Review: Don’t Get a Job… Make a Job

Title- Don’t Get a Job… Make a Job: How to make it as a creative graduate

Author- Gem Barton

Published by- Laurence King

The first thing you can say about Don’t Get a Job, by Brighton University architecture tutor and futurist Gem Barton, is that it looks bloody lovely. A perfect shade of bright yellow, pleasing size and weight, with rounded corners and neat black typography, it gives you that feeling where you love something so much you just want to chew on it. But you mustn’t chew on it. You must read it, because chewing on it would be a waste.

The introduction is sprightly, and sets the tone of optimism throughout the book. Explaining how the economic downturn in 2008 has pushed people out of a traditional career trajectory and into making it on their own, there’s quotes from Simply Business demonstrating how 29% of start-ups were launched by 18-25 year olds in the years since the financial crash, and how the majority of these were bought into life for less than a £1000. From there, the book is divided into strategies for creative and commercial achievement, (such as “release early, release often” and “going it alone vs teaming up”) with case studies illustrating how various individuals and companies have turned themselves into a success story.

This approach of collectivising experiences, and allowing the creatives to tell their stories in their own words, makes for an interesting little treasure trove that you can happily dip in and out of according to your whims. You don’t particularly have to read this book in any kind of order for it to make sense- it’s more encyclopaedic in style, and full of inspiration. I felt all fired up at many points in the book, thinking that I should go out immediately and start my own creative business, which I think is exactly what it was trying to achieve.

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I particularly liked the guidance from Jimenez Lai (from Bureau Spectacular), who suggests people envisage five or six alternate futures for themselves. Once you’ve found your best-case scenario, you make the plans needed to find yourself there. “If you have the courage to build a best-case scenario timeline in you imagination, that reality is already as good as real”, he says, and this just seems like an awesome idea.

The only small criticisms I can muster are, perhaps unsurprisingly given Gem Barton’s specialism, the book has a heavy focus on architectural practitioners. While most of the advice is transferable, I did at times find some of the finer points inaccessible, (there’s a certain amount of knowledge it’s assumed the reader already has, I think) even if the overall themes are universal to the creative industries.

Also, one of the only instances where the reader is reminded to protect their own private life was in advice from FREAKS architects. Amongst the “work harder, be busy, take risks” tone, which of course is all entirely valid, I thought this point could have been more thoroughly extolled. Not every risk ends in success, and hard work isn’t always rewarded. Working yourself so hard that you eventually burn out is more likely to hinder achievement than foster it, and there isn’t anything wrong with taking decisions in order to protect yourself, or have a rest, from time to time. But these are pinickity points.

Don’t Get a Job is endlessly interesting and extremely generous. If you needed a push in order to go out and achieve your dreams I think this is exactly the book that would lead to you taking the plunge, and it lets you consider all sorts of possibilities. As a creative, fear of failure is intense, and this fear can dictate your choices. Gem Barton’s book is basically an extended and compelling way of saying “bugger all that” and simply going for it- because you’ll never know what could happen if you don’t. Like all the best Disney films, but with less songs, you are being told here to believe in yourself.

But perhaps the best thing about Don’t Get a Job is that it’s more than a tick-box book of advice for graduates, it’s a kind of manifesto. These people don’t want to just enjoy their own creative freedom and make a bit of money, they want to transform, and even save, the world. “There is much you can learn from a design education- skill, technique, passion, foresight- but the most important thing that you can take with you for the future is the vision and belief that you can change the world”

Don’t Get a Job… Make a Job will be available for perusal by your eager eyes in March, and you can find more details here.

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