I have been a massive fan of your work for a long time now and you are a huge inspiration to me! I have many questions but I’ll keep it simple. Would you say your degree is what got you recognised in the industry? I am currently studying design at Massey but I don’t feel like it is getting me to where I would like to be. So basically, I am just wondering if there is any possibility for me to get recognised, without a degree. - Rachel
Hi Rachel! Thank you so much for submitting your question. In my case, no it wasn't my degree that got me recognised in the industry. Since graduating I have only ever mentioned my degree when speaking at conferences and I have only used those credentials professionally when applying to tutor at another university and when I applied for my job at The Jacky Winter Group - my qualifications are not something that any client has ever enquired about. In answer to your question, yes it is definitely possible to be recognised without a degree under your belt. I feel it irresponsible to just leave the answer at that so I will add in some extra thoughts on the subject - I'd like to reinforce that these are my opinions in relation to my own experiences.
The University I went to was positive in the fact that it encouraged creative thought and thinking process, and at the age of 18 I believed it to be a natural progression from high school. I didn't really think of any other options (of which there are many for creatives), I didn't consider the financial investment and alternative ways to use that money, nor was I encouraged to have these kinds of thoughts while at high school. I don't imagine that many 17 or 18 year olds would be considering alternative options, and I think that there should be a lot more insider information available when making the decision to pursue higher education.
When at University I found myself a little disgruntled about some of the compulsory papers that seemed quite irrelevant for what I wanted to achieve - those papers never became relevant as expected, and I soon learnt that many very important things such as licensing, starting a business and actually making money to pay off my education were not focused on enough. A year after graduating I saw an old tutor and I mentioned that it was great to learn to think, but what of tools to put thoughts in to practice in the real world? (There were many missing steps for my $30K). She got quite defensive about it, she was an "artist" not commercially driven so not the person to even attempt that conversation with.
For all people considering furthering their education I think it is important to ask yourself if you are actually ready, or if you are just doing it because it seems like the thing to do. Are you sure you want to dedicate four years and "x" dollars to this direction? Have you considered a part time job while doing a more hands on focused internship or apprenticeship? What about a short course and with the time saved a serious amount of hands on practical experience? Education and learning are always very important, but there are many ways to learn, and with a creative industry heavily driven by portfolio, experience, and profile it is important to consider the big picture not just the next few years.
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Photo - Elle Fanning by Angelo Pennetta