You’ve crossed the stage, received your diploma – now what?

The next step is deceptively simple: get a job. What sort of job? Will it be fulfilling? Can it pay the bills? In a sector that is still recovering from the Great Recession, it is not impossible that dozens, if not hundreds, of applicants send in their resumes and cover letters for the same job. With all of that in consideration – how does one start out?

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Asking around, as well as my own personal experience, taps on two key themes: networking and getting experience (in whatever shape and form in comes in).

If your current or former master’s program offers networking seminars, workshops, or happy hours – take advantage of them! The attendees are willing subjects for you to dive into the networking process, especially if you don’t feel comfortable doing so already. Also, check to see if your city has an Emerging Arts Leaders presence like EALDC here in the District. Once you’re there, I will refer you to EALS’s former Vice Chair Laura London’s blog on networking for tips.

Throughout your program, get involved and/or intern as much as you are able. If you want to get a part-time job, go for it! Learn to manage and juggle your schedule as best you can as early as you can. In doing so, you will gain a wide variety of experiences that will help inform your decision on what type of arts job you want. My personal experience took a very circuitous route to an arts career: deciding midway through my undergraduate program to focus on the arts, having to explain how my major (Russian studies) would relate to entry level positions, and, ultimately, taking on a year of internships to get more nonprofit arts management experience. I wouldn’t trade all of the various people I met and experiences I had during that year for the world. However, there is certainly an easier way to do it, by taking on some of that work throughout your school days.

Apply for any and all jobs that look interesting to you when looking for an arts job (see below for some sites compiled by our wonderful EALS committee). Be flexible and open to new experiences. Your first job will not be your last and each one will contribute to how your career grows and allow you to be a more well-rounded candidate in the future. Your first few searches will involve several dozens of applications. Keep at it and go for walks or find free entertainment where you live to get yourself away from the computer.

Your first job search will be one of the most frustrating. Some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure your resume remains relevant and direct as many employers still typically expect entry-level applications to be a page. If it’s over a page, confirm that everything you’ve written is applicable to the job to which you are applying.
  2. On your resume, keep the format clean so it is easy to read.
  3. Use active language, avoid any form of the verb “to be.”
  4. On your cover letter, relate your experience to the job description. Be creative in doing so, but be wary of being too cute and glean from company materials what sort of tone you should be conveying in your letter.
  5. Before you send them out, be sure you’ve proofed all materials. Even better, have a parent or friend proof, too. An extra set of eyes in this process is not a bad thing as these documents are your first impression at a company.
  6. Make sure all of your emails to a job prospect are professional, polite, and observe proper grammar and vocabulary rules. This is not Twitter, it’s a job application, so use your vowels wisely.
  7. Because it’s important, I reiterate – NO TYPOS!

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Moving through a hypothetical situation, you get a job interview. Some tips:

  1. Be on time and dress appropriately.
  2. This interview isn’t just for the employer, but for you – ask questions about what interests you in the job and at the company.
  3. Since it is the employer interviewing you, make sure your answers relate back to the job description and your relevant experience that makes you perfect for the job.
  4. Send a thank you email by the close of business that day.

If you do not get the job and have the opportunity, ask if there is any feedback your contact is willing to give on your application materials and interview.

Most of all, remind yourself of your passion for the arts. My college advisor gave me the best advice that I still pass along to this day: If you could imagine doing anything else in life, you should consider doing that. If you can’t, this is the career for you. It will be frustrating at times especially during the initial job hunting phase, but you will get through it and find a job that is right for you.

And, when you need a pick me up, find cute photos of animals on-line:

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Arts Job Search Sites 
New York City Metro: New York Foundation for the Arts – http://www.nyfa.org
Washington, DC Metro: CultureCapital – http://www.cultural-alliance.org
Twin Cities, MN: Springboard for the Arts – http://springboardforthearts.org/
Idealist: http://www.idealist.org
Americans for the Arts: http://jobbank.artsusa.org/
NEC Bridge Database: http://necmusic.edu/bridge

Written by Sarah R. Hewitt, EALS Production Manager

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