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Should I take a day job?

A man using selling products to a woman
A man using selling products to a woman
Image credit: Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Written by
Mickey Lam
Published date
11 October 2021

What to do if you can’t find a creative job you love straight away.

We asked Mickey Lam (who manages Creative Opportunities) if taking a day job can be a good thing…

Once you graduate from University of the Arts London (UAL), even if you’ve been very successful in your degree, finding your first job can be difficult. Add in a pandemic that has disrupted the world in many ways, especially recruitment, and it can be quite daunting to land your dream role right away.

Some new graduates find meaningful work quickly, for example at their degree shows or via a placement contact, but for many it can take longer to find the right role. There’s no one-size-fits-all route.

Finding a job in PR or marketing will be different to finding an acting role or working in fashion. Each industry requires a different approach so it’s worth familiarising yourself with the one you’re planning to work in before you graduate. That way you can start to prepare anything that could help your chances of finding a graduate level job once you finish your course. This could be practicing online interview skills, finding an internship, finishing a freelance project, writing a blog, building a website or pulling together your showreel.

So, should you take a day job if you’re struggling to land your ideal creative job straight out of university? It can be a great 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. Steady income

    Having a steady income can free you from financial worries up to work on personal projects and teach yourself new skills while still being able to pay the bills.

  2. Contacts

    Aim to 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), you might be able to make useful contacts and perhaps work your way up through the company. Networking is key to opportunities. It’ll also allow you to understand the industry, different roles, and to see if it meets your expectations.

  3. Build up skills

    It can improve your transferrable 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. Working in e-commerce can enhance digital literacy and give an understanding of business practice.

  4. Building experience

    It can make you more employable because it shows you’re hardworking, resilient and driven. Finding a day job in the relevant sector also demonstrates your commitment to the industry.

  5. Time to figure things out
    It gives you time to decide what you really want to do and plan how you’re going to get there. Having the chance to work part-time, on side projects, or freelance can help you to figure out exactly what you want to do and what kind of environment you want to work in.

So, don’t panic 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.

If you’re looking for work, UAL’s creative opportunities jobs board is a great place to start. We advertise 130+ jobs and paid internships each month in both creative and non-creative industries so it’s a great way to land your first role. We’ve also expanded to curated volunteering roles and competitions as pathways into a career.

Don’t forget! UAL Careers and Employability can help you with your job search when you graduate. Learn more about the services we offer to our alumni.