Professional Practice

10 Things Creative People Need to Know Before Entering the Real World

For creative, artistic people the future is bright. Unfortunately, they are often faced with people who doubt them and often don’t take them seriously. I had the privilege to speak to High School arts honors students recently. My goal was to encourage them to explore arts-related careers with confidence. Many of these tips can apply to adults and students alike. Feel free to share them with your students, a student teacher, or glean something yourself!




Here are my “10 things Things Creative People Need to Know Before Entering The Real World.”

1. People will say “You can’t.” 
When I started AOE, many people told me I “couldn’t do that” because the model didn’t exist. So we created it. What if I would have listened to them?

2. Consider the source.
When people tell you “you can’t” who is saying it? The expert in the field or your negative friend? Who are you really getting your advice from?

3. Results are more important than age.
Don’t let people tell you “you can’t” because you are too young. Prove them wrong by your high level of work.

4. Find your “Element.”
Ken Robinson’s book The Element should be read by every high school senior and then again a few years later. It’s this book that inspired me to think differently, pursue my passions, and eventually start AOE. Your “element” is where your passion meets your talent.

5. Find your “tribe.”
Surround yourself with those who have similar interests as you do and push you to be better. If you are the smartest person in the room, find another room.

6. If you have a plan B, plan A will never work.
There ARE people succeeding in your passion area. Talk to them and see what makes it work. Chances are, it can work for you too.

7. Just CREATE.
We know that creation is the highest form of intelligence. Write, paint, create, sketch, and design content related to your passion area. Doing so will help you grow!

8. Learn to write well.
In a digital age, we all must be good writers. Learn to write well so you can professionally communicate in a variety of ways.

9. You aren’t destined to be a “starving artist.”
In a recent interview with author Lisa Phillips, she mentioned 5 jobs she’s had in her lifetime that she didn’t even know existed before she embarked on her career. There are possibilities out there in the arts, but you must do the digging.

10. The quality of your character is just as important as the quality of your work.
Tim Gunn mentioned this and it’s so true! Be the person you’d want to meet!

It’s our job as art educators to help students understand a creative career doesn’t just mean becoming “a painter.” Every career is creative, and the lessons learned in the arts can help propel our students forward in whatever fields they may choose.

What have people said to you about choosing a career in the arts?

What advice do you tell your students?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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