The Careers and Employability Service and School of Art (MSoA) regularly receive details of internships, freelance commissions and jobs suitable for current students or recent graduates direct from creative employers and arts organisations. Details are regularly posted to the relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups in the School of Art and My Career Hub.
Occasionally, internships, residencies and project work for students and recent graduates are advertised on the websites of the larger design practices, professional associations and ‘trade’ journals. You will find links to their sites in the employers and careers development sections of the Graduate Prospects occupational profiles.
For digital roles, two North-West specialist recruitment agencies carry occasional vacancies appropriate for new graduates together with detailed information about making applications:
Beyond these, there are many job boards and specialist recruitment consultancies in the creative industries sector together with online galleries hosting creative work for sale (see the final section of this guide for examples).
Browsing these can give you an insight into the types of work typically on offer and the job requirements, whilst online galleries can stimulate ideas about how you might present your own work. A number provide helpful guidelines on how best to create an online portfolio too.
However, the roles advertised on job boards are usually for experienced artists, designers, media professionals and performers whilst online galleries are invariably dominated by creatives who already have established reputations. Most online galleries will also charge substantial fees for hosting your profile and an online portfolio of work.
As a result, whether a current student or fresh graduate, you will almost certainly need to consider other strategies for getting your first offer of work or a commission.
The number of sites that now advertise short-term commissions, especially in design, have grown dramatically in recent years. They provide an online global marketplace that is often referred to as ’The Gig Economy’.
These sites are worth exploring as experienced designers will not normally pitch where the commissions are very short term. Apart from getting your name in front of potential employers, such commissions can be useful for testing out whether freelance work is for you as well as helping you earn some cash whilst you are studying or working on your professional portfolio after graduation.
Most of these sites also provide guidance on pricing your work and making your pitch:
Small organisations dominate the creative industries. As a result, they tend not to advertise, preferring to follow up appealing speculative approaches or positive discussions at networking events.
Professional bodies, trade associations and journals in the creative sector provide listings of networking or exhibiting opportunities together with online directories of potentially relevant consultancies/practices. These organisations may be willing to provide work experience or consider speculative approaches for freelance assignments or paid employment if they receive a well-presented and interesting approach.
Please note: Some online journals charge a subscription for accessing vacancies and/or their members directory so it is worth checking whether they are available to browse free in the MMU Library.
The Library also hosts a number of online company databases, such as FAME, that can be very useful when undertaking a speculative job search (enter FAME in the search box).
If you are approaching people ‘cold’, making speculative applications can take up immense amounts of time and effort with no guarantee of success.
You are far more likely to get results if the person/organisation you are approaching has had some form of contact with you already. This might be an introduction via a mutual contact or a conversation at an event or exhibition i.e. Networking. Indeed, many of the MSoA staff will tell you that they owe their first offer of employment or freelance commission to a conversation about their work with an artist, designer etc., not an application to an advertised job or a speculative approach.
The professional version of Facebook, LinkedIn enables you to connect with a range of arts, design and media groups. It offers a means of posting visual content on your personal profile too.
Twitter has been widely adopted by people working in the media and in design. Learn more about using Twitter and other social media in your job search here. This American article published by the Huffington Post also gives some context. Two Twitter accounts worth following are @artsjobs and @artsopps.
For general advice on using social media for job-hunting, see our guide Using Social Media for Job Hunting.
These continually feature a wide range of jobs, commissions, internships, competitions, exhibitions, master classes, events and opportunities for creative collaboration. Creative Manchester in particular concentrates on opportunities in the Manchester area.
Many departments offer structured networking opportunities by arranging private shows, guest lectures, careers panels, visits to exhibitions, employer briefs etc. Make sure you take part in as many of these as possible and go along with some interesting questions in mind. It is advisable to have a business card to offer if the conversation is particularly positive. Don’t forget to ask if you can connect with the person via LinkedIn too.
The Careers and Employability Service arrange networking cafes together with other events that will enable you to make even more contacts.
Tutors and technicians possess a lot of knowledge about their sector and have a wealth of contacts so it is worth asking them for suggestions of key people to approach as well. Many of their contacts will be previous graduates of Manchester Met/MSoA.
As awareness of the Schools of Art, Media, Design and Architecture LinkedIn groups begin to grow, we anticipate that former MSoA graduates will request to join too. It is likely that many will be willing to connect with you and offer advice about your search for work.
Some courses support mentoring schemes to link you with professionals working in your area of practice, the School of Art’s LinkedIn groups should encourage their development further. You could also consider joining the University’s Mentor Me programme if you cannot source a mentor through your course.
Many networking groups now exist enabling creatives to either meet on a regular basis or share news and ideas online. Many are free to join and offer useful social events at little cost.
A good number in Manchester are coordinated through Meetup, whilst the Creative Manchester Facebook group often receives posts about new networks being set up or established groups inviting students to their events. Alternatively, use Google to search for any other groups that meet in the City or consider setting up a group of your own.
Meet Up: This online social networking portal facilitates group meetings around the UK, enabling people to find and join groups unified by a common interest such as the creative arts.
For more, go to www.meetup.com/cities/gb/18/manchester and search under:
Another useful way of getting to meet people who can introduce you to others at the same time as getting your name and work more widely known.
For comprehensive listings of voluntary organisations elsewhere in the UK, see:
It is not easy to establish yourself in full-time practice or employment straight after graduation. As a result, many students undertake other work roles alongside portfolio preparation and painting, designing, making etc. This is usually referred to as portfolio working and you can find out more here:
Many creatives also establish their careers through freelancing. See our guide Freelancing, Exhibiting and Community Arts for links to sites that will help you sell your work.
As stated at the outset, online galleries and job boards concentrate upon artists and designers who are already well-established in practice, but they can still be extremely helpful to gain insight into typical job requirements and how you may lay out your CV and portfolio. The following sites are some examples:
We offer range of support services to Manchester Met students and graduates:
The online careers centre you can access 24/7 to view career resources, advice and tips, career quizzes and information tailored to your sector.
Get online advice through My Career Hub, ask your question at any time and receive support via email.
Book an appointment with one of our Careers Advisors through My Career Hub or call 0161 247 3483.