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‘Positive Uncertainty’ A workshop for Arts students about undefined career paths Dr Jane Mulcock The Curtin Careers Centre Building 599 www.careers.curtin.edu.au careers@curtin.edu.au (08)9266 7802 Sign on please (Please sign attendance sheet ...)

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positive uncertainty

‘Positive Uncertainty’

A workshop for Arts students about undefined career paths

Dr Jane Mulcock

The Curtin Careers Centre

Building 599



(08)9266 7802

sign on please

Sign on please

(Please sign attendance sheet ...)

Why did you choose an Arts degree?

How do you define career success?

Where do you search for answers to

questions about your career path?


‘One of the reasons that I decided to undertake an Arts degree was that I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to do. While applying for uni courses, many people made me feel as if what I chose would be the be-all-and-end-all, however what I found was that with the Arts degree I was able to enter into uni with an open mind that allowed me to appreciate the different possibilities. Being exposed to the wide variety of subjects has broadened my perspective and has allowed me to re-evaluate my options.’

Millina, 07/12/07,

http://www.actnow.com.au/Opinion/the_slow_death_of_the_humanities.aspx, . Accessed 12/09.

employment in the cultural sector
Employment in the cultural sector…

‘In recent years, there has been a rapid rise in “atypical”, precarious

forms of employment in all European Union states, and the political

significance of the issue of “employment in the cultural sector” has

increased noticeably. There are several reasons for this. One is the change

from a post-industrial economy to a cultural economy... The

“marketisation” of culture and the “culturalisation” of the market means

that on the one hand “high” culture is becoming increasingly commercial

and, on the other, cultural content is increasingly shaping commodity

production. These processes run concurrently and are part of a general

trend in post-modern society.’

(Ellmeier 2003, p3).

creative skills

‘Creativity is moving up the list of essential business skills needed to

survive and succeed in the fast and complex new economy. Many

books and articles in the Harvard Business Review and other

business magazines urge us to pay more than lip service to the

creative process. Why is creativity getting all of this attention?

Because the rules of the new economy are changing, not only

quickly, but fundamentally. We are on new and shifting ground with

no clear path and no one to show us the way. We have to make it


(Weaver 2000 cited in Poehnell & Amundson 2010,p.5)

Creative skills ….

‘In the shift to a globalised creative economy where innovation and creativity are increasingly prized, many studies have documented direct and indirect social and economic benefits of the arts.’ (Bridgestock, 2007, p.iv)

the elephant in the room
The elephant in the room…

‘Anecdotal evidence indicates that the common perception of the BA

program is that it is a waste of time, a degree that results in no particular

outcome or clear direction. This is despite the fact that a look through the

Australian Who’s Who shows an impressive number of BA graduates, as

does the current Federal parliament listing.’ (DASSH, 2008, p.28)

  • Evidence does suggest that:
  • ‘… BA graduates take a longer time to establish their career paths than
  • their peers who graduate from a professional degree.’ (DASSH, 2008, p.28)
  • Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH), 2008, ‘Nature and Roles of Arts Degrees in Contemporary Society: a national scoping project of Arts programs across Australia’. Report for the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. (Available online)
for example

Recent research from Queensland University of Technology on the career paths of graduates from their Creative Industries Faculty shows much greater employment success 12 months after graduation compared to 3 months after graduation. Outcomes for Creative Industries students 12 months after graduation closely reflected outcomes for graduates from traditional professions 3 months after graduation. The researchers suggest that Creative Industries graduates may be building up their portfolios, experience and networks through unpaid creative work during this time.(McCowan & Wyganowska, 2008, p.37-8)

For example…

arts employability
Arts & Employability …
  • Unlike a professional degree that involves accreditation or registration, an Arts degree typically allows students a lot of choice about which units they study. As a result of this flexibility…
  • ‘The relationship between the employer’s
  • articulated needs and the program outcomes
  • in terms of student experiences is not clear.’
  • (DASSH, 2008, p.29)
arts and employability
Arts and employability…
  • Most university lecturers surveyed by DASSH agreed that the ‘key outcomes’ of their BA programs were ‘communication skills, critical thinking and the ability to adapt’.

