Tripped, slipped and fell into a creative career

Published on November 15, 2022

A Creative Courage article

Many people who are in a creative career or industry will know all too well the face of polite confusion or fascinated intrigue from someone who has just asked what you do for a living.

Whether it’s a grammar correction after saying: “I’m a Creative,” from a person who’s only known the word as a verb, or your parents still not understanding what you do, despite having done it for 15 years. It causes a sort of brief smugness, followed by the unsettling realisation that having a creative profession is like being in a secret club—exclusive only to those on the inside.

I’ve found when asking someone how they got into their creative career, their answer seems to echo the words of most other creatives, which is usually something along the lines of: “Well I sort of fell into it, accidentally.”

Creative careers, at least when I was in school, (which was only 5 years ago), weren’t an option because we simply weren’t told that they existed. It was only if you knew someone, or had parents in creative jobs, that you were shown the door into that world.

It goes beyond inadequate career prep, and stems deeper into how the education system teaches ‘creativity’, which in my eyes is fundamentally wrong. Schools teach creativity through traditional Arts subjects, but let’s be clear about something: creativity and art are two separate disciplines, which can exist independently from one another.

Creativity in its simplest form is just thinking. It’s new ideas. It’s creating something that didn’t exist before. It isn’t exclusive to the Picassos and Tarantinos of the world, it’s also the Einsteins and Thomas Edisons. It’s the people who are pushing society, culture and knowledge forward with their new ideas.

This merger of art and creativity – for me – is the core of the creativity crisis, which is that schools make young people believe they’re not creative because they didn’t excel at Art. If you can’t paint, draw, or design they shut that door on a creative career for good.

It seems even some Art teachers aren’t aware of the extent of creative industries out there. I know of talented creatives who were pushed, by their own Art teacher, to pursue academic degrees because even they couldn’t see the potential or future outside of the Art block. It’s hard not to wonder if there’s politics behind why school puts blinkers on the eyes of teens when it comes to their career options - keeping traditional jobs straight in front.

While I don’t think the answer is to push creative careers the same way they push law or medicine, instead I think it’s just about putting a sign that points to a yellow brick road, signalling ‘THIS WAY’ in plain sight, for those who want to explore further for themselves.

Because all it takes is one sign. One person, one talk, YouTube video, blog, or maybe even just one Instagram reel to set a curious mind on a totally different journey. I believe the creative industries and the people in them have a responsibility not to settle in their solace behind the curtain and to be that person, video, blog or sign that shows young people the endless and exciting world that exists backstage.

The world of strategists and copywriters behind the TV commercials, the motion graphic designers and compositors behind Pixar movies and the UX designers and concept artists behind gaming and app creations.

At McCann Leeds, we are trying to improve the access to industry wherever possible, by taking part in initiatives which help get young people real, meaningful experience within the creative industry. Recently, we partnered with Channel 4 on their Content Creatives initiative, where we had two young, budding creatives come in for eight weeks and totally immerse themselves in the work that we do at McCann.

Beyond this, McCann Leeds has partnered with Leeds University on a mentoring programme, where students were mentored through a brief, pitch and presentation in front of industry leaders.

Initiatives like this should never be a one-off, they should be a considered part of any agency’s yearly ESG initiatives.

Personally, I’m on a quest to help close the void that exists in our creative education and bring knowledge or at least awareness to the possibilities out there. I’m creating a sign. And it’s called Not Another Creative. It’s the unschooling for the creative and curious and it exists to educate young people on the array of careers and to bring creative education straight from the industries straight into their palms – their phones. Kids are learning through Tik Tok, not textbooks. Learning is changing – and so must education.

Not Another Creative lives online for everyone and anyone. It’s a website, blog, online community, platform—it’s not bound by a media, it’s ever-changing, growing and learning. It's a mutiny with a mission and is the advocate for people who are pirates to the status quo and go off the track to make their own futures.

If you want to see change—make change. I invite anyone in a creative industry to become a part of the solution. Ideas take thought. Action takes guts. Change takes courage.