Is an arts degree truly the ‘bachelor of unemployment’?

7 things they didn’t tell me during an arts degree, or maybe I wasn’t listening…

bachelor unemployment

If you haven’t been listening either, maybe it’s time to start. Or maybe no one’s telling you these things that I had to figure out on my own.

During uni I never spent one minute worrying about finding a job once I was finished my degree. At the start of the course they gave us the impression that hundreds of companies were out there, just waiting to snuffle up graduates like us. Of course, a university would say that. At the beginning. How else do they lock in your fees?

And then at the end of my three years I found myself with a bachelor degree and no job. And no likelihood of getting one, if the first six months were any indication. I felt like Deakin had pulled one over on me. “You know all those jobs we told you were available at the start of your degree? Psych! There are none. Thanks for all the cash! Cheers, bye xx.”

I felt like there was no follow up, no nurturing or preparing for the real world once the training wheels of university were removed. (In high school, they refer to uni as the ‘real world’—it’s not.) I looked on in envy at nurses and teachers who all got ‘placed’ in graduate jobs or internships. While it had seemed easy at the time that my degree didn’t contain a mandatory placement, now all of a sudden I felt ripped off. Where was my head start, my foot in the door?

3-5 years experience

And three years later I am still trying to get a foot, a pinky, in any arts door. I have applied for over 100 jobs by now, broadening my search further and further, and received two interviews.

What is wrong with me? Where did I go wrong? My sister used to joke about my arts degree, calling it the ‘Bachelor of Unemployment’. Boy, do I feel bad about teasing those philosophy majors now.

I spent a long time feeling like a failure, and still do some days. I have dreams of being a writer but instead I work in retail, the industry I started in when I was 16, never imagining I would still be here.

I chalk my first mistake up to naively turning down an internship that my journalism teacher offered to put me forward for. “No thanks, journalism isn’t really my thing” was my reply. Oh, silly girl.

That brings me to my first point.

1) Take any advantage or opportunity presented to you, even if it’s not your ideal job or expertise

Looking back now, I would jump at the opportunity to have interned for the Geelong Advertiser, especially before I had even completed my degree. At the end of the day, experience is experience. Nobody starts out in their dream job and I really regret turning down an opportunity to kick start my arts resume and make some worthy connections. You can have all the experience in the world (like I do in retail) but relevant industry experience is really all employers seem to look at.

2) If there is an option to do a placement or internship, always take it

I saw on the course guide in third year that we could do a placement. It sounded like fun until I saw that the university didn’t help you at all. You had to organise the placement by yourself. I had just come back from a six month exchange in the United States. Organising somewhere to live at such late notice was hard enough, let alone this. It seemed like too much effort, so I let the opportunity slide. I would advise any arts student to go to the effort of organising their own placement. If it’s not a course elective, organise one and ask for approval of credit from your faculty. Those contacts forged would be invaluable now. The phrase “it’s who you know” is truer today than ever before (in more industries than just the creative ones, but that’s another issue). I find it interesting that the only people from my course that now have writing related jobs are through family, friends, or previous volunteer experience.


3) Keep in contact with your classmates and professors

Actively seek advice from your professors and follow what you can. If someone on the inside is going to be on your side, it’s your teacher. They may be able to make an introduction, put in a good word for you, or just give you some good tips on breaking into the industry. If they don’t offer it outright (let’s be honest, they have a lot on their plates), make an appointment to speak with them and pick their brains. Ask their tips and advice, also if they can put you in contact with anyone who might eventually be able to offer you an internship or job.

I remember asking the teacher of my Shakespeare class in third year whether it was worth doing an honours year after my bachelor degree. His response was, “Honestly, you’ll end up a year later with another piece of paper, a bigger HECS debt and still no job. The best advice I can give you is to get out there and gain industry experience. Get any job you can in your field and work your way up.”

And here I am still trying.

4) Be proactive and start early

Maybe you found a job straight out of uni. Congratulations. This article is not for you.

It is only after years of unsuccessful job hunting has made me so desperate that I am now seeking advice from all avenues. I wish so much that I could have started volunteering for companies during university. The problem was I didn’t realise how tough the job market is out there. There are scores of graduates for every one job being advertised. We are faced with the horrible catch-22 of needing experience to get your first job, but no one giving you a chance in order for you to gain experience. It is one of the more frustrating paradoxes that I have experienced.

