Lets talk about...
In this episode of Let's talk about...Annie, Sophie, Julie and Matilda discuss their experiences of job hunting in the arts. From where to look, our tips for applications, and how to stay motivated through the general highs and lows of looking. Listen to hear our tips and tricks, as well as to know you're not alone!
In this episode we also spoke to Emma Restall, a Junior Consultant for DRAW Recruitment, to find out about recruiters in the art world. She speaks on the process of using a recruiter and also offers her own insights for young people searching for arts jobs at this difficult time.
Junior Consultant for Draw Recruitment
arts recruitment company
Pronouns: She / Her
Place of work: DRAW Recruitment
Focussing on the junior level job searches for DRAW, matching candidates with the perfect role.
BA History of Art, Oxford Brookes University
Research MA in the Art Market and History of Collecting, University of Buckingham
GRAD: Gallery for Russian Arts and Design, London; Royal Academy of Arts, London.
"It’s so difficult as a new grad in the best of times, and obviously the current circumstances are extremely challenging. So, I would suggest doing as much networking and outreach as is possible from home, LinkedIn is a really good one for this."
Notes and links
The Arts Council have a really great job website that is used by a whole variety of art employees. You can specify your search to a specific field or area. The vacancies are also posted to their Twitter account @artsjobs.
Creative Access list vacancies specifically aimed at under-represented communities within creative industries. They also have CV consultations and offer application help too.
The Other Art Fair is an emerging artist-led art fair in London, with works to suit every budget.
The Affordable Art Fair takes place in Battersea Park in summer and includes a variety work from hand-picked galleries to suit all budgets.
DRAW is a recruitment agency that matches candidates with roles in the fine art and design industry, mostly in the UK but many also in Europe. They have expert knowledge of jobs and employers in the arts, and organise every aspect, from interviews, salary negotiation, to explaining job contracts. Their online jobs desk is where you can upload your CV and see the jobs advertised. They are a small team, but have an efficient, honest approach to recruiting.
A commercial gallery is a for-profit gallery where art is exhibited for sale. Commercial galleries have what is called an artist roster which is a number of artists they represent and exhibit artworks for in exchange of a commission they’ll take on sales.
A role within an art gallery which is responsible for initiating and sustaining relationships with artists, acting as the main point of contact for the artist and their studio in regards to sales and shows.
Marketing and Comms
The use of marketing channels for businesses to convey messages to the public or their particular market. In the museum world, this might be trying generate public interest in the cultural experience of visiting their site or art shows and events.
Interpretation refers to the way a museum or a gallery addresses and connects with the public. Whether it is through written text panels on the walls, artwork labels or audioguides, interpretation enables museums to communicate stories and meaning to their public.
HR is the shortening for Human Resources which is the department of an organisation that looks after employees and is responsible for finding and training job applicants.
A C.V is a written overview, typically in a digital format, of your education, your professional experience and skills. Nowadays, CVs can be more and more creative using design softwares like Photoshop or websites like Canva.
A Recruitment Agency is an outside company that matches jobs with candidates looking for work. They work with employers to find the most suitable candidate for the role, based on CVs uploaded to their jobs board. They often advertise the roles online through their jobs board and you can put yourself forward for them there.
Good recruitment agencies are there as much for you as they are for the employer. They can be your go-between if you have any questions about the job or contract. They get paid by the employer for finding a successful candidate, and you don’t need to pay anything as a candidate. You should never use any recruitment agency that asks you for a payment.
Julie Bleas: It is a full-time job, that has no…you don’t get a salary and there’s no time off and no weekends.
Matilda McEvedy: Welcome to this episode of Hang it. Today the team will be chatting about our experience of job hunting in the arts. I’m Matilda.
JB: I’m Julie
Sophie Ridsdale-Smith: I’m Sophie
Annie Birchenough: And I’m Annie.
MM: Hang it is an online platform providing young people with the tools understand what a career in the cultural sector might look like. We’re a team of four graduates, fresh out of uni. We’re currently going through the long process of searching for, applying and interviewing for jobs in the art world. We all started job hunting in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Annie has just started succeeded in getting a job at a commercial gallery in London. But obviously it’s a really tough time to be looking for work in this sector.
Although we’re not experts in job applications, we do have the insight of our own experiences and wanted to share our advice and frustrations in this conversation. In the hop that its useful for anyone, even if it’s just to remember you’re not alone!
So, I’ll just start by going round and asking what kind of jobs we’re all looking for?
