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Should I take a day job? What to do if you can’t find a creative job you love straight away...

Student using their phone at a desk
Student using their phone at a desk
Photo Alys Tomlinson
Written by
Mickey Lam Careers & Employability
Published date
02 January 2020

We asked Mickey Lam (who manages UAL’s creative opportunities jobs board) whether taking a day job can be a good thing…

As a creative graduate, finding your first job after university can be difficult. Some new graduates find meaningful work really quickly (for example at their degree shows or via a placement contact) but for many it can take longer to find the right role.

Looking for work in the creative industries can be complex as there’s no one-size-fits-all route. For example, finding a job in PR or marketing will be different to finding an acting role or working in fashion - and so on. Each industry requires a different approach therefore it’s worth familiarising yourself with the one you’re planning to work in before you graduate. You can then start to prepare anything that could help your chances of finding a graduate level job once you finish your course (e.g. write a blog, build a website or pull together your show reel).

When you finish your studies you’ll want to find a job that uses your creative skills and pays a reasonable salary. But what should you do if you can’t find the right role straight away?

Taking up a day job can be a way to earn money to keep you afloat while you continue your search. What’s more, having a day job can sometimes open doors for you in other ways.

Top 5 benefits of finding a day job:

  1. Having a steady income can free you up to work on personal projects and teach yourself new skills while still being able to pay the bills.
  2. If you get a day job in the sector you’d like to work in (e.g. admin for a design studio or invigilator at a gallery), it may be possible to develop useful contacts and/or work your way up through the company.
  3. It can improve your transferable skills – e.g. working in retail provides useful insights into customer service and buying habits as well as an understanding of how to approach and work with retailers.
  4. It can make you more employable because it shows you’re hardworking and driven. Finding a day job in the relevant sector also demonstrates your commitment to the industry.
  5. It gives you time to decide what you really want to do and plan how you’re going to get there.

Jumping straight into a full-time job in the creative industries may seem like a dream come true, but working is very different to studying. Having the capacity to work on side projects, freelance or work part-time can help you to figure out exactly what you want to do.

So, there are many benefits to taking a day job if your dream role doesn’t come along straight away! The main thing is to focus on the benefits each role brings – even if it’s not where you want to end up – as you can change jobs later on.

Help with your job search:

If you’re looking for work, UAL’s creative opportunities jobs board is a great place to start. We advertise 200+ jobs and paid internships each month in both creative and non-creative industries so it’s a great way to land your first role.

UAL Careers and Employability can help you with your job search when you graduate. Learn more about the services we offer to our alumni.