Finding Future Employment

We Don’t Need No Drama?

The Drama Box’s Tabby Fallace takes us back to leaving further education with an arts degree – pointless? Perhaps on paper, but purposeful in practice, she proposes.

There was an audible sigh when I told my mum I would be studying Drama at university, a strained “Are you sure?” and a (successful) attempt to get me to combine my Honours degree with a (vaguely) more lucrative subject – English Literature. Well-meaning adults across my adolescent life encouraged me to think about the minimal potential job opportunities and careers that would await me with a decidedly “arty” degree. With 6.1% of arts graduates finding themselves in unemployment, compared to 3.7% of their more revered STEM counterparts, their concern is no surprise. But stories were the hook on which I hung my academic cloak and I was determined to pursue the only route I knew.

Three years later when me and my cohort flew the academic coop, I was one of the first to land a job, while others struggled on with interview after interview. Luck, probably not? Exceptional talent? I’m sure I would’ve liked to think so! But no, I believe it was a pre-emptive possession of the vital skills needed in our future workforce.

That first job was a freelance role and led to me building up what would certainly be described as a portfolio career. I can’t count the number of times since graduating I have been advised to stick it out for a while and get a “real” (a.k.a 9-5 job). At the risk of sounding immodest, I believe I have a lot of skills and pursue diverse interests. Finding a more conventional salaried role felt as though it wouldn’t be conducive to growing my skill-set or career. In a 2016 report by Recruitment and Employment Federation a survey found that only 13% of British people believe that they will be working in traditional ‘9-5’ employment by 2025 so it seems I am far from alone in this sentiment. In fact the Solving Future Skills document produced by Universities UK predicts the linear career path will ‘cease to exist’ requiring future employees to be ‘flexible, resilient and committed to lifelong learning as a fact of working life’; that sounds an awful lot like someone who manages a portfolio career to me. The fact is that the workplace is changing and young people, in fact all people, need to be ready to adapt and diversify as their roles and companies evolve at an ‘exponential…pace’.

I doubt that I would have had the confidence and gumption to up sticks and move 500 miles away to a city where I knew two people if I hadn’t spent a large portion of my child, teenage and adolescent years meeting and working with large groups of diverse characters. It is due to this move that my wage can match the requirements of rent (a common problem for those choosing a creative career path) and more importantly that I have been able to anchor a sustainable creative career.

Workplace politics, sadly, exist and nothing could have prepared me for this more than being bestowed the role of assistant director over my contingent’s final year project (a title myself and others felt was undeserved given my struggle with punctuality and consistency during my undergraduate years). Yet here I had the opportunity to carve out a leadership role for myself and brutally attempt to win the respect of my peers. I was plagued by anxiety and imposter syndrome in this period, but fought my way through by seeking to better our production and giving myself whole-heartedly to the task at hand; the result was modest, the lesson lifelong! Later on in my career, I gained invaluable experience repeatedly facing large groups of teens immediately perturbed by my English accent and colleagues skeptical of new ideas. I had grown my Shrek-like layers of thick onion skin and was able to persevere creatively whilst rapidly building meaningful and sincere relationships with participants. What technology degree builds a resilience and rapport that hardy, I wonder?

In a world where “65% of children entering primary schools…will ultimately work in new jobs and functions that don’t currently exist” transferable skills are fast becoming the only skills that educators can be certain will be relevant in gaining and sustaining future employment. Cognitive flexibility, creative thinking, collaboration, decision-making, people management, negotiation and emotional intelligence all feature on Forbes hot-list of skills essential to our future workforce. But how, you may ask, can you teach all these skills and prepare learners to use them in different contexts? Well, drama does a pretty good job of that. As an artform its subjective nature means these skills can and will be simulated in a number of learning contexts in order to strengthen and develop their application by learners. Not only this, but many of the ‘soft skills’ mentioned are intrinsic to the subject’s interpersonal and collaborative nature. Given this unmistakable crossover perhaps it is time to release perception of the arts from it’s practical application across many professions.

I’m not saying I have had a hugely lucrative career thanks to my arts degree, but I’ve rarely been out of work and often when I meet people from other sectors I hear “I can so imagine you being/doing x/y/z”; the skills imparted to me during my arts degree have made me into an employee chameleon and in a world where we can’t predict who will win Love Island correctly, let alone what jobs will be up for grabs in 10 years, I’m pretty grateful for this distinct advantage.

This post was written by Tabby Fallace, Drama Ambassador at The Drama Box