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Why education is the most important weapon in your career arsenal

From school leaver to mature age student, gaining the right qualifications will arm you for whatever’s next in your arts career while also enriching your life.
Why education is the most important weapon in your career arsenal

Both students and employers are targetting education for career skills. Image: Shutterstock

‘Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,’ the African-American civil rights activist Malcom X once wisely said.

Whether you’re an aspiring artist fresh out of secondary school or an experienced arts worker looking to expand your skill set, undertaking tertiary education can make you more employable by helping you stand out from the pack.


Tertiary education is also personally fulfilling, enriching your knowledge of the world regardless of whether you’re pursuing a vocation or sharpening your existing skills.

As Dr Sean Williams, Lecturer in Creative Writing at Flinders University explains: ‘Education does more than increase knowledge: it fosters community and encourages learning by doing. Mentorship plus hard work is the key to success.’ 

Read: Experienced Creative Industries teachers are the secret of success

Matt Jackson, Facilitator for Acknowledge Creativity, says education is the most important weapon in your career arsenal because it is a profitable way to drive employee engagement and competitive advantage.

‘To appreciate what makes education so valuable from the employer’s perspective it helps to look at the amount of resources allocated to the hiring process; beyond recruitment fees and inclusive of actual time and money spent interviewing, shortlisting and contracting each year,’ he says.

‘When employers look at these figures, training existing employees to learn new skills to fill skill gaps in the organisation through an effective internal education program can be a clear winner.

‘To only consider the financial benefits of educating employees would miss the most powerful aspect of this strategy, which is how it affects employee engagement and confidence in their ability to contribute,’ Jackson continues.

‘Employees who are engaged in learning skills that they know their employer values are much less likely to suffer from performance anxiety and stress relating to doubting their future job security. These employees are able to create more value and contribute much more to their employer’s competitive advantage.’

Read: Why empathy is key to small business success

According to Dr Kristine Moruzi, Senior Lecturer in Writing and Literature at Deakin University, the education you gain undertaking any kind of arts degree is ‘super important because it helps you develop a range of skills that are helpful anywhere’.

She continues: ‘Critical thinking, communication and problem solving skills are the top three things that you get when you study literature and writing in a sustained, engaged kind of way. Those are fabulous skills that you can turn to in any discipline no matter where you are in the arts community or elsewhere.’

'Those are fabulous skills that you can turn to in any discipline no matter where you are in the arts community or elsewhere.’

Such an education encourages a different way of thinking about the world, Moruzi says.

‘It can give you some real confidence to be able to come back and study at a postgraduate level. People who are okay writers can come out of a postgraduate with sharper, more finely honed writing skills than they had before, and aren’t daunted by the prospect of doing research to position themselves among a range of other perspectives. So there are some really specific skills, especially at a postgraduate level, that you may have at a certain level but the scholarly expectations can help you shift them into a more sophisticated range,’ she explains.

Read: Learning to read children’s literature (again)

Even if your career path eventually leads you in an unexpected direction, the skills gained at an elite training institution like the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts (WAAPA) will serve you for the rest of the life.

‘The reality of performing arts training is there’s no guarantee that you’re going to have work consistently and solidly after graduating,’ says WAAPA Marketing Manager, Anton Mazandarani.

‘Our alumni are versatile individuals who might not end up being a full-time actor for the rest of their lives, but you can bet that they’re bringing their skillset from their Bachelor degree or their training into whatever other business they end up going into.’

By way of illustration Mazandarani points to the career of former student who undertook the Advanced Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance) at WAAPA.  

‘He went on to study physics and do his postgraduate at a very high level in rocket technology … and his group entered an international competition to launch a rocket into the stratosphere and they won. When he was being interviewed about his dance background and his training here at WAAPA, he was asked how that could have possibly helped in the process. He replied, “Well, I made sure that we rehearsed our launch five times before we did it.” Bringing a performer’s approach to rehearsal to make a polished presentation gives people a competitive edge,’ Mazandarani explained.

‘It’s the same with a lot of our business leaders and politicians; there’s a certain performance aspect to what they do. So if you were to apply some of the amazing skills that all actors and performers need to be convincing on stage to your public speaking – and that could be voice projection, it could be body language, it could be expressing various emotions – you could really give yourself some fantastic advantages in a corporate world, and it’s all because of the basic principles of live performance,’ he said.

Read: Why students are your best source of information at a university open day

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Richard Watts

Thursday 25 July, 2019

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R FM, a program he has hosted since 2004.

Richard currently serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management, and is also a former Chair of Melbourne Fringe. The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, he has also served as President of the Green Room Awards Association and as a member of the Green Room's Independent Theatre panel. 

Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend in 2017. Most recently he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize for 2019.

Twitter: @richardthewatts