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Get References Without Art World Experience

Get References Without Art World Experience

Paul W. Barada /

This article was originally posted

You’ve just graduated art school and have that long-coveted diploma in hand. You’re ready to take on the world.

But you’ve lined up some job interviews at creative firms, and the first recruiter you meet wants references. You’ve spent the last 16 to 18 years in school and never really had a job. What do you do?

This is common among recent art college graduates. Although many college students work in the summer or part-time during the school year, many others don’t. Or if they worked, their jobs may not have related to their fields of study. So what’s a newly degreed job seeker with little real work experience supposed to do when asked for references?

What Potential Employers Want to Know

First, it’s important to understand what recruiters are looking for when recruiting for entry-level positions. They want to be able to evaluate a job seeker’s job performance potential, not his past job performance.

Whatever the industry, most entry-level jobs require many of the same qualities and skill sets, including interpersonal, problem-solving and leadership skills and the ability to work effectively with others. Unless it’s terrible, a student’s GPA isn’t the primary consideration. Being able to communicate effectively, express thoughts logically and think on your feet is more important to recruiters than being on the dean’s list.

Recruiters also look for involvement in campus activities and volunteer work. I’ve been told countless times that, all other things being equal, a recruiter will always offer the job to the student who has been involved in a variety of campus activities over the student who just went back and forth to class for four years. Why? Because being involved suggests the ability to manage one’s time more effectively. Holding a position in a club or organization also suggests leadership ability and communication skills.

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