In autumn 2020, you may have seen on the news and across social media that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said that people in the arts sector “should retrain and find other jobs”. In this article I will discuss how the arts, and other jobs, have been affected by the pandemic, and what you need to look at before taking the plunge into your dream job.
Firstly, what are ‘the arts’? This phrase is thrown around a lot and it can be unclear what it means. It doesn’t simply mean jobs that involve art – e.g. people who paint or draw – it also describes jobs to do with acting, music, dance, comedy, writing, and fashion. It’s quite a variety. If you simply look at Wicked in the West End, the people who act and sing in the musical aren’t the only ones who are considered to work in ‘the arts’. Everyone from the lighting engineer to the band conductor, from the musicians to the costume designer, from the set design to the director, and from the scriptwriter to the front-of-house team, are all people in ‘the arts’. Basically, Sunak was suggesting that all of these people retrain and find new jobs.
But ‘the arts’ is not the only sector that has been hit hard. So has hospitality and travel. This means waiters, chefs, cleaners, flight attendants, hotel staff, concierge, and many more have lost their jobs. Your dream job was never to become a waiter? Even if it’s not, many people in the arts support their careers with roles in hospitality, such as waiting and cleaning. Not many people can say they pay the bills with their guitar. So, before you jump into a career as a musician, you need to think about whether you have other skills to sustain this life, between gigs.
So, the question is, should you take an arts A level, or choose an arts degree? It is important to really think about whether all the time and money that goes into become qualified is worth it. Below are some pros and cons about entering an unstable career during a pandemic, plus some other questions to ask yourself before starting.
- There’s always a need for entertainment – what else have we been doing other than binging tv and films, and listening to music during lockdown? Recently we’ve all been rushing back to places like cinemas, restaurants, theatres and clubs. These jobs are not extinct – it’s just tough right now.
- If it’s something you love, you’re more likely to get a better grade in it, and therefore, a better job. If you hate economics, you’re not going to study hard in it – so don’t choose it.
- We live in a world where your bedroom can be your stage. You can record and release your EP from home, run a business from Etsy, and create YouTube and TikTok accounts to showcase your acting and comedy. You don’t need to wait for life to get back to normal – you can get going with your career right now! Every bit of experience and trial and error will help.
- Venues such as theatres and concert halls, and places of hospitality such as hotels and restaurants, have been struck badly. Many have been forced to close due to lack of income and of funding.
- It might be many years until the art scene is back where it was before Covid-19 – so that might mean many years of being a bartender before you can really show off your talents.
- The travel industry has taken a huge hit, which will affect certain areas of hospitality too. It might not be until most of the global population has been vaccinated against Covid-19 that these industries will go back to normal. Until then, whenever that might be, it will be very difficult for travel agents, events companies, hotels and tourist attractions (such as theme parks, museums and historical sites) to reach the numbers they were experiencing pre-2020.
- Unfortunately, money plays a part in everything. Unless you get a big break and become a well-known figure, it is likely that your salary will be lower than in other industries. You can compare annual salaries on Indigo and on sites like this one.
Questions to ask yourself
- Will this career provide the salary you need to cover the costs of your lifestyle? Things like hobbies (e.g. will you be able to buy the new Giant mountain bike, or Pearl drum kit?), gadgets, type of housing you’d like to live in, cars, holidays.
- Are you willing to really pursue this career, even when there’s months where you have no work? Actors spend a lot of time unemployed and often rely on getting two big jobs a year.
- Is the time and money spent working towards your qualifications worth it? Or would you be better off putting these resources into something else?
- Instead of doing this as a job, would doing it as a hobby satisfy you enough? E.g. forming a band to play at local venues or acting in community theatre.
- Are you a risk-taker? It’s a very uncertain time and everyone has their own opinions. Your parents and teachers might be telling you to do something safer, but you might think it’s worth a shot. Make sure you have open conversations about your decision.
- It’s a tough one to think about, but are you good enough to make a living from this career? There’s plenty of people who can strum Wonderwall or who have played Tracy Turnblad in their school’s production of Hairspray. But are all of these people destined to play Glastonbury or win an Oscar? No. But they may be good enough to make a living from smaller gigs. Don’t stamp on your achievements before you’ve made them, but do consider whether you can be successful (even in a small way) before you spend money and time on it.
With vaccines being rolled out, and the never-ending need for entertainment, I believe jobs in the arts and hospitality will be saved, it may just take a few rocky years. Remember, no one can tell you what job is ‘right’ for you, and even if it’s not the safe option, it may be worth going for. Consider all the pros and cons, and even try writing a list of your own. Is it worth giving it a shot? Probably. And if it doesn’t work out, try something else later in life! You only live once (do people still say that?), so you may as well live it doing something you love – good luck!