As a generation, we millennials are multi-skilled and well educated. Our commitment to landing a job we love means that we work harder, longer and more efficiently. What we lack in experience we make up for in almost every other category. And we’re quick learners—we have to be. Yet despite our hard work and dedication, landing a job in a creative industry is a huge challenge.
We are dreamers, but we also know the harsh realities of the job market. We know that, for the vast majority of us, a nine-to-five job doesn’t exist. And, we know that degree does not equal job. If anything remains the same as for our parents’ generation it’s that who you know is still pretty damn important. The phrase “it’s who you know, not what you know” has been conveniently repackaged as one word—networking. We won’t tolerate the obstacles many of our parents routinely faced in the 1970s and 80s—sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and religious discrimination. Yet we have our own frustrations. Most of our parents didn’t invest five or six years in a tertiary education that came with a $50,000 HECS debt. Each generation has had its struggles, but a lot has changed for the worse.
Today, without a helping hand from someone in the industry, there’s no easy way to the job you want—the journey is convoluted with little sleep and little money. If you want to be an editor then be prepared to find a job in sales and marketing first. If you want to be a journalist for mainstream media then pack your bag because you’re off to regional Victoria for two years—if you’re lucky. We’re encouraged to trade our six years of tertiary education to work our way up from a job in admin—it’s a foot in the door, you know!
Unlike our friends in accounting, engineering or tech, we have limited graduate opportunities. We can’t just throw in the towel for the famous Aldi graduate role that advertises a car, a phone and a six-figure salary … or can we? It sounded pretty great when I typed it.
On top of our opportunities being few and far between, the jobs we settle on aren’t usually goldmines. The casualisation of the workplace means that job security starts to become about as important as a payslip and about as irregular as a pay rise. It’s not uncommon to get sent home after three hours of work, or get dropped from the roster the week after Christmas.
For most creatives, the only option is freelancing—at least to begin with, and potentially forever. But boy it’s hard. The work is irregular and always seems to come in waves. There will be weeks of nothing followed by sixteen-hour days back-to-back. You’re expected to work over the weekend so that a business has up until Friday to send the work and receives your edit back on Monday—maximising efficiency and using none of their resources over the weekend. It’s genius. Despite all this, we drop everything and treat every piece of work like it’s an absolute blessing.
Freelancing has its perks. You get to work from home, with your pyjamas on, and pay no tax (because you hardly make any money). But, whilst you’re trying to build your portfolio, you’re going to need a casual or part-time job on the side—something more stable in order to pay the rent. Now you’re a typologist/bartender, an illustrator/nanny or a proofreader/receptionist.
Technology means that we can work from anywhere, at any time. So that’s exactly what’s expected. The “always on” culture means that you have no excuse not to be available. With emails conveniently arriving on our phones, and team messaging platforms like Slack, switching off is a thing of the past. When you’re working, you’re working and when you’re not working, you might still be working—or worse, anticipating potential work.
Once we’ve established our LinkedIn profile and signed up to all the freelancing websites, what’s left? Perseverance, determination and our desire to live rather than just exist drives us to keep pushing. All those motivational quotes on Pinterest have made us resilient and open-minded. There may not be a shiny 27-inch iMac to come home to, but there are options and possibilities—and that’s a good start. If anyone can brave the new world of work, in all its harsh realities, it’s us!
The next time someone asks you why you don’t have an investment property, a secure job or a free car provided by Aldi, you can let them know that you sacrificed all that to be creative.
Bianca Jafari is a proofreader/ghost writer/receptionist. She is a communications graduate and a current publishing student. She winds down with self-help non-fiction and saves all her millennial-money to visit the world’s most wonderful snorkelling spots.