AB: Yeah, so when I embarked on the job-hunting process, I think all of us were looking for kind of public museum and institutional roles, but we all know that that is the sector that has been hit the hardest by the pandemic. And so, we’ve all had to strategically adjust our thinking to think about where the jobs actually are.
I’m interested in working directly with artists, so I was looking at kind of artist Liaison role, and studio roles, working with artists in their studios. And as Tilda mentioned, have very recently, and very fortunately, have found a role as Artist Liaison and Communications Coordinator at a commercial gallery in London.
JB: Yeah well, I’m mainly looking for Communications and Marketing roles. Well originally in public museums specifically, but I have kind of broadened my horizons since starting looking. So now I’m looking. at commercial galleries.
SRS: Yeah, similar to Julie, Marketing and Comms roles, but also commercial galleries, I’ve found there’s more jobs there at the moment because they’re reopening earlier.
MM: I got really interested in interpretation while doing the Masters, and recently have seen a couple sort of Education Officer roles, and working with young people for arts organisations.
So, next question: Where do you all start with searching for a job? What’s your beginning point?
SRS: I’m thinking way back in September when I first properly was looking for jobs. It was initially LinkedIn because I think at that point, I didn’t actually know where the art jobs were. I personally don’t think LinkedIn is that helpful, because you get quite a lot of spammy jobs on there…if that’s a word. *laughs*
And then I found Leicester Jobs Desk more helpful or public gallery roles. And then I guess the best think I’ve found more recently is the Arts Councils, Arts Jobs – but they have a daily email which comes out at like 8 o’clock at night I think, and just tells you all the jobs, you can put in a filter of like location and salary range.
JB: I would say that Arts Jobs is the website which I’ve been refreshing the most. Employers, galleries, museums, but also any arts organisations. Another one is Creative Access.
AB: I think it’s also worth just adding in a point to say that Creative Access which is a great online resource, is a particularly useful resource for people who are underrepresented in the Arts, and caters for those applicants quite actively, so is a really great resource.
JB: But something I’ve realised, some roles are not advertised on those portals. I think I was really limiting myself limiting those three websites constantly. And since I’ve sort of stopped doing that and actually looked up galleries, especially commercial galleries in London, I’ve found a lot more roles that are not advertised there.
AB: Or looking at…if you’re looking commercially you can go ono Art Fair pages to get a list of what the different galleries are, because you may not be familiar with what the commercial gallery sector looks like. So, things like Frieze, or Masterpiece, or even The Other Art Fair is a good one as well, or the Affordable Art Fair because they’ll be smaller galleries. Also, getting sent things through Instagram. So, I would really definitely check the stories and feeds of the galleries you’re interested in working with because they often advertise on Instagram before they do elsewhere.
MM: There are also some great Instagram’s that just do sort of weekly roundups, like Run the Check, and If You Could, and Creative Graduate has a couple I think.
AB: But one thing we’re going to talk about a bit later I think if also recruitment companies, and how ultimately I think at the moment with the job market so over-saturated with. applicants a lot of companies are using recruitment companies to just streamline the process for them.
MM: And just to say that we have collated a list of the websites that do these roundups of jobs on the Hang it website in the useful resources tab.
Also, just to mention that the Kickstart scheme has also started, where the government is providing funding to organisations to create new job placements to 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit, who are at risk of like long-term unemployment.
So now going on the applications. What would be your top advice for arts jobs applications?
I think it’s important to say that you know we don’t work in HR, and we’re not experts so this isn’t be all and end all advice.
SRS: I think just first write a cover letter that’s not necessarily specific to a place, but just has the bulk of what you’re going to say that applies to any job that you apply to, that kind of just maps out your experience, and the skills that you have. Every job has skills that are the same across all of the jobs you look for. That then you can just use and tailor to every job you apply for. So, I have…my cover letter is just like…the middle bit is where I talk about my Masters experience, my work experience, other things that I’ve done that I want to mention, and then the first paragraph will be specific to the gallery or the place I’m applying to, as to why I want to work there or what I like about them.
MM: I can definitely tell which of my applications I spent less time on, which were less tailored. So often I’ll go and do like paragraph headings, which doesn’t look that professional. But someone who’s flipping through CVs – if they on their job description have sort of four bullet points, then putting those headings above each paragraphs so it’s bold and clear.
AB: Particularly for large institutional applications, really try to use the words, the key words that they use in the job description in your cover letter. Because there are cases in which the first scan of your application will be done by a machine not by a human being.
JB: For me, what I’ve found really useful, and this is a general advice for anyone looking for work, to know how much time I should spend on applications. And that’s I think…being able to find a balance.
