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Jake Astbury on location for Tata Steel

Graduating in Uncertain Times: How I Made It

Written by Sammy Evans
Published date 25 August 2020

As part of the Starting Out series of events, we heard from UAL alumni Danielle Jones and Jake Astbury about their journey to success. Both Danielle and Jake overcame significant challenges during the 2008 global financial crisis and shared their top tips and experience of how to negotiate a challenging job market. 

For those who missed the event, we caught up with Jake who summed up his top ten tips that you can implement to kick start your career.

Jake studied at CSM specialising in Experimental Film and Video, graduating in 1996. Jake has worked commercially as a freelance Director of Photography, in postproduction and as a senior technical conservator at Tate. As a filmmaker, Jake's work has been broadcast and exhibited in festivals and galleries in the UK and internationally. Jake currently holds the position of Lecturer in Digital Film Production at SAE Institute Liverpool.

Top ten tips from Jake Astbury

1/ In difficult times there are always opportunities for creatives, but in order to see them, or create them, it is important to keep a finger on the pulse of both your discipline and everything that exists around it - seemingly unrelated areas like financial markets, technology changes, newly adopted ways of interacting and trends in other areas are all key to moving forward.

2/ Take chances - with any opportunity there will always be aspects of it that challenge you and these can also be reasons not to take an opportunity out of fear - do it anyway - feel the fear and do it anyway.

3/ The future is content - never stop creating it will always reward you eventually - and you always have something to show a prospective client, buyer, funder.

4/ If you haven't written a short bio that accompanies any platform you’re on - do it now - define yourself - write it as you want others to see you.

5/ Have a broad series of creative references points both in your field and in other disciplines - this is key in networking conversations - no matter how casual.

Jake Astbury shooting for Nike. Photo by Guy Corbishley
Jake Astbury shooting for Nike. Photo by Guy Corbishley Caption

6/ Keep abreast of changes and key players within your discipline - this keeps you up-to-date and relevant in others eyes regardless of whether you practice any of these changes/trends.

7/ If you’re asked “what do you do?” don’t be vague - if you want to be a painter - say it, don’t say you're a recent graduate - say what you want to be - define yourself in the eyes of others - this sets the tone for further communication (But you will always need current work to back you up - see point 3).

8/ Look to other key people in your discipline and see how they made it - read about them, watch interviews - these can really inspire you - for me Maya Deren, Claire Denis, Francesca Woodman, Claude Cahun, Robert Richardson, William Blake, Deborah Turbeville and Mizuno Junko are all creatives who I have invested time in learning about including their personal struggles and their successes - reflecting on their experiences has helped me many times in my own career.

9/ Remember it’s a small world, don’t bad mouth people, don’t burn bridges.

10/ Value yourself, choose how and who you give your time too and this corresponds with helping you decide how much you should charge for your time, your work etc.

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