iris Creative, Sophia Johnson on why mentoring is so valuable to help young people break down barriers
July 23, 2017
The creative industries traditionally recruit through networks and are notoriously hard to break into. We spoke to Louis a mentor and Sophia a mentee about breaking down perceptions.
Entry jobs in the creative industries are notoriously elusive. Graduates often rely on personal connections to get their foot through the door via unpaid internships. The statistics speak for themselves.
According to a Creative Skillset survey, 56% of those surveyed found out about their current or most recent role through informal recruitment methods. On top of this, the support that creative students get at school is dwindling, entries for GCSEs in arts and creative subjects have fallen by 8% (46,000) this year (CIF). This leaves school students unprepared for the creative world of work, lacking the understanding of how to get their foot in the door.
Is this too intimidating to young people starting out?
Louis, a 6th-form an alumni of CMN programme in early 2017, was one of the many young people who felt intimidated. When he started the programme, he possessed qualities that many employers expect in graduates: focus and passion. This posed quite a daunting task for his mentor Sophia, a Mid-Weight Creative at Iris, who questioned how she could be of any help to such a focused individual. Sophia, describing the challenges she saw Louis face, says
“Often, especially coming straight from the education system, it can be easy to build an unrealistic but understandable perception of what the world of work is like - a daunting place where you will be judged and have to prove yourself to a hierarchy of people that are too busy for the likes of you. Like many others trying to break in, it became apparent that this was something that Louis was facing. However, with time, networking and a mentor / mentee relationship built upon respect, I hope and truly believe that our time together on the CMN scheme has equipt Louis with the confidence to know he has same right to be in the room as everyone else does.”
The confidence to go for it
Since the programme has ended, Louis has made incredible headway, co-founding a media production company called MotivisionUK (@MotivisionUK), focused on motivating the young people and inspiring those without a voice to create their own content. On top of this, he is taking all the steps he needs to officially start his own media production company as well as planning for his first ever short film, that he hopes to try and get out by the end of the year. He’s also been able to get his foot in the door, having been offered a week’s work experience at Revolution, a film production company, an opportunity he accessed through the programme.
Reflecting back on the programme Louis said:
"CMN HAS GIVEN ME INSIGHTS THAT SCHOOL HAS NEVER GIVEN ME. LIFE SKILLS. YOU REALISE THAT YOU SHOULD RELAX, SIT DOWN AND LISTEN, SEE WHAT PEOPLE HAVE TO SAY TO YOU AND TAKE CRITICISM AS CONSTRUCTIVE. IT'S NOT A PERSONAL ATTACK ON YOU, IT'S JUST YOUR STUFF COULD BE BETTER. EVERYONE AT IRIS WAS HELPING TO MAKE MY WORK BETTER AND I DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.”
What happens after school?
When describing his change in attitude towards future plans, Louis explains: “Before the programme I was intending to study Graphic Design at university, and I was set to follow the general course of "education". CMN has been the only opportunity that has passed my way in 7 years of secondary and 6th form education that was actually catered to creative students and that was useful. Over the course of CMN I have realised that university and the education system is not for me and I have decided not to go to university as I do not believe it is the best option for me. I have decided to take a foundation year at Ravensbourne which is completely free which lasts a year and will help to strengthen my portfolio and network. Once the year is over I will go straight into the Creative Industry and learn on the job.”
As a recent university graduate herself, Sophia notes, “You don't have to have a university degree to come and do what we do. You just have to be able to connect with the right people. Opportunities like CMN allow that to happen.”
Time for change
Observing the clarity that Louis developed over the course of the CMN programme makes it clear to us that many young people in mainstream education don’t have access to information they need about the creative industries, the jobs available and the paths they are lacking. Just offering young people like Louis access to a pool of knowledge about these things can make all the difference. As university applications decrease, as reported by the Financial Times, it’s clear that it’s becoming more and more important for organisations to access school leaver talent. What we need now are more organisations like CMN that connect young people from all backgrounds to the ever opaque creative networks.
We’re so excited that Louis is already doing such great things, and we can’t wait to see what he does in the future!