AB: Another thing I would say, which I am terrible at, is apply sooner rather than later! I think we’ve all had personal experience of this, that don’t wait for the day before the deadline to submit, because they well start interviewing three weeks before that.
JB: Yeah, we’ve been there. *laughs*
AB: Sorry if that’s a sore topic girls. *laughs*
MM: And then if the applications we do do materialise into an interview, what’s everyone’s best tactic for job interviews?
JB: Job interviews are very different from uni or Masters interviews, because I was really surprised to find that people actually ask you veery set questions and that those…something that I did quite naively, not thinking that that was going to happen was to type “Ten most common interview questions”, and they all came up.
SRS: Of course it’s important to prep, but I think also over-prepping is also another issue, that I’m sure I’ve in the past fallen victim to. Where it almost consumes you for the week before your interview, but then when you get to it and you’re like, “Oh I’ve got so much in my head, because I’ve done so much preparation” and I just end up not saying the things I wanted to, or the things that would’ve been really good to talk about. Just having that bank of HR questions that you can pull out last minute is useful.
AB: Do not assume, that they have your CV and your Cover Letter in front of them, and that they’ve read it, and they know who you are. Go into that interview as if these people have never heard of you in. your life.
MM: But also your personal projects, obviously in your CV and Cover Letter you want to put everything, even the boring bits of stuff that you’ve done because that shows all of your transferable skills, and that’s necessary to their job description. But at interview, you do get to show yourself as the exciting and innovative person that you are. So, having those side-projects and then being able to talk about them in an engaging way in interview - they also want to get to know you and they want to know what kind of person you will be to work with.
And Annie you worked with a recruitment company to find your job. How was your experience of that?
AB: My experience was with a great recruitment company, with DRAW Recruitment, who placed me in my current position and they were really supportive. I was very transparent about the fact that I didn’t know how it worked - getting a job with a recruitment company - and they really held my hand through the process, and explained everything to me.
And the great thing about working with a recruiter is that there is a mediator between yourself and the employer, that means that you know that the process is going to be treated in a proper manner, and that the recruiter is there to kind of protect your interests as an applicant.
MM: We’re now going to take a quick break from the job hunting conversation and jump to an interview I did with Emma Restall, a Junior Consultant for DRAW Recruitment, which is an arts recruitment company. We chat about her role and what’s involved in working with a recruiter, especially as a young graduate.
Emma Restall: Hi Matilda! My name is Emma, I’m one of the junior consultants here at DRAW. We focus on recruitment within the arts and my job is to speak to junior candidates and recent grads like yourself. Help them with their job search.
MM: Amazing! Could you describe DRAW for me and the role of a recruiter?
ER: We’re a small recruitment team and we focus on job searches within the arts. The role of the recruiter is to find the right match for roles that our clients need assistance with and assist our candidates with their job search. So it’s a balance between the two.
MM: And why should graduates consider using DRAW Recruitment rather than directly applying to a company?
ER: Well it’s a very tricky time for recent graduates so I think any extra help is useful, you should be doing all of those things. But not only can we advise you on your CV and the state of the current job market but our blog has a lot of resources for finding jobs, working out what’s right for you, interview tips and as mentioned, CV advice. As I said, I focus on the junior searches and I really enjoy talking to recent graduates like yourself and sort of helping them. Unfortunately, entry-level jobs have really taken a hit during the pandemic but with the promise of things reopening, we hope to see a lot more coming up.
MM: And what’s your target client group?
ER: We have quite a diverse range of clients within individual arts. Prominently commercial arts galleries and auction houses. But our clients also range from small family-run antiques dealerships to our art technology platforms, editorials, blue chip galleries and everything in between.
MM: Could you talk a little bit about the process and what’s expected of an applicant working with you?
ER: There are no expectations, we’re here to help. As you know, as we’ve had a chat, what we do is: you send us your CV and we’ll register you on our database and that means that you can come up in any searches that we do for a role. Moving forward, we would have a chat with you, before the pandemic that would be in person, so we can get to know you and understand what you’re looking for. Now we do that via Zoom and then moving forward, when a role comes in that you’re suitable for we can have a chat about that and put you forward and hopefully you’ll get a job, like your colleague Annie.
MM: I think there are a lot of misconceptions or at least I didn’t really understand what a recruitment company was before talking to you at DRAW. Do recruitment companies take a cut from your pay when they find you a job?
