Sheridan Haynes is Project Assistant at LCF, as part of the STEP programme
11 June 2018
STEP is a programme offering paid twelve-month jobs comprised of two internships in two different areas of the Creative Industries.
8 lucky east London applicants were chosen to take part in the programme, and are all currently working on their first internship placements. They will all be blogging about their experiences as the programme progresses - Click here to find out more about the STEP programme and check the blog section for more posts soon.
I feel naïve as hell when I look back at 21-year-old me. I think education had
left me with the false premise that meritocracy would prevail in all instances
pertaining to life. I had always assumed an A* was an A* no matter what and
thus assumed that if you do A and B, C would surely happen. I was adamant there
was a formula for success and a qualification would guarantee me a career.
I would say
from the age of 16-years-old until now, I have been directing my career with no
real knowledge of how to navigate the industry. My parents, family and cultural
background lean heavily towards traditional careers and blind faith that
becoming an accountant, a lawyer, a doctor or the president of the free world
(big up Barack Obama) is the only acceptable career paths to go down.
would argue any career, in the creative world or not, is equally as challenging
to get into without strong networks, it came as quite a shock to me how many
factors come into play to get that “dream job”. This is a hard pill to swallow
when you’re a worshiper of the congregation of the “education education
discovering that the notion that certificates and academia can be a great
equalizer, is in fact a myth that has been the medicine I needed. It has helped
me recognise that the chances of getting the job were just as likely for me:
the branded BAME applicant, as it would be for “John Smith” when sitting opposite
worked in the industry and securing a place on STEP, I would honestly say the
biggest help for me and my endeavours, were finding a mentor and being in a
placement where I could network and dip into many creative projects. I can’t
believe I had not sought to find a mentor earlier, it really would have saved
so much time and tribulation.
I now have 3
mentors: a personal development one, an industry one and one that focuses on
entrepreneurialism. GET A MENTOR! Anyone who is a few steps above you, anyone
who is where you hope to be career wise or character wise; trust me it is a Godsend!
It is so empowering to have someone who is able to talk over your career woes
thought my biggest barrier to getting into the industry was the fact there is
little diversity in my sector and yes this is true. However, I now know in an
industry of “who you know” you must find a way to be someone of interest.
employer is looking to fill that gallery position, that fashion studio
position, that “insert your dream career here”, they are most likely not
posting it on Reed.co.uk or Gumtree, they ask their networks. Which more often
than not, further perpetuates a culture which appears to favour a particular
type of person filling these roles.
When I think
of the diverse people on my course and compare that end of year photo to my work
Christmas party, it literally looks like I’m comparing the level of diversity of
a 90’s United Colours of Benetton campaign poster to the casting room of an
English period drama.
I’m not sure
where the creative and ambitious faces we see studying alongside us, disappear to
when we look at the creative industries workforce.
companies are now “kinda” looking to address the problem with quotas and initiatives
to help positively access a wider range of people. However for me, I have
always been concerned as to whether I am a creative who is black or a black
creative in the eyes of my employer and whether the labelling of race inadvertently
compartmentalised my creativity and capability.
begin to understand why diversity needs to be enforced and isn’t just de
rigueur. However, it isn’t and that being said my “BAME” solution to the
monoculture of creative industries lies in NETWORKING.
is not easy but in truth serves as the start to even knowing where the jobs are
in the “mother cliquing” first place!
argue, mastering the art of finding job vacancies and creating opportunities is
the initial hurdle to overcome when coming from non-traditional backgrounds
into the creative industries. Because if jobs are going on word of mouth and
speculative job applications, and people in the creative industries keep such a
small circle of people close to them, the first step into changing the culture
is to break ranks and talk to people outside the cookie mould.
I mean the creative
industries do seem to be shockingly un-representative of BAME people, so what
does it mean to answer, “what is your ethnicity?” on the job application? What
about accounting for class, gender, name, what school you went to, and a whole
plethora of other things that come into play when tackling the selection process.
I think the
best way to overcome lack of representation in the creative industry is to gain
a network of people in your field, or people connected to your field, and lend
yourself wherever you can. Be memorable, be enthusiastic and be tactical in the
knowledge that every person you meet can vouch for you to someone they know and
can leapfrog you into a wider net of people to connect with.
I wish I had
known how important networks were at the beginning of my career and had not
beat myself up so much for not having that “I’ve made it” moment, when in truth
the route to success is a collaborative project!
I would not
have come to this realisation were it not for the opportunities STEP has given
me. I wondered aimlessly, going from place to place, with no cohesive lateral
growth and anchoring. The mentors and training days have been really life
changing for me. I have now found an approach to obtaining my goals and
measuring my success.
I have been
proactive and committed to securing my future, and armed with the experiences I
have had with STEP and my placement, I have managed to get three amazing
opportunities lined up for my future. So,
if the industry won’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed will
simply not RSVP and come anyway.