be cooks.


FUN:) operates as part of Ming-Ai (London) Institute, located in North London. A perk of joining FUN:) is that Ming-Ai offers connections to many segments of the British-Chinese community, hosting events at our building that include calligraphy, talks, and language courses. Other projects include spreading knowledge about British-Chinese Armed Forces Heritage, and a MA Program in Chinese Cultural Heritage Management (through Middlesex University). It’s probably no surprise that many people who work here have passed through the SOAS China Institute at one point or another.

Despite being a relatively small organization, Ming-Ai has worked with high-profile groups and celebrities. FUN:) has connections with famous chefs Ken Hom, Ching-He Huang, and Andrew Wong, among others. Recently we helped with the Hong Kong Intangible Culture Festival, hosting Michelin-star dim sum chefs from Hong Kong at the Crowne Plaza to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, and are initiating an upcoming series of talks, cooking and paper-making workshops as part of a cultural exhibition next month at China Exchange (tucked away in the center of Chinatown).

For anybody interested in British-Chinese food culture, or building connections between the Chinese community and British schools, I strongly encourage looking into Ming-Ai’s opportunities. Both FUN:) and the British Chinese Armed Forces Heritage Project are eager to have students join in either part-time or volunteer capacities. Head here for all the details!

Eliot Gee

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


Guest Blog: Starting your Career at a Startup

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


Should I consider starting my career at a smaller company?

It may come as a surprise for the majority of you to learn that the percentage of graduates in the UK that end up working for one of the larger, well-known graduates is under 20%. So where are the rest of the job opportunities? 9/10 graduate jobs are currently found in startups and SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises).

Although there are clear benefits to securing a place on a graduate scheme after leaving university (formal training opportunities, prestige, early earning potential), starting your career at a smaller company comes with a host of other benefits which corporates simply can’t offer first jobbers (high levels of responsibility and the chance to have an impact on the growth and development of the business).

To aid your decision on whether a graduate job at a startup or SME could be the right choice for you, here are some questions you should be asking yourself:

Am I good at taking on responsibility and managing my own time?

At a startup or SME you can expect to be given high levels of responsibility from the word go. Working in a small team also means that there’ll probably be nobody else in the company with the same skill set as you or doing the same thing as you. With little time for micromanaging, you’ll really be expected to take your own initiative and ownership over your work!

Am I creative and do I enjoy coming up with new ideas?

At a small company, with often a limited budget, it is common for situations to arise where a creative solution is needed! If you enjoy thinking on your feet and are keen to make proactive decisions to resolve an issue then this could well be the right environment for you to flourish in.

Do I have an interest in entrepreneurship?

Particularly at a startup, you’ll most likely be sitting across or even right next to the founders of the business. This gives you a unique opportunity to soak up all their knowledge and experience. This kind of exposure is especially valuable if you think you might like to start your own business one day.

Am I looking for a chance to develop a wide skill set?

Working as part of a small team usually means that you’ll be involved in several different functions within the company where you’ll pick up a whole new set of skills as you’ll really be expected to get stuck in and contribute. You’ll receive a huge education about how a business truly operates, which is harder to grasp when working in a single department of a larger company.

Am I looking for a relaxed environment and culture?

The atmosphere at a startup or SME is much more relaxed than at a corporate. There is usually no dress code and little hierarchy. You’ll get to know your co-workers quickly and team socials are common. Surrounded by creative and innovative people, it can be an inspiring work environment to be a part of.

This guest article has been written by Sophie Hudson, Head of Community at TalentPool – a recruitment platform matching recent graduates with job and internships opportunities in startups & SMEs.


Something for the Weekend: Creative Industries Week


Been inspired by Creative Industries Week at SOAS Careers? Embrace your creativity with these quotes to jumpstart your creative side!

Not sure how you want your next steps after to SOAS to look? Not to worry – come by SL57 and we can have a chat about where to even start thinking about the future.

Alexis Fromageot


Embracing Career Changes


Not sure how your next steps will pan out after SOAS?

Don’t worry about having to stick to one solid plan, and get inspired by reading about one lady’s journey into law via a whole other career.

Take a look at the Career Planning section on MySOAS Student to get a better idea of you can start shaping your future – no matter where you end up!

Alexis Fromageot






What’s on this Week: Creative Industries Week


Dream of working within the creative world? This week SOAS Careers explores the varied routes in to this broad and engaging sector, with a wide range of great events throughout the week.

Not sure if creative industries is the one for you? Don’t worry – come by SL57 and we still offer our full range of services for you!

