Your Curriculum Vitae is your primary marketing tool. Most art world employers ask for one, along with a cover letter, as a first step in a job application process. But writing a CV and cover letter is a fine art in itself. How do you get it right? Zoe Mogridge and Emily Westerman, Careers Directors for Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London and New York, share some advice...
1. Regularly maintain a master CV to keep track of everything you achieve as you move along in your career. When you apply for a job however, always tailor your CV to what that specific role requires.
2. Don’t be vague. Quantify outcomes. For example, if you worked at a gallery, how many clients did you work with? Were they international clients? High net worth individuals? How many sales did you generate? By what percentage did you increase the gallery’s social media profile?
3. Don’t be afraid to own your skills and knowledge. You never simply “assist” in a process. As an exhibition assistant, for example, you carry out your own tasks and functions to make that exhibit happen such as handling artwork or sending out invitations.
4. List your education first if you’re just completing a graduate program. But move education to bottom of resume once you have completed at least one year of work experience post-graduation.
5. Customize every cover letter to the specific opportunity. Cover letters provide the chance to express why you’re an ideal fit by showcasing your skills, experience, and knowledge that most align with the role specifications and what attracts you to that role and organization.
6. Address your cover letter to a specific person whenever possible. Take the extra step of visiting the organization’s website to see if you can find the name of the person the position would most likely report to. For a gallery setting for example, address your cover letter to the director, manager, or owner, to the founder or executive director for a smaller non-profit, and for larger organizations, the person who manages that specific department.
7. Spell out in the first paragraph why you want to work for them. Start by making it about them! What is it about their mission that resonates with you? What is it about what they do, about their niche, that you connect with?
8. Let your voice shine through. A cover letter is not just another business letter. Make it personal, don’t be afraid to express who you are as a professional and as an individual. The recruiter wants to know if you will fit in with their company culture, not just whether you have the hard skills to accomplish the job requirements. Convey your enthusiasm, your uniqueness and passion for the art world.