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Students attending Sotheby’s Institute share a passion for art, but many are undecided about how they will put their passion into practice. The art world has numerous pathways to follow, and students can be overwhelmed by the possibilities.

That’s where the Career Services department at Sotheby’s Institute can help. Emily Westerman, Director of Career Services at our New York campus, has more than a decade of experience in career management. “All career paths are inherently unique, but there are some concrete and actionable steps that individuals can take to ensure that they are embarking down a path that will ultimately lead to a fulfilling career”, says Westerman.

Read more about the four key steps each young professional should take to define their career path and chart a successful course into the future.

Step #1: Assess

The first step is to assess and identify. In determining ultimate “career fit” and “cultural fit,” it’s important for individuals to begin with a self-assessment, identifying their skills, strengths, interests and values, as well as gathering information about the art world – the different roles, settings, and specific target markets. An appointment with Career Services can also help. As Westerman explains, “One of the most important services our office provides is to help students create a framework for this process. We start by identifying their skills, strengths and interests by reviewing and evaluating all past internship and work experiences”.

Step #2: Imagine

Next, Westerman suggests students create their “ideal job description” so they can start to envision how they would ideally like to apply their skills, experiences and passions, and in what type of environment. “This exercise enables students to articulate what their ideal role would look like and can be a launching pad for the process of formulating potential short- and long-term career goals, as well as determining action steps toward achieving these goals”, Westerman says. Once students have gone through this process, they can begin to develop a target list of art world settings and functions that align with their goals.

Step #3: Engage

Using their target list, Westerman says it’s time to “test the waters” to “narrow the possibilities, determine potential fit, and obtain a set of marketable skills and experiences”. This can be accomplished through several different avenues:

Informational interviews are an invaluable first step for gaining insights about a specific art world career path. In an informational interview the student is interviewing an experienced professional in one of their career targets to learn what a typical day is like, the main functions for that role and the skills valued by potential employers. In addition, informational interviews provide an opportunity for students to start building their professional network as any professional a student interviews may have future hiring needs and can potentially facilitate introductions to others established in that niche.

Alumni career panels and guest speaker events hosted by Career Services are additional opportunities to learn about different career paths. These panels are offered throughout the year and students are encouraged to attend.

Participating in internships is another step toward further defining whether a career path could be the right fit. Westerman encourages students who are undecided to explore internships during the spring semester; if a student determines that the role is not the right fit, a student can then test the waters for another potential career path in the summer and fall. This is a win-win as students will develop transferable skills and build their experience in the art world, no matter what path they ultimately decide to follow.

Step #4: Actualize

After completing the first three steps, students can use the knowledge, experiences and network they have gained to begin applying to roles suited to their background and interests. There are so many different settings and careers that allow students to turn their passion into practice, with newly created roles, platforms and venues emerging every day.

Emily WestermanEmily Westerman is the Director of Career Services at the New York campus of Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Emily has worked in career management for over ten years, having served as a career coach and an Associate Director in the Office of Career Management at New York University – School of Professional Studies.

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