Why entering competitions is essential professional development……


Entering competitions as a creative practitioner is full of jeopardy; there is the time that it takes to make the application, there is the worry that you wont make the deadline or worse that your work won’t be selected as worthy winner. It’s all really a bit  risky so why bother?

Competitions are often advertised by their prize rather than the benefits that they can offer in professional development.  In today’s post I will consider why competitions can be  a worthwhile pursuit as a student, and highlight my top six reasons why taking part can often be more  rewarding than winning.

Number One: A good competition should push you to innovate and make new work that is of a great standard and will get others talking about you.  Carefully consider and select, which competitions you enter. Ideally a competition will complement  and match your practice, interests and focus as well as offer you an opportunity to up your game and showcase your practice to key professionals in your sector.

Number Two:  The competition brief should encourage you to apply your course theory to  a live opportunity and demonstrate key professional skills and aptitudes such as;

  • Project & time management, following a schedules, instructions and deadlines set by others.
  • Communication; proposal writing/CV/covering letter/artist CV etc. and how to present work in a professional context.
  • Research skills and the ability to understand client need.
  • Business skills such as understanding budgets, costing of work and managing project costs.
  • Critical practice, learning from others and managing feedback.

Number Three:  Entering a competition can develop your professional network and help you be seen by others. Competitions provide excellent exposure for emergent creative’s  and can get your name out there even if you are not selected as a winner.  Judging panels are usually made up by leading professionals and it can be a great way to grab their attention! Also, thanks to social media your work may also be seen in a global context.

Number Four:  Competitions can create opportunities for you to gain feedback from your audience and possibly advice from others. Always check with competition organisers whether they offer feedback and where possible always seek it.

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Number Five: Your competition entry will enhance your portfolio and CV and help you to demonstrate innovation, creative practice and technical skills. Competitions also  give your portfolio credibility and say loads about your professional motivation and style. Detailing competitions on your CV will also help to enhance it and make you stand out from the rest of the creative graduate market too.

Number Six:  Competitions will build your confidence.   It is as simple as that! Entering competitions as a  student will allow you to dip you toe into the professional world and test yourself against  other students and creatives.

Finally, competitions can be very beneficial as long as you do your research. You may be reading this article and thinking ; but what about  potential theft of my  intellectual property (IP) or ideas,  what if  I experience unjust behaviour or biased voting by organisations or worse I just don’t hear anything from my entry??

These are genuine concerns and can happen. However, they can also be overcome by undertaking thorough research before your commit your time. Read and understand the competition terms and conditions, investigate who the judging panel are, check the IP terms and look for testimonies from previous finalists and winners. The more research you do the better, as it will help you to  make an informed choice whether to enter or not and support you to  understand the potential professional practice benefits.

So next time you see a competition being advertised around the GSA campus, stop and consider what value and professional development opportunities is it offering not just the prize………

Further information on creative competitions can be found at: 

Design Competitions:

Arts Competitions:

Architecture Competitions

General Student Competitions


Here comes the summer!

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This week, Glasgow was finally bathed in sunshine,albeit for one day, reminding us that summer is just around the corner.  At GSA, students are busy with their final assessments and making plans for their holidays.  For many students this will mean preparing to go on a pre-planned period of work experience with an employer in order to develop their CV, expand their professional knowledge and network. But, what happens if you have not secured an industry placement or are unable to undertake one due to work or family commitments, does this mean that you have missed an opportunity to develop key professional practice for your future career?

My answer to that question is no. While there is no doubt industry placements are really important; http://careers.guardian.co.uk/graduate-jobs-internships-worthwhile. Not securing one is not the end of the world.  There are many other career focused activities and work that you can be getting on with to support your professional practice during the summer period.

Why not start with researching you professional network. Record who you currently know and their practice. Create a plan to expand your professional network, by developing a list of achievable goals to undertake during the holiday period.  These goals might be as simple as joining an online community, such as Artquest’s  Artelier http://www.artquest-artelier.com/ or subscribing to an industry e-newsletter such as the Design Council’s newsletter; http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/Newsletter-sign-up/Subscribe/ . Not sure about your  professional network, why not read the GSACareers introduction to networks here; https://gsacareers.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/networking-for-novices-3/

Volunteering can help establish professional practice and build new networks. Check out Project Scotland http://www.projectscotland.co.uk/ and Voluntary Arts Scotland http://www.voluntaryarts.org/basic-page/scotland/for local volunteer opportunities.  Often training is provided as part of the volunteering opportunity so don’t forget to record any development/ training on your CV.

