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Opinion: Why the D&AD New Blood scheme is the perfect way to get ahead

Posted by It's Nice That,

This week creative director Craig Oldham looks at getting your foot in the door of the creative industries and makes the case for the D&AD New Blood scheme as the perfect place to start. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below…

It can be a difficult thing to get your head around, education – especially when you’re still in there. But education is much more than just stocking up the toolbox, ready to head off into a job. The thing is – as I’m sure you’ve already been told – you need to be thinking about the industry whilst still in education. And although I’m probably evoking images of those daft dogs that chase their own tail, it’s always important in those formative years to incorporate what’s going on outside the classroom. Because experience, good or bad, has value.

Perhaps now more than ever, experience and exposure to industry practice is vital to a young creative trying to get ahead. In truth it can be the difference, but the dilemma often feels a little chicken-and-egg. “I need experience to be experienced, but to get experience I need to be experienced.” (There’s that dog again.)

I know it will feel like ice-skating uphill, particularly with competition so fierce these days. But as far as opportunities go, I’d say D&AD New Blood could be just the thing to get you going.

Now, tending to the elephant in the room, yes I’m a trustee of D&AD, and I did indeed recently create the campaign for New Blood 2014. But I want to assure you that this isn’t just me toeing the company line. The truth is, I mention the New Blood scheme because I believe in it. I know first-hand how it can help. Not all that long ago I was in that position, eager to break through into industry but equally daunted at being able to make it happen. Exhibiting at New Blood not only opened a lot of doors for me; it was a great boost personally at what was a crucial time of the year.

“You have to believe in yourself, in your ideas, and then back that up with some pretty hard graft and a pretty good understanding of what it is you want.”

Craig Oldham

Today, I couldn’t tell you all the things New Blood does – the industry-led briefs, portfolio crits, workshops, industry mentors, talks, placement schemes with top creative agencies, the New Blood Academy… the list goes on, but the most important thing to take away from it is the pretty damn good symbiosis they’ve obviously managed to strike between education and industry. And that’s a pretty big gap to straddle.

Take this year’s briefs for example. ASOS, BBC, XL Recordings etc etc – we’re not talking hypothetical exercises here, just for the fun of it, they’re genuine challenges they’re outsourcing to you: the next generation. (Personally, I’d be all over the DCM cinema brief. As a film lover, it’s always good to start with something you know enough – and are keen to know more – about.)

If you’re a student or young creative, it’s a given to me that you’re going to need this exposure to industry and that’s experience that D&AD can give you.

You’ll also need all those other crap cliché attributes too (which I won’t repeat for fear of sounding like a shit football pundit) but one to mention is ambition. It’s not easy out there, I won’t lie to you. You can’t just meander through the industry seeing what will happen.

You have to believe in yourself, in your ideas, and then back that up with some pretty hard graft and a pretty good understanding of what it is you want. That’s what ambition is, knowing what you want, so you can figure out how to get it.

But whether this is getting a placement, landing the first job, setting-up on your own, or just to constantly improve, without understanding what you want to do, you’ll never know how to achieve that ambition. 

And we all know the best way to understand something—experience it.

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