Welcome to the first issue of the Early Creative, a LinkedIn-exclusive newsletter bringing you advice, stories, and resources to support you in the early stages of your career in the arts and creative industries. All brought to you from the #2 arts and design university in the world (QS World University Rankings 2023).

This issue is all about career changing. There are many reasons why you might feel like you need a career change, but the thought of it can be daunting, especially if you’re switching creative discipline or transitioning from a non-creative career path. This newsletter is focused on providing practical tips and insights that might help you with a career change into the arts.

Photograph by Alys Tomlinson

Nina Gonzalez-Park: From clinical research to life in the studio

Meet Nina, one student at UAL with an inspiring career change story. Nina was artistic from a young age, but when applying for university aged 17, she didn’t think she had the entrepreneurial spirit to take on a career as a full-time artist.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Boston University, she became a clinical researcher, working on research trials in heart and disease cancer. But after 4 years of work, she didn’t feel completely satisfied with her scientific career.

“I was getting promotions regularly and picking up the work really well, but something wasn’t clicking.”

Photograph by Alys Tomlinson

She started to take a few short creative courses, but felt a desire to pursue art as a career rather than just as a hobby.

Nina applied for MA Art and Science at Central Saint Martins, which fit her desire to combine her scientific expertise with her artistic sensibilities. Now, 6 months after graduating, she is pursuing the career she once thought impossible: that of a full-time artist.

Career-changing tips from Nina’s story

Appreciate your transferable skills

Before university, Nina was worried that she didn’t have what it takes to sustain the practical side an art career. But now, she’s appreciative of some of the skills she gained in her first profession that translated into her art career.

“Having worked in a company, knowing how operations work and time management has been one of the most useful skills I picked up during my previous job that are necessary for a successful art career.”

Changing careers can feel like you have a late start compared to others, but the unique combination of skills you bring from your previous roles can set you apart in your new industry. Take some time to reflect on what you gained in your experience so far that might be useful in your new career. These transferable skills can also be vital in a CV or portfolio. It’s important to be able to explain how these skills will apply to your new pursuit.

Gain skills in your new field

For Nina, entering a masters programme in her new field was vital in giving her the time to develop her practice and gain new skills.

At an institution like UAL, access to studios, labs and workshops with highly knowledgeable technicians means you can discover new ways of creating and learn to use equipment you may not otherwise have access to.

Nina’s work included learning to use the Grow Lab, the metal workshop and the printmaking workshop, none of which she knew how to use prior to the programme.

“Central Saint Martins has all these technicians within the workshops who all are experts in their fields and at using those machines. They make you feel like you’re in a very safe environment and help turn your ideas into reality.”

Taking short courses, experimenting with new skills, and practicing what you know will be key to feeling comfortable in your new career.

Photograph by Alys Tomlinson

Learn about the industry

When changing career, your initial lack of insider knowledge of the industry might seem daunting. Spend some dedicated time learning about your new industry by attending industry events, signing up to industry-specific newsletters or magazines, and beginning to network with people doing similar things. You can also find people at all stages of careers on places like TikTok and Instagram who share the day-to-day experience of their work.

For Nina, one benefit of a postgraduate degree is the access to industry specific knowledge and connections.

“I very specifically chose to do the masters course because I wanted to pivot and I knew that I needed to take the time to learn about an entirely different industry.”

Consider your next step

Thinking of pursing a postgraduate degree as part of your career change? Our 6 prestigious Colleges and Creative Computing Institute offer a wide range of taught courses leading to postgraduate qualifications:

  • Masters (MA, MFA, MRes, MSc, MBA; M ARCH): These taught courses generally represent 180 credits and typically require between 1–2 years of full-time study
  • Certificates and diplomas: Several of our Colleges offer courses leading to Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert), Graduate Diploma or Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) qualifications. These courses are as academically challenging but are generally shorter than master’s courses and represent fewer credits.
Photograph by Alys Tomlinson

Nina’s (and your) future

For Nina, this career change has meant she can now focus on what she’s passionate about: combining art and science. “I’ll definitely try to continue to find ways for our artists and scientists to meld those 2 disciplines because right now it’s almost discussed as if it’s an exception.”

Nina’s final advice for anyone considering a career change? Always have an objective: “London can have a lot of stimuli. Stay focused and really commit to what it is that you want to do, even if it does change over time.”

Learn more about postgraduate study at UAL