Don’t wait to see first-hand if your field is tough. Start being proactive now. You’re only going to thank yourself later.

Get your work out there. If you’re a writer and don’t have a blog, start one. It is crucial in this day and age to have an online presence (more than your social media accounts, although those are crucial too). I currently have a personal blog, and am also writing a novel. An editor can’t publish your manuscript if you don’t have one ready to show them. There is no wrong time to spend time working on your craft and building up your portfolio. Write every day. Spend time journaling, responding to creative prompts, drafting scripts and stories and essays.

On social media, clean up your profiles. It’s naïve to think that employers these days don’t Google people. Make sure that your online profile presents you as a person that they would want to employ. Create connections with people and companies that you admire, and see where it could lead, particularly with LinkedIn.

Read like crazy. Anything and everything you can get your hands on. If you think learning stops once you’ve got that graduation certificate, you’ve got another thing coming. Read books and articles on the publishing industry, or whatever arts industry you are interested in. Knowledge is power.

Submit your work to places like magazines or online journals, but make sure you do your homework and read up on the kind of submissions they are currently looking for, otherwise you will be wasting your time.

5) Volunteer

While a part-time job in your industry during your degree is ideal (and you should definitely try this first), it’s not always realistic. I know it may not seem very glamorous, but working for free is a great way for a company to take a risk-free chance on you. Being willing to work for free also shows how much you want to be there. It also gets you that really valuable experience that seems to be necessary for any paying job these days. I volunteered for a food and lifestyle blog The World Loves Melbourne for just over a year and am currently doing the blog, Instagram and newsletter for a program on Channel 31. It’s great, but I could have done more.

Yes, it is exhausting to volunteer while working a full time job but at the end of the day, it might be the only pathway to someone giving you a full time job in your field. Unfortunately, us arts kids often have to take the scenic route. Don’t let it get you too down. I had originally thought that volunteering was not an option open to me once I started full time work (I am currently in retail management) but one of my friends in the TV industry pointed out that I could volunteer one afternoon a week, or fortnight. I hadn’t thought about it like that before, assuming it was all or nothing, but anything is better than nothing.

getting serious

6) Use your connections

Networking. Half the time the word sends shivers down my spine because frankly, the whole concept makes me kind of uncomfortable. To some people like my fiancé Jacques, networking seems to come naturally. I’ve already mentioned lecturers and tutors, but think about the other people you have in your life who could connect you with a potential employer.

Research some networking events in your city and attend them. I recommend going with a friend as I admit that they can start out somewhat awkward, but they can be really worthwhile. If you know anyone successful in your field, ask to make a time to sit down with them and pick their brains. They’re obviously doing something right.

7) Don’t be proud

I know it’s not the millennial way of thinking, but in most careers, people have worked their way up from the bottom. This requires patience, perseverance, perhaps a salary cut, hard work and humility. If you’re looking to jump the queue, so to speak, and step straight into a senior role, you need to wake up. You might have to take a lower paying job that you intended, but you have to start somewhere. Don’t be too good for any job. Any job in your industry should be a good enough starting point.

I know it’s hard out there. Believe me, I know. And I don’t have a writing job yet, so you might be justified if you don’t take any of my advice. But I’m sure that I’m closer now than I’ve ever been.

Best of luck! May you land a job quicker than I did.



Sources (accessed 30 November 2017):


When Feminism Gets Dangerous


Most people would say that chauvinism is worse than feminism, right? According to Beyoncé’s song, Flawless, ‘feminism’ is the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

Now there is nothing wrong with this. This is fantastic and we should all be striving to see the amazing value of both sexes, as equals. It is when radical feminism heads down the path of things like man-hating that this ideal begins to run into the danger zone. When a woman thinks that women should have more rights than a man etc etc, what makes that any better than chauvinism? That is, after all, what chauvinism essentially is.

Both result in an ingrained hatred and bitterness toward the opposite sex, which is neither healthy nor constructive, and doesn’t solve the problems that either sex are battling against. It makes our problem worse by hollowing out an even greater abyss between the genders.

And university hasn’t helped. In particular the arts department. In many classrooms across our nation, bitter women are teaching younger women to be bitter. From the moment I sat down in my first university class, I felt one message being strongly pushed on me:

Understand just how hated you are as a woman.

