how to get ahead in the creative industries without a degree

This year, the number of young Brits applying to university has reached a record high. In fact, it's reached its highest level ever, but what are the options if you want to go off-piste? A-level student Lula Ososki investigates...

by Lola Chatterton
Jun 2 2014, 9:40am

John Walker

Hang on while I step off the conveyor belt for a mo. Nearly all of my mates and peers are about to be herded off to uni alongside thousands of others. There's a bit of a negative vibe around people who decide uni isn't for them, almost as if you're not quite up to it, a bit of a thicko or just affected in someway. "Why would a bright girl like you not want to go to uni?" said one teacher. I smugly wished I'd answered, "You've just answered your own question, Miss."

Whilst reading Sam Wolfson's Do degrees still matter in the creative industries? I couldn't help but feel that I might be missing out. But uni seems so elitist, an unreachable pool of wisdom and partying that'll leave you a mentally richer person. Is it an experience worth £44,000 of debt, though? It's hard to say when you're 17-years-old and haven't actually been to university, but surely there must be other paths that lead to enlightenment?

Luckily, I made my mind up a while ago to skip uni and make an early start working towards a career in the creative industries. Though perhaps a leap into the unknown, I reckon it's a risk that has benefits. Whether it's running a blog, starting a band, putting together an exhibition or doing various work experience placements, all these could create the spark to help you progress in the workplace; it's not all just based on your school grades anymore. If you can dedicate three years of your life to gaining experience and learning as you go, it could propel you ahead of the hoards coming out of uni.

Although agreed, a Buzzfeed listicle titled 36 Things Only Girls with Curly Hair will Understand cannot be compared to 10,000 words on The Politics of Fashion in American Consumer Culture, the internet is an goldmine of information. That's a pretty obvious statement to make, I know, but it feels as if it's some kind of secret they don't tell you at school, that pretty much all the resources you could need are online and free. From lectures to Photoshop tutorials, music forums to email contacts, if you have an open mind and a D.I.Y attitude then the world's your oyster.

I guess not everyone wants to plunge into the world of work straight after leaving school, but there are other life experiences to do in three years that can be just as gratifying and culturally eye opening. One of the kick-ass things about being young is that you have such limited responsibilities. If you're lucky enough to have the option of university, then you have the freedom to do whatever the hell you like. An obvious example is travelling. Seeing how things are designed differently and how people work in different parts of the world has got to be as inspiring and influential as a degree, let alone the chance to mix with people that aren't within the same 'fashion student' bracket.

Yes, there will always be creatives who want to go to uni, but what if this became the less favoured option? What if the norm, the most comfortable and smart thing to do, becomes not going to uni? When fees are forever rising and the internet is such a large source of information, surely there's got to be some positive changes. The most incredible part of working towards a career at a young age is realising how receptive people are. I was nervous at first when contacting adults in the creative industries for help, advice or work experience, that they would see my age as a negative aspect, but after countless supportive emails I've discovered that it's quite the contrary. That's why I see the future alternative to a degree as a mentorship scheme. Where during their first year of work, emerging creatives can apply to have a mentor, someone successful in the same field that can advise, guide and nurture. It could even be as simple as meeting every month to review their work and progress. This idea is the kind of thing that could give talented young creatives a bigger chance of success in the industry. The world is beginning to realise that young people are the way forward, and fresh minds like ours are the most creative of all. So why not drink a few mugs of steel and get stuck in, who knows where it might take you!



Text Lula Ososki
Original image by John Walker

Sam Wolfson
lula ososki