McComsey Career Development Center
Advice from Working Artists to Students

Thanks to the following artists for providing insight and advice:

David Detrich, Sculpture Chair at Clemson University
Judith Carruthers, Career Center director at Castleton State College
Naava Katz, Freelance graphic designer for the web
Kathleen Mulcahy, Artist and studio/business owner, Co-founder Pittsburgh Glass Center
Lisa Mondello, Corporate Communications Manager
Robert Meredith, Chair, HS Art Department at the Dalton School in NYC
Rebecca Farnum, 8th grade Chinese History teacher, private school, Providence RI

What aspects of your field do you wish you had known more about while in college?

Tips about networking, job seeking, setting up a studio to be able to continue working after school. (D. Detrich)

Stronger writing skills incorporated into the program as they related to teaching, more organizational and administrative skills, more complete preparation for applications for positions, preparing portfolios, and practice interviewing. (R. Meredith)

More computer and software knowledge. Also, more practical projects - projects completed for real customers in a real time frame. I remember working on some projects for months, having numerous critiques and no real customer. (L. Mondello)

A lot more about interviewing, cover letters, etc. I had the initiative to use the Career Development Center fairly often but I still feel a lot more should have been offered to graduating seniors, or some REQUIRED time at the CDC would be fantastic. (R. Farnum)

Marketing! Sales! Business Ethics! How to be an artist and make money! How to promote yourself! (N. Katz)

Public speaking. A course in business that gives knowledge of how to research and look for grants, opportunities, information, and have leaders, artists and businesspeople come in and speak. (K. Mulcahy)

What skills do you believe are lacking in new employees?

Speaking well, and articulating clear and thoughtful ideas. (R. Farnum)

I'm interest in educational media because of the value behind it. As a web designer for corporate projects, I feel too much emphasis is put on the latest and fastest technologies, and not necessarily interesting, effective content. (N. Katz)

Personal and social skills, how to relate to others and be courteous and generous. Ability to handle many tasks at once and not be overwhelmed. Ability to respond to people quickly (K. Mulcahy)

You need to not only have a knack for software packages, but also some idea of technology - how to fix minor computer problems. Art majors also want to make each project a "masterpiece", and most of the time we have limited time and money so we just need a solid business design solution - functional is sometimes more important than artistic (at least to most of our customers). (L. Mondello)

Experience in the rigors of a full time school schedule, incorporating extracurricular activities, follow-through on administrative paperwork, and in some cases insufficient communication and writing skills, developmental understanding as it affects creative work with children in the arts. (R. Meredith)

What skills do you seek when hiring artists?

When I was working at an agency and I was in charge of recommending new designers I always looked to see who had a professionally designed resume and a creative objective statement. "Nontraditional" resumes were often distracting, although many designers thought it would help them stand out and seem more artistic. When looking at hundreds of resumes, it really helps if the resume is designed in a straightforward and direct way. Any additional flares were superfluous, except for a simple logo - that was always a subtle yet important touch that got noticed. (N. Katz)

Designers should have good interpersonal skills since half the battle is getting information and selling your recommendations. Also, I have a hard time finding people with multimedia software experience who can think through a project from beginning to end. (L. Mondello)

Classroom experience, excellent communication skills, strong artistic commitment, a passion for teaching, enjoyment of the age group, actively working as an artist, examples of strong student work and copies of original assignments beyond student teaching, ability to develop creative and engaging curriculum, proven dedication to progressive education. (R. Meredith)

A broad range of talents, an ability to think and take charge, good organizing ability, technical and computer skills. (K. Mulcahy)

Confidence, maturity, ease and flexibility in the classroom. (R. Farnum)

How much do you value internship or co-op experience when considering an applicant?

Well, I just completed an internship myself at a television company and I found it to be very valuable. When looking at other people's resume, it's always a sign that they are passionate about this field enough to work for free. (N. Katz)

I think that internship and co-op experience is very important. It tells me that someone is willing to give of themselves, add extra work to their lives, and expand their skills and interests. (K. Mulcahy)

I think the more experience the better. If you only take classes and have no real project applications, it's hard to judge how much you did yourself vs. how much influence your professors and fellow students had on your portfolio. (L. Mondello)

I value internships somewhat, but what is more important is proven, individual experience in any teaching position (volunteer, various age groups), a proven commitment over time to the arts and art education. (R. Meredith)

What other tips would you share with students hoping to work in this field?

- Get as much experience helping in a classroom as possible, develop your own innovative ideas related to teaching - but with an understanding of the age and development of the students. Develop a portfolio of your students' work. Students should be able to present a one-class session project in a successful way, as they may have to do that during the interview process. (R. Meredith)

- After school it is important to find a community of like-minded people; Art Councils, organizations, that can act as support services. These are typically found in more urban areas. (D. Detrich)

- Think of where else you could use your skills: job conventions, trade shows, window dressers, Santa displays in malls, documentaries - they all use stage, lighting and props people. Restaurants and shopping centers use murals. (J. Carruthers)

- If you can't get a job, build your portfolio on your own. There is always something that can be redesigned or seen differently. There is no excuse for not having a collection of your designs if you truly love what you do. (N. Katz)

- Get as much experience while going to school as possible. Be willing to take any job in the beginning and learn from others and your experiences. (L. Mondello)

- Love your work. Here is my mantra:
Vision - First
Tenacity - Always
Knowledge - A Given
Know How - Essential
Taking No for an Answer - Never
Seek advice, develop a robust strategic plan with strong research, talk to people, listen carefully, consider criticism with an open mind, Respond to questions quickly and clearly, Education your audience, Share your passion, Inspire, Love artists deeply, Love the people who surround you, Keep your friends, Make more friends, Complete what you start. (K. Mulcahy)

- Take advantage of your career services office, build up your resume, learn how to "sell" yourself no matter what your degree or field. (R. Farnum)