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Advice for Seeking Your First Job as an Artist

Artwork done digitally

Advice for Seeking Your First Job as an Artist

Advice for Seeking Your First Job as an Artist

Looking for a job can be a grueling process, there’s no question about that. But the good news is there are things you can do to help set yourself up for success. A portfolio is the most common tool to make your art stand out and showcase your abilities as an artist, but in addition to a classic portfolio, you might be missing something that can push your application to the front of the line. There is a whole world of opportunity, and it has never been easier to access. 

Here is some advice for when you’re seeking your first job:

Mindset:

At the end of the 90 Minute Art Challenge with Ahmed Aldoori, a participant asks for advice for seeking their first job in art. Ahmed thinks back to the advice that would have helped him when searching for his first job—getting into the mindset of doing art that you love doing and building your portfolio with that in mind. 

If you love what you are doing, it will show to a potential employer. If you can build upon what you already have with a subject you are passionate about, the portfolio will speak for itself!

Your Career is a Marathon, Not a Sprint:

Runners running in a marathon

Every day may seem like the same struggle, but you have to remember that a career is a lifelong journey. It can be easy to get discouraged if you don’t find exactly what you are looking for when you first start. Try to be patient and learn as much as you can during those times when you’re not working. 

An art career can be challenging and, at times, may not feel as rewarding as it once did. Many talented artists give up too soon because they couldn’t find the motivation to keep pursuing their art. Find what motivates you and let that drive you through the day-to-day grind.

Before You Search for Your First Job, Know Your Niche:

You may have perfected a specific style, but that doesn’t mean your style is what a studio is looking for at that particular moment. This is where research into different studios is crucial to decide where your efforts are best placed. Through this search, find a few studios you think are a great fit and tailor your portfolio to match their style. 

A portfolio is a must-have for an artist, but you are encouraged to have more than one portfolio for different jobs or markets. A portfolio for oil painting will look drastically different than one for animation or game design. Feel free to include some from each of your styles at the end to showcase your skill, but the majority should be in the style of the job. Remember: your portfolio should reflect the type of work you are trying to get! 

Do What’s Next:

The art and entertainment industry is all about keeping up with current trends and anticipating new ones. Ahmed suggests taking an existing product (he used the video game “Uncharted” from Naughty Dog as an example) and create a potential design for the next game. Take certain elements and develop them to show the studio what kind of ideas you are capable of creating. 

Showing a studio a portfolio that is designed specifically for them demonstrates your interest and dedication. There is the possibility of them asking you to take an art test, but you should consider it a challenge to show off your skills and not as a negative. The studio wants to be confident in the skills you already know you have.

Accept Rejection When Looking for Your First Job:

You are going to get more “no’s” than “yes’s” in your career, especially in your beginning search for work. Learn how to accept the rejections and learn from them. If you can get constructive feedback on your portfolio or application, the next studio you go to might be the one that says ‘yes’. Persistence is the key to success, and you will get there. You just have to be patient and not let the rejections keep you down!

Being an Artist May Mean Owning A Business:

Some artists are fortunate to find their dream job at an agency or studio that takes care of the business aspects of their work. Not everyone can be that lucky, and many artists work as freelancers or business owners. You need to have some level of understanding of the market and how to sell yourself to clients. 

You don’t have to dive in right away and learn everything there is to know about owning a business from the start, but have the possibility in mind and learn as you go. Simply owning your own website or blog can take up a large portion of your time that you would rather put toward creating. 

Don’t compare yourself to others:

It is unfair to compare your artistic skills and talents to anyone other than your former self. Look back on where you started to see your progress and feel proud of what you’ve accomplished, but be cautious of venturing out beyond yourself. 

What matters is how much you’ve improved, not where you are on a scale compared to someone else. If the people you follow on Instagram motivate you to do better, that’s excellent, but if you find yourself in an unspoken war with the other artist, try unfollowing them or only checking your feed once in a while when you need motivation.

Use Social Media to Look for Your First Gig:

Social media icons

At the end of Ahmed’s answer, he suggests using social media to showcase your art and grow a following of your own. Technology has opened the world of digital portfolios, and it is easier than ever to showcase your work online. Whether you use Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, or your own website, your art can reach most of the world in seconds. 

Social media has a lot to offer the struggling artist, and it is only the first step in the journey. 

Contacts:

You have heard it before, and you will hear it again; networking is vital in the job-seeking world. Networking isn’t all fancy business events and awkward conversations. It is interacting with people in the industry, friends, classmates, and teachers, and using their connections to help you land the job. 

Sending a message out of the blue can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s someone you haven’t talked to in a while, but it can be step one on the road to landing your dream job. Many recruiters prefer a referral over a public job posting because they can get a sense of who you are in advance. It can even help them make their final decisions. 

Follow Studios on Social Media:

You may wonder why you would want to follow a studio on social media if you want to work for them, but many post job openings on their personal sites in addition to other platforms. Some larger companies may not post jobs on social media, but smaller companies may be looking within their followers for applicants. 

The more you know about a studio, the better you can tell if it would be a good fit for you. Studios will often post about current projects or teaser images from future ones. These can help you decide if you like the style. 

Stay current as a first-time job hunter:

It seems like every month there is advancement in technology, and style and animation are no different. Keep up with the current news and trends to figure out what the studios will need next. Their current projects are likely already staffed, but the future projects are where you can get your foot in the door. 

You can set alerts on your phone for animation news or make an effort to find out what the major studios are working on all over the world. Many news outlets focus on art and animation. You just have to look. 

Online Presence:

This goes hand in hand with social media. You don’t have to pay for an expensive website, but you should find a way to put your demo online for potential employers to find. If they come across it by chance, that’s excellent, but they will likely look for information before they contact you after you apply. 

LinkedIn or Indeed don’t offer the same resources as a personal website or social media. They have your resume and work history, but when it comes to art, work history means little compared to style and skill. 

Be Yourself When Seeking the Perfect First Job:

Little toddler looking at graffiti art that says "believe in yourself"

It is the oldest advice when looking for a job, but it’s essential. Be yourself when looking for a job! If you are trying to cram your style into something totally different than your current style, they can likely tell. You should do your best to be unique, and the best way to do that is to be you. 

If you like to draw splash art, look for studios that already use splash art or are looking to expand into that style. Be cautious trying to introduce a brand new style to a company that is firmly established in something else. You are allowed to like what you like, so don’t let someone else negatively influence your opinions. Art is intended to be enjoyable, so enjoy it!

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