‘[Course] assessment was seen to be the training ground for the

communication skills and critical thinking, but the ability adapt was

perceived to be the outcome of the flexible nature of the program – the

fact that the students could choose to study anything that they desired

(within timetable and availability constraints) … flexibility and ability

to customise to personal interest … develop[s] the ability to adapt.’

(DASSH, 2008, p.30).

positive uncertainty11
‘Positive Uncertainty’
  • Current economic conditions are categorised by:
      • Increased fluidity and competitiveness
      • Decreased security.
      • Increased emphasis on self-directed learning & lifelong career

development, multi- skilling , customisation.

positive uncertainty12
‘Positive uncertainty’
  • Valuable graduate characteristics in this context include:
  • Flexible and creative decision making processes
  • Flexibility, ingenuity, psychological resilience, optimism, imagination, curiosity, persistence, risk-taking, problem solving …
  • Ability to ‘forge’ / ‘weave’ a personal career path
  • Importance of chance/unplanned opportunities and ‘ planned happenstance’.
  • Ability to create change as well as responding to it.


positive uncertainty13
‘Positive Uncertainty’

‘When there is no clear path … we

have to make it up. ’

But we can choose to think about

  • ‘[U]ncertainty as an ally to
  • success’
  • (Poehnell and Amundson, 2010, p. 5 &6)
protean careers
Protean careers…
  • ‘Success in the Protean Career: A
  • Predictive Study of Professional Artists
  • and Tertiary Arts Graduates’
  • Ruth Bridgestock, 2007
  • Faculty of Education PhD
  • Queensland University of Technology

Proteus - woodcut by Jörg Breu. Displayed in the Book of Emblems by Andrea Alciato (1531) as Emblema CLXXXIII (emblem # 183).

…Old Man Proteus took on changing shapes, weaving his limbs into many mimic images. He spotted his body into a dappleback panther. He made his limbs a tree, and stood straight up on the earth a selfgrown spire, shaking his leaves and whistling a counterfeit whisper to the North Wind. He scored his back well with painted scales and crawled as a serpent; he rose in coils squeezing his belly, and with a dancing throb of his curling tail’s tip he twirled about, lifted his head and spat hissing from gaping throat and grinning jaws a shooting shower of poison. So from one shadowy shape to another in changeling form he bristled as a lion, charged as a boar, flowed as water ...

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 43. 225 ff,

http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Proteus.html, accessed 10/05/10.

protean careers16
Protean Careers
  • ‘A "protean career" would embrace many human concerns. For example, Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, scientist and designer of fortifications: his career was "protean”’.
  • (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proteus, accessed 10/05/10.)
boundaryless and protean careers

Boundaryless and protean careers

“Boundaryless careers are characterised by non-linear career

progression occurring outside the bounds of a single organisation or

field ... The protean career is an extreme form of the boundaryless

career, where the careerist also possesses strong internal career

motivations and criteria for success… It involves a psychological

contract with one’s self rather than an organisation or organisations.”

(Bridgestock, 2007, p. iv)

in summary protean careers are
In summary, protean careers are …
  • Self-managed (changes are self-initiated rather than managed by an employer).
  • Reflect personal search for meaningful and fulfilling work.
  • Have criteria for success based on the individual’s internal psychological satisfaction (e.g. autonomy, personal values) rather than external factors (e.g. salary, status).
  • Involve frequent change and an emphasis on utilizing social networks.
  • Require individuals to take responsibility for developing personal employability and ‘actively constructing careers’.

(Bridgestock, 2005, p.41)

this means that arts graduates often do not end up working in the fields that they study

This means that … Arts graduates often do not end up working in the fields that they study.

… is this ok for you?

bridgestock s results

Some predictors of career success for artists and Arts graduates:

Ability to locate career information.

Ability to manage the internal aspects of career development, such as remaining positive, being resilient, having a healthy self-esteem.

Persistence - length of time in the industry.

Individual ability, aptitudes and skills, training.

Individual’s values, personality, interests and beliefs (e.g. flexibility, optimism, and imagination).

Internally-based, rather than externally-based measures of success.

