As a fine arts student, I have to face a lot of skeptics.
“Oh, are there really a lot of jobs out there for artists?”
“What exactly do you want to do with that kind of degree?”
I’ve heard it all. But don’t fear – with the right preparation, there are many job opportunities for artists.
Start by putting your physical portfolio together. This is usually 8-10 pieces of your best work. Try to avoid overstuffing – think quality over quantity. Employers may only look through a couple of pieces, so be very judicious about what you choose and the order in which you present them. Also keep in mind that cumbersome artwork should not be taken to an interview. For work like this, high quality photographs are preferred.
It’s also important for every artist to have a portfolio website. This way, sending out a job application is as easy as including a link, and employers can always find the most recent version of your portfolio. You can put together a PDF of your work to send out while you are creating your site, but I’ve had problems with this in the past. If your PDF file is too large, the employer’s email server may reject it, and you may have to upload it through Dropbox, Google Drive or WeTransfer.com. That can get messy and look unprofessional, so definitely make your website a priority.
Once you have your website put together, you can start looking for work experience. For graphic designers like myself, there are many on-campus student job opportunities. My job as the student graphic designer at the Center for Career Development has not only provided me with valuable practice and experience, but also with a solid reference to use for future job searches. Keep an eye on studentjobs.uconn.edu for on-campus jobs that can be powerful résumé boosters. Lots of departments and colleges need graphic designers!
Internships are another great way to prepare for employment. They give you a taste of the business side of the professional world, and provide you with necessary experience to get a full time position. I interned at Alexander Isley Inc. last summer, and I am currently interning at Julia Balfour LLC. Because of these internships I have learned so much about what I want from my future job, and made valuable connections within the art community. I heard about both of my internship opportunities through my professors, but the Center for Career Development is more than prepared to help you in your search.
Internships and on-campus jobs are great tools to help you prepare for employment as an artist, but networking is also necessary. Join the Connecticut Art Director’s Club, or the American Institute of Graphic Arts and attend some events. Talk to people, give out business cards, and follow up with those you meet via email. You would be surprised to hear how many artists find jobs through someone they met at a professional event. The arts community is exactly that – a community. If you want to become a part of it, you have to dive in and meet people, and participate in the goings-on. Plus, the CADC and AIGA events that I have gone to have always been fun, and informative!
If you can’t afford the student fees to become a member, you can always contact the host of an event and ask to volunteer. There’s nothing better than meeting important people as a part of the event staff. It gives you something to talk about, and shows dedication! Personality matters in the creative industry. Chances are you’ll be working closely with other creatives, so being able to get along with them is important. Networking is your opportunity to show that you are an awesome, proactive person.
Now, when you apply to jobs you will be prepared, and know what you’re looking for. You can see job postings on HuskyCareerLink, and the AIGA website. Make sure your résumé looks good and your website is up to date, and start sending those job applications! You’ll be surprised at the world of artists that opens up once you become a part of it.