Image: Frau am Schreibtisch,1898, by Leo Lesser Ury (1861-1931). Current location Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin, A III 464. CC Wikimedia Commons.
According to the 2015 report, Australia’s future workforce, released by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), ‘Almost 40 per cent of Australian jobs could be replaced by technology by 2025.’
Don’t panic, because according to another study, Oxford University's The Future of Employment, creative roles are safe from computerisation. However, we may have more competition for arts roles in the future, the report's authors suggest.
‘Our findings thus imply that as technology races ahead workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation – i.e. tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills,’ reported Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne.
Read: Should you have a career plan?
So what does this mean for your arts career? Is a detailed ten-year plan still valid, and is it worth mapping a career path that may be uncertain?
Catherine Asquith, advisor, broker and arts consultant, said arts workers shouldn't despair just yet.
‘I am not a futurist but I would still strongly contend that there will always be a need for some level of human interaction in terms of our society’s jobs sector. In my dealings with the Asian art market, for example, although its trajectory has been interpreted as one of the fastest growing art markets on a global scale, having thoroughly embraced new technologies for communication and the like, parts of its cultural mores remain intact. That is, the value of face to face meetings – whether for business or pleasure – is such an important factor in successful negotiations.’
Asquith continued, ‘We do need to be mindful of technological advancements, and we should engage with aspects of these same developments. That said, as we have witnessed, with certain new technologies, new jobs and roles have also been developed; so I don’t think we’re heading, as a race, for obsolescence.’
TO PLAN, OR NOT TO PLAN?
Nat Grant, sound artist and composer, told ArtsHub that career planning is important even if you deviate from your plan. 'I think planning can be really useful, whether it’s for grocery shopping or creative projects or your career or life in general. I’ve found plans generally go out the window but it’s good to have done all that thinking about what it is you’re really after, and you can always revisit at points along the way.'
Asquith agreed career plans are important, but not in their old forms. ‘Planning for me is valuable because I think "visually", so I need to see something quite literally in black and white. By the same token, drafting up "the career plan" also helps to discern any weaknesses or potential issues in one’s long term strategies.
‘That said, carving out a career in the arts is invariably a balancing act – both financially and professionally. You have to be prepared to compromise on occasions, so long as that initial compromise will eventually lead to your objective or goal. This is an important attribute,’ she said.
As a freelance artist, Grant said that though it may be hard to plan ahead, there are joys to following an eclectic career path such as those which freelancers experience. ‘I have always wanted to be a freelance artist. It can be hard to stay on track with that, not always knowing where your next pay is coming from, and watching from the sidelines as friends gain full time employment in other industries,' she explained.
‘I’ve definitely had many moments (and to be honest wasted a lot of time) considering changing direction and trying to find something more secure. You read about "portfolio careers" like it’s so sexy doing a million different things. It’s exhausting! But I wouldn’t have it any other way right now. The variety of different projects I’m involved in, and the flexibility – for the most part – to set my own schedule, works so well with how I’m wired.'
Asquith suggested instead of a 10-year projection, try a one year business plan. ‘When I first started out in the arts I initially commenced with a one year, two year and five year business plan. I figured if I passed the five year mark I had completed my “apprenticeship”. I am sure it’s somewhat old-fashioned, but I still think and plan along these lines,’ she said.
As a multi-disciplinary artist, Grant said that it’s a good idea to reflect on your career far more often than you would think to. ‘At the end of each year I tend to do a bit of a re-con on my gigs and projects. It’s good to see 12 months’ worth of art-making laid out, and to use that to assess how I’m going, where my energy is well spent, what I’d like to do more or less of. Like the shopping list, I do have a goal in the back of my mind, but day-to-day I just want to work on projects that I believe in, whilst delicately balancing the love, money and exhaustion scales.'
Grant encouraged other artists to keep focused on their own art-making instead of outside influences, in order to ensure their next move is creatively driven.
‘Keep your eyes on the prize,' she said. 'It’s so easy to get distracted. I don’t think it’s useful to compare where you’re at with your contemporaries, either; we all have different goals, different circumstances. Where you’re at might not be where you thought you would be with your career right now, but it’s also someone else’s dream position. I think it’s important not to forget that.’
Asquith noted, ‘Alongside developing your career path, take time now and then to assess your progress; reflecting upon what has worked and what has not is such a valuable exercise. It’s so easy to become so totally focused that you become blind to the changing landscape, to new business models or methods of operation.’