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Career Options in Culture, Music & Performing Arts: Student

The undergraduate life most likely involves becoming cultured about the wide variety of charity shops, value supermarkets and hectic nightclubs. Your knowledge of music is limited to the cheesy pop your flatmate blares out every morning and the only ‘performance’ you put in is telling a fib to the bus driver to get a cheaper ticket.

Tempting though it may be, you know this won’t look particularly fantastic on your CV. The culture, music and performing arts industry is a competitive and cut-throat, so what opportunities are available to you as an undergraduate to get ahead of the competition?

Opportunities available to undergraduates

- University societies

- Internships

- Being proactive!

Your course will provide you with vast amounts of experience regardless of the extra-curricular activities you undertake. This totally makes sense though, right? If you’re a drama student, you will be assessed on your performances. If you study music, it’s certain that you’ll have to put together a final composition. However, you can also go the extra mile as an undergraduate and add more experience to your CV in a (royal) variety of ways.

Joining university societies is a must for all students, particularly those studying a degree related to culture, music and performing arts. If you’re keen on establishing a career as a musician, the live music society is one for you. They’ll host regular shows and events, allowing you to showcase your work and increase your portfolio. The same can be said for a drama student and the drama society. This society will run their own plays, and there’s opportunity to even write and direct your own play. What better experience for an aspiring script writer or director than actually writing and directing their own play? University societies also allow you to move away from the intense academic schedule and work on something out of pure enjoyment.

For some subsectors of the culture, music and performing arts industry, internships will be available. It’s quite bizarre to even think of an aspiring musician doing an internship as a recording artist, but a marketing internship for a local music festival is definitely a possibility. Additionally, an aspiring set designer could seek out work experience as a runner on an upcoming film or TV show.

All it takes is a stroke of luck to get ahead in this industry, yet it’s important to remember that you make your own luck. As a music student, you’re going to be writing your own stuff and be able to play at least one instrument. With it easier than ever to get your work out there and listened to thanks to music sharing platforms and social media, you need to be plugging your own stuff (though not to the extent that nightclub promoters do with their weekly guest lists) and, if it’s good, the sharing will sort itself out. Another way to be proactive is by combining your expertise with your friends. For example, if you’re an aspiring actor and your friend is a wannabe film director, get together over the summer break and make some short films. This will help both of you by increasing the size of your portfolio and will also involve a crazy amount of fun (read: crazy amount of bloopers).

Deadlines to consider

As an undergraduate studying for a degree in the culture, music and performing arts discipline, you’ll naturally have a lot of deadlines, from university or drama school coursework to learning your lines for the latest drama society production. Add into the mix any internship applications (check with the respective company for their deadlines and set yourself deadlines for any speculative applications) and you get quite a congested calendar.

It’s important to remain on the ball when it comes to meeting deadlines. The entire industry works to strict deadlines on a daily basis so it’s key that you can complete tasks on time and to the best of your ability. 

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