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Creating Your Career in Arts, Entertainment & Communications

Laura Neal

Laura Neal,
Industry Specialist; Arts, Entertainment, and Communications
(657) 278-3791

Jobs in the arts, entertainment, and communications industries are found primarily through personal contacts, also referred to as networking. To build a network, begin early in your college years to find ways to include as much co-curricular activity outside the classroom as possible. Get involved in student clubs and professional organizations, attending events relevant to your field such as conferences or festivals, offer your time in volunteer service, do internships, fellowships, study abroad programs, part time jobs and conduct informational interviews. Though jobs can also be found using online job sites, company websites or industry related publications, it's much more likely you will find a job based on "word of mouth" contacts instead. It is also very important to become familiar with the companies within your area of interest by reading blogs and publications specific to your field of interest and participating in activities where you can learn more about your career of choice.

Resume formats used in the arts, entertainment and communications industries vary greatly and the format depends on the type of job sought and the skills and accomplishments you are trying to emphasize. Generally, the layout conforms to the standard business style, with the exception of graphic designers and performing artists.

Resumes for actors, singers, musicians, and dancers have a very specific style of layout which includes physical statistics (height, vocal range, etc., depending on which craft you practice) along with experience. Performers must have a head shot to accompany the resume. Resumes for careers in stagecraft and skilled production trades such as cinematography and lighting, should be a simple chronological list of the shows or productions you have worked on. Please refer to the samples in the resume section of this guide.

Visual artists need a portfolio (samples of your work) to accompany their resumes. It is often difficult for students to decide what pieces to include in their portfolio. Entire books are published on the subject of portfolios, but a good guideline is to include only you most recent and relevant work. One artist recruiter put it this way; "It's not your life's work, it's your best work". Painters, sculptors, and other artists working in media that is not portable must have photos of their work. Artists portfolios can be in all electronic/digital formats as well as being in a print form.  Websites, blogs, CDs, flash drives, laptops, iPads and smart phones are all tools contemporary artists use to transport and show their work in addition to the traditional black leather case. Take classes that have portfolio assignments to help you make time to organize and present your portfolio.

Marketing, advertising, and public relations portfolios should be created using the same approach. Think of your portfolio as part of the marketing campaign to promote yourself. Take extra time and care with it, as you would any of your other work. Your conceptual skills and writing abilities are the content you are presenting, but take care to make the visual presentation strong as well. If you are an advertising major who is interested in the creative side of the business, then your art skills and portfolio must be up to the same creative standard as a visual artist.

Graphic designers, animators, and illustrators can usually bring color copies of their sample work in a portfolio as well as having a website, blog or CD. Links to websites where artwork is displayed are easily emailed to potential buyers or employers and have become the new standard for artists. One notable difference for these applied arts is that graphic designers' resumes must be a sample of their graphic design skills, whereas animators and illustrators are not expected to incorporate artwork into their resumes.  Please refer to the samples in the resume section of this guide.

Journalists, photographers, and filmmakers also need to have samples of their work to accompany a resume. A photographer's portfolio can be in the form of prints, CD or flash drive for portability, but they are also expected to have a website. For filmmakers, camera operators, animators, and others whose work is in a moving picture format, your samples need to be on a DVD, or flash drive. This type of "demo reel" as it is called, should have music to accompany and enhance the imagery, along with a title of your name in front of the work to identify it.  A practitioner of journalism, public relations, or other writing should have work samples printed out in a portfolio, as well as saved on a CD or flash drive. In all of these fields, a website is highly recommended as a place to upload your sample work.

Interviewing for a job in the arts, entertainment and communications industries varies according to the type of skills required and by job function. The format of the interview may range from a brief, informal conversation, to a very concise list of questions from a panel. But regardless of whether you are facing an art director or an editor; you need to be prepared to show them why they should choose you. Careers in these fields rely heavily on verbal communication skills and personality. The interview is the best place to demonstrate those skills.

Auditions are the interview equivalent for the performing artist, dancer, or musician. Auditions often include some conversation similar to an interview. The artist needs to be prepared to speak articulately about their work. Preparing for an audition is completely different, than preparing for a traditional interview. A good audition is contingent upon the following:

  • Natural talent
  • Choice of material
  • Practice/preparation
  • Ability to cope with performance anxiety, improvising, and on-the-spot changes
  • Subjective criteria and opinion of the person making the selection

Job change has become the new norm, and workers today must cope with greater instability regardless of career field. This is even more true for students seeking careers in the creative areas. Although the arts, entertainment and communications industry areas also have many non-creative types of jobs that offer more stability, it is still wise for students seeking careers in these industry areas to expect multiple internships, free-lance work, self-employment and project based jobs, especially at the start of their careers. This article provides a general overview about careers within the arts, communications, and entertainment industries. The information is generalized and limited in scope due to the constraints of the size of this guide book, and should be supplemented by further research. Begin now by coming to the Career Center!