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


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