By: Madison Jane Williams, GWWIB Member
Networking can be the scariest part of looking for a job or internship, especially when you’re just starting out. The importance of networking is laid on incredibly thick with regards to traditional “business” fields like finance, but when it comes to the arts it can be hard to know how to start – or if it’s even important.
In a nutshell, yes, networking is incredibly important. The tricky thing about finding jobs and internships in the art world is that there are a lot of people looking to break into an industry that has relatively little money to go around. Moreover, it’s not always the most tech-savvy industry, so there are many open positions that go un-posted on websites like Indeed and LinkedIn. That’s where networking comes into play. The more people you know, and who know you, the more chance you’ll have of learning about those unlisted positions.
The first thing to do when you’re ready to start networking is to make a list of all the people you know in the art industry or related fields. It’s okay if you don’t know anyone at your dream institution, because people know people – that’s the beauty of networking!
Once you have your list, work your way through the names, contacting each person and asking if they’d be willing to give you an informational interview. Ideally it would be in person, but a Skype or phone interview can also be very productive. Unlike in a job interview, you probably won’t be talking about yourself much. Just tell them how your academic or career objectives relate to wanting to talk to them, and then ask them about their experiences in the industry. Definitely prepare, but don’t worry about figuring out your best weakness or a time you had to solve a tough problem. Instead, do research about the industry and the local art scene so you can ask intelligent questions. To oversimplify it – the more you know, the smarter you’ll seem and the more whoever you’re talking to will like you and want to recommend you for jobs.
If you have your list of contacts, set up informational interviews, researched institutions, and still don’t know what to ask, here are a few general questions to get you started:
1. How did you get where you are at Institution X?
2. What’s the most fun/most rewarding/most stressful part of your job?
3. How does Art History/Fine Arts/Art Theory factor into your day-to-day job?
4. What is a typical day or week for you at your job?
Do you have any great informational interview questions? Add your own in the comments below!