Mon 20 Feb, 5:30 – 7pm, B111, Brunei Gallery: A Career in the Commercial Art World:

Weds 22 Feb, 1:30 – 3pm, S118, Paul Webley Wing: The Future of Work:

Thurs 23 Feb, 5:30 – 7pm, G3, College Building: Careers in Muslims and Galleries:

Alexis Fromageot


Something for the Weekend: Reading Week


Know exactly what you look for from movie night? Use your awesome taste in film to get an insight into your dream job!

Need more inspiration when thinking about your next steps? Come along to SOAS Careers in SL57 and we can talk through it all with you – from further study, travelling, internships to longer term work, we can help you get going!

Have  a great weekend and see you next week for Creative Industries Week!

Alexis Fromageot



Guest Blog: Advice on becoming self-employed straight out of university

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


Becoming a self-employed worker straight out of university may sound like a daunting prospect. However, the number of graduates taking this route to work straight out of university is on the rise. Despite being your own boss, there is plenty of support available to you.

The number of self-employed workers is rising

The number of self-employed workers in the United Kingdom is rising, and it has been for some time. There were over 4.77 million self-employed workers in the United Kingdom in November 2016 – over 15% of the entire workforce. This is a 23% increase since 2008 (Office of National Statistics, 2016).

Graduates are contributing to the rise in the self-employed workforce

Interestingly, 87% of graduates with a second class or first class degree have thought about freelancing already and consider the gig economy as a “highly attractive and lucrative career option”. 29% of students who have not graduated yet have considered becoming a freelancer within 5 years of completing their university studies, according to Elance (Elance, 2013).

Why are so many people turning to self-employment?

There is a number of reasons why people are becoming self-employed. Some of the main ones are as follows:

  • If a contract does not go as planned, you can decline future offers from the client.
  • You are in a position to negotiate terms – if there are specific conditions you require, let your client know at the stage of negotiation.
  • Contractors usually earn more money than full-time employees.
  • Working with a variety of clients will help develop your skills.
  • If you are able to have some spare time, you can learn new skills and develop your knowledge. There is an opportunity to become an expert in your field and earn a well-respected reputation.
  • You will avoid the dreaded office politics.
  • You are presented with an opportunity to grow your own business.
  • If you don’t like contracting – don’t worry! If you decide that you no longer want to be a contractor then it is easy to close your limited company (if you decide to operate through one) and look for a full-time role.

If you are self-employed, how do you get paid?

Typically, the self-employed operate in two ways, through their own limited company or through an umbrella company. There are advantages for both of these options.

Being paid through an umbrella company eliminates the large amount of paperwork that a self-employed worker could potentially face if operating through their own limited company (personal service company). If you choose to work through an umbrella company, you effectively become an employee of the umbrella and will receive the same pay as an employee in a full-time position. The umbrella company will make the correct tax and National Insurance Contributions to HMRC on your behalf. You will be entitled to Holiday Pay, Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Paternity Pay. Whilst an easy way to operate as self-employed, working through an umbrella is not the most tax efficient.

If you are looking to legally maximise your take-home pay in full compliance with HMRC, setting up your own limited company may be the perfect solution. By running your own limited company, you will become the director and can appoint yourself as a shareholder. Then you are able to pay yourself legally with a combination of salary and dividends. It is also the most professional way to present yourself in front of prospective clients. Whilst there is a large amount of paperwork involved, you can select a contractor accountant that will provide assistance with this, making your life easier.

To compare the difference in take-home pay between setting up your own limited company and using an umbrella company, you can request a personal calculation using a contractor calculator.

What should you look for from a contractor accountant?

  • They should be specialists
  • They should be accredited by reputable industry bodies (such as APSCo and Professional Passport)
  • They should be fully compliant with HMRC legislation
  • They should make their terms incredibly clear (for example, is there a tie in period?)
  • Their solution should match your requirements
  • They should offer you extra (for example, an online portal for your convenience)
  • They should have experts ready to answer your calls and emails
  • They should provide continued support throughout the setup and running of your limited company

Finding your first role as a self-employed worker

Finding your first role as a self-employed worker may sound scary. However, there is a lot of support and help available. The number of recruitment agencies is always on the rise and there are specialist businesses that exclusively focus on finding work for the self-employed. Don’t forget to make sure you have an updated LinkedIn profile and you are connecting with the right people (recruitment agencies, potential clients etc.). Have a look on local forums – are there any events that you can attend as a networker?

It is always a great idea to ask the people close to you for advice. Do any of your friends or family members know people that can help you? As a student, your university will provide careers assistance – get in touch with them to find out how they can help and support you.

If you are looking at becoming self-employed straight out of university – best of luck!

This guest article has been written by Andrew Trodden, Marketing Executive at Churchill Knight & Associates Ltd – specialist contractor accountants