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. 

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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.

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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


#FridayFeeling: Are YOU ready to change the world?


Is there a charity you feel massively passionate about? Here’s your chance to make a difference to them and help change the world!

SOAS Careers is excited to announce the launch of ‘Change the World’: where we encourage you to get creative with fundraising! Thanks to funding from Santander, this is your opportunity to get creative and raise some serious cash to change the world. You will be given a lump sum of £25 to get the ball rolling with your fundraising. Your task is simple: grow this as much as you can, any (legal) way you can! Get as creative as you like – the sky really is the limit!

All the money you raise (including the initial £25) will then be donated to your nominated charity. SOAS Careers will also match the amount you raise (up to a max of £500). The organisation just needs to have a registered charity number in order to be eligible. You can enter by yourself, in a group or as part of a Society.

You will need to document your fundraising and reflections on your successes and challenges as you go. This can be via blog posts, vlogging or any way you dream up – the more the original the better! Your efforts will then be celebrated at the Make a Difference Awards in February at SOAS. We’ll invite the charity of your choice along so that you can find exactly how your efforts are helping to change the world!

Interested? To enter just submit a proposal (max. 500 words) outlining:
> Which charity you wish to support and why
> Your master plan for growing the initial £25 exponentially
> How you will capture and document your fundraising process.

To get involved, send over your proposal to by 11:59pm on Weds 6 December. All the proposals will then be reviewed by a judging panel from SOAS. The lucky entrepreneurs will need to be available on Tues 12 December to collect the £25, so that they can get the ball rolling before the end of term.

Ready, set, GO & get fundraising…

Alexis Fromageot

#FridayFeeling: Women Revolutionising the Food Industry


As student enterprise & start up week comes to a close, celebrate these awesome women who are bossing it in the food industry!

Read on about these 15 badass girl bosses who will give you serious #girlsquad goals.

Keen to start your own enterprise? Come by the Careers Zone in SL62, Paul Webley Wing where we’re on hand to talk ideas out with you and offer practical advice to get things started.

Alexis Fromageot

#MondayMotivation: Student Enterprise & Start Up Week


Got an awesome idea you can’t wait to let loose on the world? Fancy working for a start up making a real change to an industry? This week at SOAS Careers is your chance to find out more about student enterprise and start ups!

Come by the Careers Zone in SL62 to speak to us about best we can help you on your way, take a look at the awesome resources and meet some incredible employers…

Mon 13 Nov, 4 – 5:30pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Whommies – How to Launch a Start Up

Tue 14 Nov, 5 – 6:30pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Kappu – How to Hack the British Job Market

Wed 15 Nov, 3 – 4:30pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Start-up Alumni Speed Networking

Get involved!

Alexis Fromageot


Kick Start Your Business with up to £5,000 cash prizes up for grabs!

Get your business idea up and running by entering the SOAS Dragons Den Competition!

The competition gives you the chance to pitch for a prize of up to £250 in SOAS.  Plus the winner also gets to pitch at the central University of London competition with a chance of winning a prize of mentoring from Michael Hayman MBE, founder of Start Up Britain, Seven Hills (communications consultancy) and presenter of The Capital Conversation, London Live, plus there’s cash prizes worth up to £5000 to be won.
Please be aware that this competition is only open to students/graduates with business ideas who are not actively trading.
To apply, follow this link.
The deadline for application is 12noon on Friday 27th October.

Jai Shah, Careers Consultant

Everything you Need to Know About Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visas


SOAS provides students with the opportunity to set up and develop their business in the UK, by endorsing them for a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa.  These are exclusively available to Tier 4 visa holders who are current students.

The process for applying is simple.

If you have a viable and innovative business idea and want to take this to market in the UK, this is a great opportunity for you.  The idea must show visible benefits to the local community.

As part of the application process for endorsement from SOAS, you will be expected to submit the following documentation:

  • A business plan summarising your business idea, market research, marketing plan, customer analysis and pricing model.
  • A 12 month financial forecast
  • CV
  • Covering letter.

Shortlisted applicants will be expected to present their business idea to a panel. The next deadline for application is 11.59pm on October 19th 2017.  If you are shortlisted, the judging panel which you will be asked to present at is taking place on the afternoon of Thursday 16th November (each presentation slot will be 20 minutes maximum, including questions).

Before you apply you must first meet with the Student Advisor (Immigration and Finance) to determine your eligibility for the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa.

For support through the application process, you are welcome to book an Enterprise appointment with the SOAS Careers Service by emailing or calling 0207 898 4115.  These are available on Friday afternoons.

To apply, please submit the requested documents to by 11.59pm on October 19th 2017.

Jai Shah, Careers Consultant

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.