Preparing for Job Searches

Don’t wait until after you graduate art school to start searching for jobs. You should be figuring out your work possibilities while you’re still in school. Here is what you’ll need to get started:

  • Career References
  • Resumes
  • Portfolio
  • Job Interviews

Career References

References can give you a huge leg up when it comes to securing a job. Build up a file of written recommendations to use when sending out your resume and portfolio. If you volunteered or interned during art school, you should have recommendations from a few of the people you worked with, especially those in managerial positions. You can also ask professors, mentors, and former employers. If you were in a work-study program at art school that involved artistic skills or simply let you display your work ethic, ask your work-study boss or colleagues for recommendations. If you showed your work at a gallery, on or off campus, the curator or gallery owner will be a great reference. You may also have gathered phone numbers and e-mail addresses of those you worked, volunteered, or interned with during art school. (Remember, if you plan on giving a phone number or e-mail address to any potential employers, warn your references before they are contacted.)


You can get professional resume-writing advice from your art school’s career center, school alumni who are working in their chosen art profession, and online resume-writing sources. It is very important that your resume be simple, clear, and filled with relevant information. Employers, galleries, and clients are looking for two things: your artistic experience and your contact information. Don’t make them hunt through excessive, disorganized information for the few things they need from you. Here are a few resume essentials to begin with:

  • Organize your resume by year, with your most recent art accomplishments and experiences appearing first.
  • Make your contact information easy to locate and easy to read.
  • Write short, to-the-point descriptions of your professional art experiences.
  • Clearly separate the sections of your resume. For example, professional work, art showings, and awards should all be clearly marked and separated.
  • Include information on your education.
  • Use a font size that is easy on the eye.
  • Use bullet points when listing a series of related information.

Keep your resume between two and three pages. A curriculum vitae can be longer, but a resume is a tool to show an overview of your artistic work and should be brief. And remember, no typos!

No one can give you talent or take it away, but you should display your talent so that you are seen as professional and jobworthy. In general, you should keep two portfolios: a master portfolio with all of the work you’ve ever completed and a job portfolio that will change as you grow as an artist and apply for different jobs. Your job portfolio should include these essentials:

  • Slides or prints of your most accomplished, varied work
  • Artwork that displays technical knowledge in your artistic field and your vision
  • High-quality paper
  • Overmatted prints
  • Fingerprint-free, unposted pages
  • A tasteful, easy-to-open portfolio case

If you have the means, it is best to have both a digitized and print version of your portfolio. When applying for national or international jobs, you can send either a CD or a digital file of your work, or display your work on your website so that you can simply send a link to your prospective clients.

Job Interviews

  • Arrive ten minutes early, portfolio in hand.
  • Dress cleanly, simply, and professionally. There is no need to prove you’re an original artist by dressing in an offbeat way, especially if you are interviewing for a corporate job or one in a small office.
  • Speak clearly and articulately.
  • Know beforehand what you’re going to say about your own aspirations in the field you are pursuing.
  • Research the office or establishment you are interviewing with. Know its history and mission statement.
  • Be a good listener. It’s true that you are the one being interviewed, but an interview is often a conversation and you’ll need to listen to your interviewer and respond appropriately.