Work experience in Arts prior to course completion.

Ability to navigate according to a protean career orientation.

(Bridgestock, 2007, p.p318 & 322; 2005, p.45-6)

Bridgestock’s results…
graduate profiles

Graduate profiles

Graduate Careers Australia


Career FAQs


Curtin Career Centre


creative uncertainty
Creative uncertainty!

Locating and securing the type of work you want to

do when you have completed your Arts degree is

often all about applying your creative and analytical

skills to the process of personal career development.

An Arts degree allows you a lot of freedom to define

your own career path – but it can also require more

active and persistent engagement in the process.

where to start
Where to start… ?
  • Have a look at these videos … how might you harness your creativity and analytical abilities to start working towards your career goals?
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFZ0z5Fm-Ng&feature=related
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FRwCs99DWg


career theories

Career theories…

Self knowledge & occupational knowledge (reflection and research).

Decision-making processes and strategies.

Communication: understanding the gap between current career situation and ideal situation based on internal and external input

Analysis: Identify reasons for the gap

Synthesis: elaboration and crystallization (consider the possibilities and narrow down realistic preferences)

Valuing: consider costs and benefits of each option.

Execution: develop a plan of action and begin to implement it.

Thinking about thinking: awareness, monitoring and control of self-talk and personal behavioral patterns.

(Lenz, Reardon, Peterson & Sampson, 2001, p48-9)

planning ahead with positive uncertainty
Planning ahead with ‘positive uncertainty’ ?
  • Activities…
    • Chart your own career-related decision-making processes so far. Is there anything you would like to change about how you make these decisions in the future? What steps might you add or remove based on the model in the previous slide?
    • Brainstorm related careers associated with specific occupations to broaden and reframe your options and to identify possible alternative pathways to the outcomes you want.
    • Make an appointment to speak with a Curtin career development consultant.
    • Do some research into online career development resources.
    • Collect career profiles of Arts graduates and look for patterns in their career pathways and strategies.
    • Look out for future careers workshops and discussion forums…
key points
Key points…
  • An Arts degree prepares you for a wide range of jobs – but often not completely. Some of the extra preparation you will need comes from
        • Part time jobs
        • Work experience and volunteering
        • Social and professional networking
        • Extra study (e.g. vocational postgraduate diploma)
  • Protean careers require ongoing active commitment including reflection and allocation of time and effort to gather information, build networks and develop employability skills.
  • Planned happenstance shapes your career when you decide to be open to unexpected opportunities and to take some risks to achieve your goals.
  • Career uncertainty can be a positive force when you have the tools to harness it!
sign on please28

Sign on please

Why did you choose an Arts degree?

How do you define career success?

Where do you search for answers to

questions about your career path?

Imagine some of the ideal jobs for you

and start actively working towards a goal.

lots of resources

Lots of resources:


Curtin Careers Centre

Building 599

(08)9266 7802





Bridgestock, R. 2005. ‘Australian Artists, starving and well-nourished: what can we learn from the prototypical protean career?’ Australian Journal of Career Development. 14(3):40-48.

Bridgestock, R. 2007. ‘Success in the Protean Career: a predictive study of professional artists and tertiary arts graduates’, PhD, Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology.

Deans of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities 2008 ‘Nature and Roles of Arts Degrees in Contemporary Society: a national scoping project of Arts programs across Australia’. Report for the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. (Available at http://www.dassh.edu.au/publications)

Ellmeier, A. 2003. ‘Cultural Entrepreneurialism: on the changing relationship between the arts, culture and employment’. International Journal of Cultural Policy. 9(1):3-16.

Lenz, J., Reardon, R., Peterson, G., & Sampson, J. 2001. ‘Applying Cognitive Information Processing Theory’. In W. Patton & M. McMahon (eds) Career Development Programs: preparation for lifelong career decision making. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research LtD.

McCowan, C. & Wydanowska. J. 2008. ‘Gathering the Real Data from Creative Industries Graduates One Year Out’. Australian Journal of Career Development. 17(1):29-40.

Poehnell, G. & Amundson, N. (MS) 2010 ‘Career Craft’. In preparation.