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ARTICLE - Tips For Graduates. How To Spend Your First Summer Out Of University.

When you reach the end of your university course, it's a time for great celebration. The hard work has paid off, and you can feel the pride and satisfaction that comes with achieving your degree. However, along with all the positive feelings, this can also be a time of great uncertainty and worry for what comes next. Gone is the safety blanket of university, and we now have to make the transition from student to graduate. For budding composers this means navigating the tricky waters of the music business and finding a route into the industry. In this article we share our tips on how to make the most of your first summer out of university, and set yourself up for success moving forward.

Leaving university - The essential checklist 

A portfolio of your best work is an essential asset for any prospective composer. This should demonstrate your finest compositions, orchestrations, arrangements, samples, plugins or projects that illustrate your style and skills. It is important to remember to aim for quality over quantity; as long as there is enough to exhibit your skills, your finest work, even if it is only a limited selection, is far better than an extensive portfolio of average work. Similarly, do not worry if your portfolio is only small - you are at the beginning of your career, and it is only going to grow from here!

Creating an effective and informative website is another important method of presenting yourself, and your music, to the world. This is useful to link people to, particularly when developing your network, and it should include clear and concise information on how to contact you in the event that they may wish to work with you. For this reason, the homepage must be informative, professional and provide a snapshot of everything - your work, your style and your skills.

Your website and online portfolio are essential tools for promoting yourself. Having these in palce should be you first priority when leaving university.

In order to ensure that you portray yourself in a professional manner, a specific email and social media accounts such as Instagram and Linkedin intended solely for the promotion of your compositional work are fantastic ways of professionals discovering and engaging in the compositions that you are working so hard to produce. Additionally, professional headshots and images of yourself working in studios, conducting and in recording sessions elevate your website and promote yourself and your compositional skills.

Is there such a thing as too much free time? What to do over the summer.

After graduating it is crucial that you continue to make music. Losing the structure and stability of education can be quite daunting and can leave many feeling lost and unmotivated. The best way to navigate this is to imitate the university structure with small projects that challenge and push your creative limits. Set draft and final deadlines and review your work after ‘submitting’ it to your deadline. Similarly, be realistic, if you are now working, you are going to have to set longer deadlines than you may have had at university. Little and often is always the key - many professional composers who are between projects still aim to compose once a day to ensure they keep things fresh and keep the ball rolling. Be kind to yourself whilst continuing to push yourself out of your comfort zone and you will continue to see improvements!

Set aside plenty of time for writing new music in you first summer after leaving univeristy.

As you strive to develop your professional image and portfolio, dedicating one hour a week to outreach on platforms such as Instagram and Linkedin, as well as getting involved in any and all networking opportunities is valuable and proactive uses of your time. This can involve building and maintaining connections with directors, animators and filmmakers in your local area or finding short film projects to continue to practise and challenge your compositional skills. For more advice on building a network, we have written a short, handy article dedicated to this topic, particularly focusing on tips for young composers:

You can use your free time over summer to network and start buidling your professional connections.

Refining your skills

Now that you have left university, you may feel intimidated by the scope of the industry, but as you start to prepare to enter the professional compositional world, this is your opportunity to refine and develop skills that may have been neglected by the curriculum. The time and freedom that is daunting to most can be utilised to do online courses, follow instructional youtube videos or take part in work experience. It is easy to get carried away, so limit your personal learning to only one or two skills and develop these into things you can really excel at. This may be mixing, sound design, orchestration, music theory or specific genres of music to name a few. Such skills can be a real asset to the composer's toolkit, and may make you stand out from the crowd when attempting to get noticed for professional work.

Alongside this, becoming proficient in video editing and social media content can further assist in your development when becoming a professional composer. Video editing skills, however basic, are a fantastic way to create engaging content to promote your work on social media channels as well as expanding your creative skills.

Continue to refine your existing music skills, and look at complementing them with additonal skills such as social emdia or video editing.


Although developing your professional profile and portfolio is an important step towards your career as a graduate, you have to remember to celebrate and give yourself time to recover after what is for many, some of the most challenging months of their lives so far. Recharge your batteries by travelling, engaging with hobbies such as sports and books, visit family and friends and enjoy events such as music festivals. All of these experiences will continue to develop your musicianship as it is inevitable that, as you engage with the world around you, you will discover fantastic new music from across the globe, all of which filter into your composition and abilities as a musician. 

It is worth noting that keeping in touch with your university peers is a fantastic way to begin your network - these people are likely to be your colleagues in the future and it is a great way to begin your musical career. You never know where people will end up in twenty or thirty years in the future.

It is cliche to say, however, it is important to always be kind to yourself - burnout is the enemy to creativity! 

Allow yourself plenty of time for leisure and relaxation over your graduation summer.


It is ok to not have your entire life figured out the second you graduate. As musicians, we must sacrifice certainty in order to do what we love, but by taking small steps towards a greater goal, you can develop the beginnings of an exciting and diverse career. Continue to compose, challenge and push your creative boundaries and begin to develop a professional portfolio and network. It will take time and effort but, by doing something that you love, you will, no doubt, never work a day in your life. 

Next month part 2 of this article will delve deeper into the mysterious world of finding your first paid projects, looking at the steps needed to enter the professional compositional world.

In the meantime, don’t forget to celebrate your fantastic achievements and congratulations to all graduates from the NFO!


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