Talking of training, why not apply to attend some business focused training. Understanding business and developing entrepreneurial skills is really important for creative professionals, see the GSACareers post https://gsacareers.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/why-all-creative-graduates-should-be-enterprising/ for further information.  Most business support organisations will offer free training throughout the summer. Good places to find out about training events are; Cultural Enterprise Office: http://www.culturalenterpriseoffice.co.uk/website/ , PSYBT: http://www.psybt.org.uk/casestudies/22/13

Applying to and (hopefully) winning competitions and awards will also strengthen your CV and help you to become more visible to others in you sector.  Often students don’t  hear about fantastic competitions until it is too late and deadlines have passed.  So why not create your own opportunities diary for the coming year, which  is packed full of competition opportunities, awards and deadlines that are suitable to you and your practice. Luckily, there are a range of online sources of listings for creative competitions,  here are just a couple;

Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin are increasing in importance for students and new graduates professional toolkit.  Not got an online presence yet or have put off developing one because you  haven’t got any spare time? The summer months are your opportunity to really explore what social media practice can mean to you and your creative practice. Not  sure what social media is? GSACareers introduction to social media is a good starting point: https://gsacareers.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/introduction-to-social-media/

These are just a few of my career ideas to help you make the most of your summer holidays. Want to find out more, why don’t you come along to Wednesday’s  GSACareer session 4-5pm Bourdon Lecture Theatre to discuss your plans.

Get ready to launch!

imageslaunchAs a final year student you won’t need reminding that you are coming to the end of your studies. Your time is precious as you work towards your final degree show  and sometimes thinking about your future can get pushed to the bottom of your to do list.

However, taking some time to plan and prepare for your launch will help ensure that your opening night is a success and will support you to launch your career.  Here is my list of quick simple steps to take to ensure that  you will be prepared for your show.

The Degree Show is the best networking opportunity ever!…..So get your business card ready..

You must have business cards for your opening night. Why? Well your business card is the best networking tool that you can have. Build your contacts and network by ensuring that you always swap cards with new contacts. Your business card will have  all your contact details on it and be well designed. If you include and image on it, choose a key image from your show that you love, one that demonstrates your practice and that you can live with for some months as you might be left with some cards after the Degree show. See the Entrepreneur for further advice: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/71900.

How is your CV?…..

Create a CV that showcases your skills, creative practice and experience.  Remember to keep your CV and business design consistent to help build your brand. There is loads of online advice  regarding CV writing, here are a few links to get you started: Artquest http://www.artquest.org.uk/articles/view/how-to-create-a-cv  , Careers-Creative-Living http://www.careers-creative-living.co.uk/cv_creative  Creative Blog; http://www.creativebloq.com/career/design-resume-tips-11121145 Why not bring along your CV to the next GSA Career service CV surgery on Wednesday  8th May Bourdon Lecture Theatre 4-5pm  and get it checked?

Checkout your digital presence….what does Google say about you?

“Lacking a web presence or a digital footprint is probably the biggest mistake I see college students and recent grads making when it comes to social media and job hunting,” says Will Staney, Director of Recruiting and Strategic Programs at SuccessFactors. www.Forbes.com

A recent report from Jobvite http://recruiting.jobvite.com/resources/social-recruiting-reports-and-trends/ stated that nearly 50 % of recruiters research prospective candidates online.

So, If you do one thing before you graduate check  your online presence and make sure that it is professional. If you have a  facebook profile or social media activity that you don’t want found make sure  it private. And if you only have time to develop one online thing, make it  a Linkedin profile. www.linkedin.com . Why Linkedin?  Linked in is the fasted growing online professional community. Linked in will help you develop a live CV, upload your portfolio and network with like-minded professionals, employers and opportunity providers and it is one of the tags Google looks for in a search so you will be found quickly by employers.

Aim to stand out from the crowd…….

As a new graduate you are entering a competitive market full of other new graduates vying for opportunity providers and employers attentions. Make sure you stand out from the crowd by knowing what your unique selling point (USP) is i.e. what makes you different from the rest.? Understanding your USP will help you to build your confidence in your practice, skills and experience and enable you to articulate it to others. Developing a short 30 second verbal CV  that  highlights your practice and uniqueness  to others when you meet them is a great way to get a conversation started.Find out more about 30 second verbal CV’s here:  http://careerservices.evansville.edu/students/careerfairs/oralresume.html

Get informed and seek advice…..

Want to find out more about preparing for your Degree Show and launch ask GSACareers service for the ‘Making the Most of Your Degree Show’ handout or why not make and appointment with the GSA Careers Adviser to discuss your plans and strategy for your launch. Call 0141 353 4787 or email careers@gsa.ac.uk for an appointment  today.

And remember  the career service is available to all GSA Graduates.

GSA Degree Show  opens on Friday 8th June 2013  http://www.gsa.ac.uk/life/gsa-events/events/d/degree-show-2013/ Good luck to all who are exhibiting!