The EEE Guide on How to Get Your First Job in the Art World

Now what?

For the past decade, I have been heavily involved with the alumni department of my alma mater, Sotheby's Institute, and at least once or twice a year a recent graduate contacts me for my few morsels of wisdom.

This year I received a very nice follow-up note who credited my advice with helping her finally land a job after months of pounding the pavement. My hope in sharing this is that as she found something useful here, perhaps another may also be able to benefit.

1. What do you want to do?

Sure, if you are lucky enough to get hired by Sotheby’s or Christie's, you will be put in a department and then – boom – your entire career will have been dictated by that assignment because once you specialize, it is difficult to start over in something else. Maybe you will find that you have a deep and abiding passion for silver or Latin American Art, otherwise....

Instead of just looking at jobs that are available, focus on what your specialty is and contact relevant dealers/institutions/departments even if for just an informational interview.

Or is there someone doing what you would like to be doing? See if you can take them to coffee or lunch and hear about how they got to where they are. Obviously not everybody can go up to contemporary art hotshot auctioneer Tobias Meyer and ask to pick his brain – try to network through your alumni network or ask a professor if they know of someone.

2. If you can afford to, intern. By not getting paid, you should be able to work almost anywhere you would like to. This way you can also get a blue chip name on your resume, a recommendation, and who knows, maybe a job. Ideally, you should do this also while you are still in school so you can start building your resume and rolodex.

3. For internet job listings, in New York, is the best; also has listings for the rest of the country; your school should also have some postings

4. Ladies, you can’t go wrong wearing all black to the interview, and, for men, yes, a suit is still important. Even if no one working there is dressed in one, it shows respect. Look impeccable – appearance is extremely important in the art world.

5. Clean up your resume - take off menial work experience such as being a waiter; use an easy-to-read sans-serif font; organize it attractively and with enough space - forget sticking to that one page rule;

Highlight your computer skills – even if you have a master’s degree in art history, chances are your first job will entail administrative duties and lots of them. Showing you have professional office skills may give you the edge rather than your expertise on abstract expressionism.

6. Write a follow-up thank you email that day (handwritten is always appropriate, but decisions get made so quickly, an email might be better)

7. Tell everyone you know you’re looking – the art world operates in a more word-of-mouth, less transparent way than other sectors, so some positions are never advertised and furthermore having a personal connection to a potential employer is an automatic edge

Any more sage words to pass along?