Helping students who study art and design as they search for jobs is full of passion and excitement about the possibility of having a fulfilling career and making a living, as an artist. Finding ANY job takes creative thinking and working outside the box of old fashioned career searching, and this is especially true for creative positions. Creative jobs are coveted and competitive; the value of those who are able to perform in these positions continues to grow. As I work with college students studying an array of fields and majors, the following steps ring true for diving in and jump-starting their professional journey:
1. Polish the Resume: Get yourself prepared to apply by getting your ducks in a row. Likely your university offers a career service where tips, examples, and personalized feedback are available to you on these items. There is not one right way to present yourself to the world, but this resume needs to speak for you until you land the interview and can speak for yourself. Your resume reflects you as a professional so give it the time it deserves. Have three different people look at your resume and be open to critiques or suggestions.
2. Make Great Artist Portfolio: Although not always applicable for non-creative applications, your online portfolio and social footprint are important so employers can get a taste of what type of work you produce. What link is the employer going to follow to see more of YOU? Ask your favorite teachers to give you feedback on your portfolio or website. If you want to be treated as a professional and be a competitive candidate, your portfolio needs to reflect your best work. Your best illustrations or coolest graphics are no good to you unless they are able to be seen by recruiters or hiring managers.
3. Get Looking: You just need to start. With classes, work, and busy schedules, students often put off the task of actually looking for jobs. Ask your career center about any school-specific online job board that may be available, here’s a list of our best jobs for college students. This is low hanging fruit since these employers have already shown interest in the school enough to post on the job. Make sure that when you are looking for work it is a daily to-do to spend time on job boards and looking at your favorite company’s job posting.
4. Research: Found a job that looks awesome? Do you meet the qualifications and believe you would be the best person for this position? Do some background research on the company and find material for your cover letter. You want to make sure your cover letter is specific to this job and this company. If they want someone who can do “A,B, and C” make sure your cover letter highlights your experiences in “A,B, and C.”
5. Find Alumni: Before hitting “send” on the application, take a look on LinkedIn, Facebook, other social media platforms to see what alumni from your school may have worked at the company you are applying to. Maybe you had the same major or have friends in common. These alumni may not have any say in the hiring process, but connecting, expressing interest, and asking questions never hurts.
And repeat! Job searching is a journey and there is not one right process and it does not always run in a straight line. Keep an open mind and say “yes!” to new connections and networking. You may think that with your major you are only eligible for certain titles in certain fields. Think again and think outside the box! You may think that an animation company ONLY wants animators, but you would be wrong. Someone needs to design clothes for the characters (fashion designers), a sound track is needed (music production) and the animated characters will need to be in buildings (architecture and interior design). Find the companies that you are passionate about and think like the creative person you are. Be yourself and be enthusiastic and excited about each and every application you put out.
Michelle Smith is in Career Development at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She helps artists find jobs. Tons of talented artists for hire. Photo Credits Riccardo Sabatini, TheWrenDesign & AMC
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