Career advice from a creative: Alec Dudson

Career advice from a creative: Alec Dudson

Founder and Editor-in-chief of Intern Magazine, Alec Dudson, gives his advice and opinions on internships within the creative industries.

With a large number of our undergraduate students deciding to take part in our Year in Industry Placement programme, the topic of internships is one which will be familiar to most by the end of their studies. However, for the year 2 students setting out to secure their placements it can seem like a daunting challenge.

So we thought what better way to get advice than to speak to the Editor-in-chief of a magazine which specialises in the topic.

Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Intern Magazine?

I was always a little unsure of what I wanted to do with myself, so having initially studied computer science at university and dropped out, I worked for a little while before heading back into higher education to study sociology.

Having graduated with a masters, I still didn’t feel passionate enough about any particular career until a friend showed me an independent magazine. It excited me, intrigued me and I was hooked. The only way I could find to get into that industry was an internship. I didn’t know what they were, or what to expect, but I decided to give it a go.

Two internships later I’d learned a lot, lived in a different country and met some great people but I couldn’t get a full-time, paid position with the publications I adored. It was at that point that I decided to start my own, one that would represent, showcase and serve the interns, junior staff, graduates and students around the world who were looking to break into the creative industries. We’re now four issues in and have commissioned over a hundred young creatives to create work for the publication which is sold internationally.

What are your top tips for getting an internship within the creative industries?

Do your homework. Apply to work with people whose work you admire and make sure that you try to catch their attention with pieces of your work that relates to their field.

People get far too many emails to reply to everyone, so putting the effort into a well thought out introduction is always worthwhile. Don’t ask for an unpaid internship straight off the bat. If you do, there’s no way you’ll be paid. Try asking for a portfolio crit or studio visit instead and, if they like what they see, offer your services.

Can you give our students any advice on what to look out for when applying for internships?

Don’t assume that unpaid is the acceptable standard. You have value and so does your work, just because you’re young doesn’t mean that you’re not bringing value to a company.

Two of the most valuable things aside from money that an internship can offer are relationships and training. If you’re not working with people that you respect, admire and get on with, don’t waste your time. Likewise if you’re spending your time just doing grunt work, ask if at least some of the time can be spent working on real projects so that you can gain relevant experience with real clients.

Your magazine provides an ongoing platform to discuss internships, can you give us a little insight into what your personal stance is on them?

The magazine’s stance has to be unbiased in order for us to deliver a balanced, objective assessment of internship culture from issue to issue. Having said that, our policy of paying all of our contributors probably gives a pretty big hint to my personal stance, which is that unpaid internships should cease to be. They’re fine for those who can afford to work unpaid, who have a support structure that allows them to live rent-free, but they exclude all of those who don’t.

One of my key concerns is that any industry involved in cultural production, for me at least, has an obligation to represent the audience it serves. Our communities are becoming increasingly diverse and unpaid internships are one of many structures that throttle diversity in the workplace.

Your latest issue focuses on the creative career path. What questions do you most frequently get asked about this topic and what is your advice?

Everyone’s path is different. Often I’m asked if there’s a right or wrong way to pursue a career and that’s the wrong question to ask. The bits of advice I’ve given above are merely suggestions, the most important thing is to make things work for you.

If you’re going to spend a large portion of your life working, why not make that something that you enjoy? You don’t have to work the same job all of your life, so ask yourself what you really want to do and then go out and speak to people who are doing it already. Things often appear far more tangible and achievable once someone has talked you through their experiences.