The arts are competitive, and we all know it. Most of us have sat through quite a couple of job interviews, have dealt with rejection upon rejection, and have worked through endless series of unpaid jobs to get to where we are now. It’s not because we’re not good enough though. On the contrary, we’re all great at what we do - the problem is just that there are too many of us. Therefore, my advice for getting that dream job is to make sure you stand out from the crowd.
I can imagine your protest – “It’s easier said than done!” – and indeed, it might be too late to improve the grades on your diploma or too expensive to enrol in a Master’s programme just to provide you with a better title. But these weren’t the solutions I had in mind at all. I don’t think you stand out if you’ve had a better education; I’m convinced you stand out because of what you do.
My advice to any young person starting out in the arts is not to wait until somebody gives you a chance to do the job you love, but to just start doing what you want to be doing. If you want to be an artist manager, try to get your friend’s band into some of London’s smaller music venues, or if you want to be an arts reviewer, start publishing weekly blogs about the latest shows you’ve seen. If you want to be a curator, organise a small exhibition in a nearby community centre, or if you want to be a fundraiser, hold a charity film screening in the park at the end of your street. You’ll be surprised to see how many people are willing to help you (for free!) and how easy it will be to find an enthusiastic team to work with.
It doesn’t need to be very complicated, but it gives you exactly those things that employers are looking for: it shows passion and determination, but it also provides you with hands-on experience and with an increased network of people who have supported your project. And moreover, it shows that you so much want to be in that job that you actually already started doing the work, even when no one asked you to. There’s nobody who’s going to beat that with their elaborate CVs.
There is one more thing to it though… that is, you can’t stand out if they don’t even notice you. So when you’re launching your blog or putting on your film screening, do make sure you tweet it at your dream job’s organisation. When you have questions about how you can better realise your project, don’t be afraid to email someone from that organisation to ask for advice. And on the night of your event, do make sure you invite relevant people in the organisation. They will only be flattered and even if they don’t show up in the end, they’ve heard of you and know you’ve proven your worth. The next time your name shows up in the stack of CVs for a new vacancy, you can be sure that yours will make it through the selection process.