Now there are positive ways my views have changed because of university. I’ve come to accept the basics of feminism, as valuing men and women equally, but it is this radicalism that still doesn’t sit well with me. Girls walking around angry because of things they are afraid might be done to them, assuming every guy is a lusting jerk not worth her time. And heaven forbid someone tries to open a door for her, pull out a chair, or tell her she’s pretty.

In my Shakespeare class last year, there were some prescribed articles for homework that I would read half way through and then literally have to put down, feeling my chest physically tightening from the pure hatred emanating from the page like tangible waves of nausea.

It actually began to affect me so much, weighing down my mind and spirit, that it was having an impact on my life outside of university.

By second semester of third year, I was feeling ready to finish my degree solely because of this. It was then that I stumbled into my favourite literature class of my whole degree, with a wonderful professor named Alyson.

Toward the end of the semester, we read Howl by Allen Ginsberg, and were asked to write a poem “howling” against something. So I decided to howl against extreme feminism. I don’t remember it being especially good, but I do remember it had an A-B rhyming pattern.

I was extremely nervous to present it to the class, feeling for the last 3 years that I had been severely outnumbered. I was finally speaking out.

After I finished reading, people clapped. Alyson smiled and what she said next actually brought me to an understanding of feminism as an ideal for the first time.

“I want women to have the power, the independence to choose, and if that means getting married, taking their husband’s name, and having babies, then good luck to them! But I can sleep at night knowing that they had a choice” (Paraphrased from my memory).

There is nothing wrong with equality. We were created equal. Equal value, equal intelligence, equal moral capacity. What goes wrong is when one gender sets itself up against the other, seeking to take power rather than add value, whether its men or women. We were also created different, and these differences should be celebrated, rather than eliminated.

Last summer (to my shame) I got super defensive with my cousin Caleb during a discussion about Tony Abbott and the accusations of chauvinism against him. I could feel myself trembling and tears were welling up in my eyes. There was hot anger rushing all through my body. I stopped, saddened at the thought: “What has uni done to me?”

During this time of finishing university and in the months following, I could hear a quiet but clear voice inside me saying, “Put down your weapon. You were never called to fight men.”

I apologised to my cousin.

Imagine how much each of these problems could be improved if both men and women are thinking about the best for others around them, trying to assume the best, rather than walking around with a chip on their shoulder, wondering how to bring the other sex down a peg.

Working together will produce outstandingly better results than living in bitterness, pitted against one another. So if you need to forgive the other gender, or your own, or any of the people at your university etc, do it today. Then walk out of a cage of bitterness/anger/chauvinism/radical feminism/fear/ignorance.


Sincerely, Lil

Sticking to your guns

One night in my first year at university I offered one of my friends five bucks to not drink that night. He’d already declared he wasn’t drinking. No one could make him. He laughed at me because he had control over whether he drank or not. Or did he? Usually, I only wager when I have control over the outcome, but I felt pretty confident this time. I know five bucks isn’t much, but the five bucks isn’t the point.

When my younger friends ask about going into a college environment, the best advice I can give them is: stick to your guns. Decide what you want to do, and then do it. You want to have a few social ones? Cool. You’re not going to drink at all? Great. But do what you’ve decided, not what someone else has decided for you in the heat of a drunken moment. Because you’re the one who will have to live with the consequences, not your mates.

It turns out my five dollars was safe. My friend drank, and I had proven my point. He struggled to stick to his guns. A lot of the time regretted decisions don’t come from a lack of conviction, but rather from a simple lack of planning and forethought. Before you move on residence, or into your off-campus apartment and start meeting a slew of new, exciting people, have a think about what your boundaries are. How far are you going to go? What are you comfortable with? What are your priorities?

For me, people found out that I was a Christian on orientation day. I didn’t even have to make a point of telling people. Trust me, it comes out pretty fast. We were playing an ice breaker game and had to find people who fit certain categories. I was the person who could have a good time without drinking. I ended up as the name on everyone’s sheet of paper. The only one. It’s not hard to stand out as a Christian in a uni environment, but it is hard to stand strong and follow Jesus unwaveringly throughout your degree. More often than you think people will strongly encourage you to turn away, to give up. And only sometimes with their words. They’ll tell you that your standards are too high, that your way of living is outdated and ‘unrealistic in today’s world’. People can sometimes attempt to bring other people down because they feel bad about their own actions. Don’t be their scapegoat. Rather, love them and be an example.

Sincerely, Lil