After handing in your master thesis, how did the transition phase to the working life develop?
“I was extremely passionate through my master studies at AAU – almost too passionate. At AAU, I was riding the wave high; I had the feeling that nothing could stop me. I was sure that there were jobs out there and that things would be great.
Then reality hits you: in other words, things are more difficult and you have to argue for importance. I quickly found out that the number of jobs in the field of lighting design was low. Of course, there were success stories but there were still a significant number struggling to find a relevant job. Your dreams are crushed in such a situation: it takes guts to get going but that is all you can do. Actually, I got the sense that it would be hard to find a job already while writing my master thesis, so I started to squeeze my network already while studying.
I ended up getting a part-time student job creating a lighting design for the Mario Testino exhibition at Kunstforeningen Gammel Strand while still studying. After graduating from AAU, I curated another lighting design proposal for another exhibition at Gammel Strand. While doing this second exhibition, I simultaneously ended up working on a lighting project on the construction of the Copenhagen International School in Nordhavn – I also got that job through one of my contacts.
This was a lifesaving project for me. The original plan was that I would only work part-time on the project – but I argued that it was so important to have a lighting designer on board, and I ended up working full time as a consultant for both partners in the project, the architects and engineers, for half a year.
I was pro-active after my graduation; I was constantly attending events that were relevant to finding work related to lighting design. As an example, this ‘pro-activeness’ also gave me the opportunity to join a non-profit organization under the Danish Lighting Center called Ungt Lys. I am still on the board, which has allowed me to broaden my contacts even more. One of our initiatives became our so-called ‘light-talks’ where Lighting Design Students from AAU would meet students studying light on the Royal Danish Academy – unfortunately, due to political reforms, this program does not exist anymore. These meetings between AAU and the Royal Danish Academy students were great: AAU students had a stricter, group-based approach while the students from the Royal Danish Academy were much more individualistic and eccentric. These differences were inspiring.”
You used the metaphor of riding a wave: Where are you now on this wave?
“Today, I am at the top of the wave again. The reason is that I currently work at ÅF Lighting. The director of the Lighting Design program at AAU CPH, Ellen Kathrine Hansen, was very good at bringing people from the outside into the classroom to do presentations on their work.
One day, at the beginning of my first semester, ÅF Lighting had such a brilliant presentation and I thought to myself: ‘This is the place I want to work!’ I was too late when applying for an internship at ÅF Lighting – my application came in second.
However, I ended up getting a fantastic internship at Hotel Pro Forma instead: this internship gave me the opportunity to take all my theory from AAU and put it to work. Yet, I still had ÅF Lighting in the back of my head; I actually applied for a position at ÅF as soon as I graduated but they did not have the means to hire a person at that time. While working at the Copenhagen International School, I sent my third application to ÅF Lighting and thought to myself that I would be as personal as I could be in this application – which, in the end, got me through. I sent quite a funny CV – I thought that I had to avoid handing in a dry CV. I wanted to stand out.”
How did this ambition of being as personal as possible manifest itself?
“You will laugh at it. I was inspired by the Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s CV. Her CV had a small section that laid out a typical day for her. I thought that I would give my own CV a personal spin too, so I reserved 30% of it to convince people that Beyoncé is an amazing person. At the job interview, they told me that this Beyoncé part cracked them up – they found it funny and it showed them that I had guts.
However, I also sent this personal CV to two other places: one place thanked me for the personal CV but they could not offer me a job, and the other place did not answer at all. In the end, a personal CV may not be for everyone.
Complimentary to the personal spin, I made sure that I took all the unique features from Lighting Design at AAU and put them into my application: I wrote a lot about the multidisciplinary and group-based structure of the education. It all worked out and ÅF hired me. Right now, as mentioned, I am at the top of the wave again: it is a dream come true, and the projects that we are working on are amazing.”
About Luaras Morina
Nationality: Danish (born in Kosovo)
Education: Master in Lighting Design at AAU CPH
Year of graduation: 2016
Job: Lighting Designer at ÅF
Journalist: Victor Lange // email@example.com
‘The good story’ is a series of interviews where graduates from AAU CPH share their their experiences with the transition phase from studying at AAU to working full-time and their advice for current AAU students. You can read the full interview with Luaras, and other AAU-graduates, here.