Leaving a creative job for the corporate world

You can barely leave the house without tripping over a restaurant or cafe opened by a banker. It has become so commonplace to hear about City-types packing in their well-paid careers to start a creative one that it might elicit an eye-roll down at the pub. Less common however, is hearing how somebody gave up a dream job in say, photography, or baking, to work as a banker. It’s a more challenging change, but one that could prove to be worthwhile. 

The long hours, the hard slog, and the generous remuneration means that many bankers are burning out by 30 and are craving a taste of the good life. By contrast, creative types have spent the last ten years grafting with enormous fulfilment, but little cash or benefits to show for it. It’s reasonable, therefore, to assume that occasionally, those in the creative industries might want a more lucrative change.

Isabelle, who trained as a graphic designer, knew she needed a change when she realised she didn’t have a pension. “It’s possible to earn quite a lot as a graphic designer. The work is steady and, as a freelancer, I have great contacts. But I realised that if I had kids I’d have no maternity pay, and no holiday schedule. I needed some structure.”

For creative-types, a corporate job at 21 might seem like the world’s worst decision, but by 30, the perks can feel more attractive.

Moving a freelance career into a corporate one can be tough. Unlike a banker moving to music, who has already proved they have the discipline, the teamwork, and ability with numbers, those in the creative industries just have the fruits of their individual passions to show for it. Being a musician is unlikely to help you succeed at Goldman Sachs, and while a writer could be capable at writing reports for a consultancy, they may not be detail-oriented. 

Aimee Bateman, founder of careercake.com thinks it’s never too late to change careers from a creative to a corporate one, but there can be difficulties. She says: “While in some respects you may ‘lack’ the skills needed to understand how a commercial office works (i.e. commercial targets, ‘office politics’ and the working day mentality) the characteristics you’ve developed from your current role will certainly put you in good stead to approaching certain tasks differently.

“The difficulty you may have, however, is communicating this value to an employer who may, on paper, be looking for the ‘easy’ candidate – the one who can get up and running quickly and cause as little downtime as possible. “

She advises candidates to think about what they want too. “If you’re creative you may think and work differently. You may have come from an environment where you aren’t constrained by things such as working hours, or having to pass an idea through multiple departments. You may feel that this may constrain you too much as it’s not what you’re used to.”

Retraining is another, simpler way to change careers, although it’ll mean starting from the bottom again. Doing a law conversion and the Graduate Diploma in Law is one way to move into a corporate role from a creative position. It’ll require time out to study, and course costs, but gett a role at a Silver Circle or Magic Circle firm and you will more than make your money back. Fancy a move to banking when you’ve only been a session drummer so far? It sounds impossible, but as long as you have a degree, showing will is most vital. 

Like Isabelle, Lucy* was also concerned about a future with no stability. “I’d been secretly smug watching my housemates go to work every day. I just headed to the kitchen and set up my editing software to do video work.

“But I began to worry about career progression - I loved what I was doing, but could I imagine doing this day in, day out, forever? Nobody was ever going to say “well done” or promote me. I started looking for in-house video work, with the aim to get a full-time job.” After a few months, Lucy was picked up by a big bank, working with the marketing team shooting their promotional videos.

Lucy says: “Now I have a pension, get a bonus, and have a review in three weeks. I feel like there’s a culture of presenteeism, which is something I’m having to get used to. I don’t get why there’s so much back and forth over tiny things when I could just do the work in half the time by myself. But hey, it’s a tradeoff.”

*Name has been changed.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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