ER: No, not at all. It’s actually against the law to charge for job seeking services so an agency could charge you for CV services or something along those lines but it’s against the law to charge for job seeking services so we’re here to give you free help.
MM: That’s good to know! So don’t trust a recruitment company that asks for a cut. And what is it about recruitment in the arts that is so different from other fields?
ER: So in terms of the process of recruiting, I wouldn’t say it’s that much different, each sector has different requirements that will need to be fulfilled for a specific role. What is different is, in the art market there is a strong prevalence towards internships and volunteering compared to other sectors. This is because most organisations are small, mid-size companies don’t have the capacity to do more corporate traineeships or graduate schemes. And I know you’ve done a whole podcast on the subject of internships! Another difference, again because of the size of the art world, because it is still quite small compared to other sectors, is why we take such a personal approach to recruiting, because we’ve all worked in various positions within the arts so we meet all our candidates so when we put them forward for a role, we know they’re a good fit.
MM: And you work specifically with people looking for entry-level jobs, do you have any advice for young graduates looking for work at this difficult time?
ER: It’s so difficult for a new grad in the arts at the best of times obviously the current circumstances are extremely challenging so I would suggest doing as much networking and outreach as possible from home, Linkedin is a good place for this. If you have any academic or side hustles that you’re doing then make sure they’re mentioned in your CV. Any work experience at the moment is good, whether it is within the arts or not, I think of lot of people assume that non-arts related experience is not relevant but particularly at the moment it really is so good admin skills, database experience, digital marketing, all these skills are very transferable to roles in the arts. Any employer looking at your CV at this time will understand that it is really good that you’ve been proactive and been working, even if that’s in a supermarket.
MM: And you speak with employers all the time. What’s the most important thing they look for on a CV?
ER: That’s a tricky question actually. It really depends on the role that is being hired for. However I think the most important thing is that your CV is concise and coherent, with no typos. An employer will spot a typo that has been missed, so matter how many times you’ve proofread it.
MM: Well thank you so much for talking to me. Obviously we’ve got DRAW recruitment on the website under resources so our listeners can find you there.
ER: Yes! Please do get in touch with me if you are a recent graduates in the arts, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d love to have your CV on file and have a chat with you about what you’re looking for and at this time to offer some reassurance because it is a bit miserable and difficult so that’s what we’re here for and hopefully with commercial galleries being able to open next week things will pick up and we can all go onwards and upwards.
ER: Thanks Matilda.
MM: And now back to the Hang it group to keep on chatting about job hunting.
What is the biggest negative of job hunting in the arts?
JB: It’s just very...It's a tiring process and it feels very alienating.
MM: We’re obviously in a moment where we’re up against people with years of experience and it’s exhausting, disheartening.
S R-S: I’ve actually been keeping a spreadsheet, which is a bit sad, of all the jobs I’ve applied to in the last six months. At the time, out of the 35 jobs or something, out of 20 haven’t got back which is just so bad and so disheartening when you’ve put so much time into applications.
AB: I would agree that the lack of feedback is the hardest part. I would say that it’s worth taking into account as well, but that’s also paired with small organisations particularly who are just at capacity at the moment, perhaps because half their staff is furloughed so they just don’t have the manpower to go through all these applications.
JB: It is a full time job that has no...You don’t get a salary and there’s no time off and there are no weekends because they are deadlines.
MM: How do you stay motivated during job hunting?
S R-S: Like we said, it’s a full time job, treat it like a job in a way. Don’t do things at the weekend because otherwise, and I feel it's because of lockdown as well, time just blurs into one.
JB: For the longest time I have been ashamed to say how upset I was, getting constantly rejected. And I had a conversation where that person said to me “well, you’re allowed to feel shit”.
AB: It’s completely ok to feel terrible.
JB: Because it is so tough! Especially when right now we can’t even go to the museums we want to work at.
MM: It’s a hopeless place when you’re trying to convince proper adults that you can do things and they should pay you to do things. But having this group and having something to work for has been so useful. Having projects on the side, we have Hang it, which has honestly given me so much motivation, so much life.
AB: The art world, specifically, is a very unique place to be a job hunter and often your friends who are in other industries or your parents who are in other industries have no idea, because it is completely different to applying to jobs in any other sectors so if you can find other people your age looking for work in the same industry, just chat and exchange and support each other like we’ve managed to do, that is the most important thing.
MM: Well thanks so much for listening! I hope this has been useful listening to our top tips and our moans and groans as well. We’ll leave any websites and resources and links down below as well as a transcript. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @hangitcollective, all in one word, to keep updated on all our new content. Thanks, bye!