If you want to work in a creative industry, the important thing to remember is this: you might be working for free for a very long time, even after graduating college…even if you manage to get 3 very relevant and prestigious degrees. Anyway, moving on. You’ll still learn, grow and meet new people. You’ll network, and explore, and hopefully discover the facet of the industry where you’ll really want to settle. But some days, working for free will stink. When you’re poring over tedious tasks that you’ve already known how to do for years, and you’re not learning as much in your internship as you’d wished – when you don’t have time for a lunch break because you’re covering for someone, doing their work that they’re paid to do – it can be really frustrating. But here are some things that I think are important to remember – some things that help me feel sane:
1. Your boss probably wants to pay you.
Creative industries are competitive. Very competitive. And that drives prices down. If all your competition is using unpaid interns to keep costs low, chances are, they’ll have to do the same thing. Unless your boss finds a genius work around that your competition can’t immediately rip off, they’ll probably find they have to employ similar tactics to the competition – just to keep afloat. I like to think the boss doesn’t enjoy the idea of breaking the law via unpaid interns and risking legal action – they’re just not sure what else to do.
2. Working in entertainment is a luxury.
Back in the old days, “starving artist” had a much more literal meaning. The fact that such a huge portion of our population can afford to work in some sort of artistic endeavor is pretty darn amazing. Enjoy being one of the comparatively few individuals throughout the history of the human race that can afford to work in a creative field. There are so many people that can’t (which brings to mind the maddening concept that extended unpaid internships after graduation contribute to a class divide barrier to entry – but more on that some other time).
3. Put your efforts to good use!
Sometimes working in a creative industry can feel hedonistic and pointless. If you’re going to work for free, search for projects that give you a sense of community and accomplishment. Put your efforts behind a cause you believe in. If you’re working for free, making logos for animal shelters won’t wear you down emotionally the same way making logos for hedge funds will. It’s an extreme example, but you get my point. And just because you’re working for free (or close to free), doesn’t mean your work inherently has less value.
4. Maybe you can change the system one day.
Industries change, and human beings are the catalysts. If you somehow come squirming through this hellhole that some days certainly feel like, you just might end up in a position of power. Prepare to pay back into the system: take the time to consider how things can be improved for entry level workers. Like most things in life, those that need the help and change aren’t in a position of power to achieve it.
Well, that’s it for now, keep your chin up and enjoy your path! I’m certainly trying to do so.