Faculty Tips on How to Evolve from a Creative Student into a Creative Professional

It’s hard being a creative professional. Do not let anyone fool you into thinking this is an easy career field to master after graduation. Succeeding in the creative industry is more than just producing great art. It is a combination of your efforts, your hustle, your relationships with colleagues, and how you present yourself at work. Check out tips and recommendations from fellow industry insiders to get ahead at work or school.

1. Build your creative portfolio with strong pieces:

As you finish projects, make sure only the strongest piece is added to your portfolio of work because it keeps your portfolio current. When presenting your portfolio, consider including more than just the finished project. Detail specific information about the campaign, the client, which aspects you specifically helped create, and any part of your contributed to the brainstorming process. Did your project include an event? Attend that event, take photos, and talk successes. If you do not have a website portfolio, stop reading (finish this article first!) and start creating. A website is the easiest place for clients to find your work and for you, your friends or your network to share your work as well. Everyone has a portfolio; this is your chance to stand out and capture someone’s attention!

2. Work harder than everyone else:

The creative industry has become a highly sought-after career field. You will find that creative jobs can a number of qualified (and even underqualified) applicants. Take the initiative to learn how to set yourself apart by investing time and effort into every project. It can be harder than it sounds, but the end result is worth the effort because not everyone considers this important step.

3. Tired of networking? Don’t be:

“It’s not what you do, it’s who you know” is probably the most common phrase used when looking for a job in the creative industry. This is true because the creative community is tight-knit, especially in Nashville. Research and consider joining local marketing, creative, design or business groups. Many of them have free mixers to attend and see if you are a good fit. These groups are worth the membership fees and, when used correctly, can place you in front of some powerful or influential individuals.

4. Separate tastes: You vs. Your client:

You will have clients who have polar opposite tastes than you, bad taste or no taste at all. Once you have given suggestions for the assignment, stop and listen to your clients. Ask detailed questions. This is not your opportunity to show off. This is your chance to prove you can create anything they need. Complete the work with your best creative foot forward.

5. Embrace change:

Whether it’s a new program, software or skill, learn it. If you don’t, someone else will. The world has changed drastically over the past 10 years, and it will continue to evolve. New programs have emerged, cellphones can now capture amazing images and video content, now we talk to our devices (Alexa, Siri, Google – can you hear me right now?)  With creativity comes constant change. Learn to embrace that change.

6. Professionalism counts, no matter what field you are in:

There is a unique language in the world of blogging, tweeting, texting, posting, and direct messaging. It is a must to be well versed in all of these fields. It is important to consider when talking with clients, bosses, and fellow employees, use professional etiquette. Whether you are writing an email or sending a quick message, typos, grammatical errors, and common texting abbreviations are unacceptable. Using them can cause you to attract attention—in a bad way.

Many of these tips came from our adjunct faculty – all of which are active professionals in Nashville’s creative economy. Check out bios on all our faculty members. 

Interested in becoming a creative? Check out our current degree programs.