Archive Contact

Articles (coming soon)



The unspoken role of luck in creative careers
Con McHugh | 07.06.24



A decade or so ago I was on a train debating whether to get off, and so aborting my university interview (I had forgotten something important). I phoned my mum, told her she’d need to pick me up because I’d made a huge mistake, and listened to her berate me into staying on the train.


I like thinking about turning-points in life like this. I’m fortunate enough to have so much gratitude for my time at uni, the lifelong friends I made and the belief it gave me that I could actually get a job at all. I say fortunate because in this case, that’s entirely what it was. If I wasn’t lucky enough to have a mum to scare me into staying on that train, or the support of university tutors and peers, I wouldn’t have had that university experience to look back on. It’s quite likely I’d have had a different experience entirely – maybe one not quite so good. 



Now with 10 years of working in the
creative industry, those little moments 
of luck become all the more apparent.


The difference between getting invited for an internship, and being rejected can be as simple as an incorrectly written email. For example; rule one in design studio etiquette is you don’t apply for internships – you apply for ‘portfolio reviews’, and hope to get an internship off the back of that. But how on earth would anyone know this unless they had the right tutor or had persisted enough in emailing studios that you realised asking for internships wasn’t getting you anywhere?


The creative industry is full of these little minefields – so much so that I can say with confidence that the difference between getting in the door is more based on how adept you are at pulling off all the right moves when applying than it is about having standout work. This is good in a sense because it means there’s an opportunity there for anyone passionate enough. Though bad where people’s passion can so easily be extinguished by a string of bad luck. 



Perhaps they didn’t have a supportive mum telling them to stay on that train, or a tutor who could tell them how to get an internship. The thing with luck is that it tends to bring more luck, and misfortune tends to bring more misfortune. 


When broaching the topic online, other fellow creatives weren’t short of sharing their own ‘lucky’ moments:

‘When I first arrived in London, I was talking to a friend about the work of a ‘small’ agency here called Bulletproof that I really liked. Turned out she knew someone working there. The rest is history and 10 years later I can’t imagine what those years would’ve looked like if that conversation hadn’t happened.’
Vini (former creative director at Bulletproof)


‘When I first arrived in London, I was talking to a friend about the work of a ‘small’ agency here called Bulletproof that I really liked. Turned out she knew someone working there. The rest is history and 10 years later I can’t imagine what those years would’ve looked like if that conversation hadn’t happened.’Vini (former creative director at Bulletproof)


‘When I first arrived in London, I was talking to a friend about the work of a ‘small’ agency here called Bulletproof that I really liked. Turned out she knew someone working there. The rest is history and 10 years later I can’t imagine what those years would’ve looked like if that conversation hadn’t happened.’Vini (former creative director at Bulletproof)




A few wrong steps and that’s the end of someone’s belief that they are good enough.

The reason this is so important to me is because I’ve always struggled with social anxiety and the feeling of ‘not being good enough’. I suspect this has quietened a little as I approach thirty and have worked at a few different studios to notice that it’s never really been about me. A creative Director might not like my work, but that doesn’t mean my work isn’t good enough. It’s all a matter of taste. I’ve learnt not to take it too personally. But I appreciate how fragile you become when your creative work is being judged again and again. There’s a joke I’ve heard a few times in design, and that’s that you’re only as good as your last project. There’s an element of truth to this when putting a bad idea down in front of a creative Director always holds the paranoia of them forever thinking that you have bad taste (this is taken advantage of by those ‘bad’ studios that pressure designers into working late every day to get that false sense of satisfaction that you’ve appeased the powers that be). 



At the other end of the spectrum, people can have egos the size of a planet. They think people deserve what they get given. This isn’t just a middle-class thing, It’s been interesting to note that people from a working class background can just as easily adopt this frame of mind. I had it hard. If I can do it, you can do it. 

This frame of mind, I believe, is a symptom of a lack of awareness around the concept of luck and the role it’s played in their journey. You may have battled for opportunities, had an undying passion, but is that really all It took? When your worth is so easily tied to your creative output, can you blame someone for giving up when they keep stumbling across misfortune? Did you really manage to do it all without a helping hand from anyone? 

Sometimes all it takes is one person telling you you’re good enough. Some people don’t even have that. 

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that no matter your achievements or job title, never forget to acknowledge the role luck has played. It will keep your feet on the ground, but more importantly, it will remind you to share that luck with others who are less fortunate. Luck is unbiased, the sobering fact is that you are no more special than the next person, you’re just a fortunate string of circumstances that have worked for you but not worked for others. So if you get a foot up – that’s great! Give yourself a pat on the back. But remember to give a hand to others who are on that same journey too. Share that luck around!





 











Want to read more?



Writing is a passion of mine that I don’t often get to fulfill. If you liked this article – let me know!
It will inspire me to write more. Drop me a line of feedback at itsconmchugh@gmail.com
























































































Want to collaborate on your next project?hello@conmchugh.uk

For all other enquiries, including talks and portfolio reviews

itsconmchugh@gmail.com








As of July 2024, 5% of all profits will be donated to Medical Aid for Palestinians.
If you’d like to learn more, visit MAP

Copyright © 2024 Con McHugh. All rights reserved.