Effective job searching has three components: answering job advertisements, applying directly to organizations where you would like to work, and networking. It is important to use all three in order to find the best job in the shortest time.
Answering Job Advertisements
SFAI’s job board is the most readily available resource for the SFAI community. There is also a wealth of jobs located through various internet sources. It is recommended that you check each of these sources at least once or twice a week so you can apply promptly whenever a new job posting appears.
Finding an interesting job lead and applying for it are perhaps the easiest ways to get a job, but unfortunately they are not the most effective. Only about 10 to15 percent of jobs are advertised publicly. It's likely that you'll need to search in other ways to find the right job for you.
Another useful way to find jobs is to research organizations where you would enjoy working and apply directly with a letter of inquiry to ask if they anticipate an opening in your field. Collecting information about the organization by familiarizing yourself with their websites, articles, and reviews is an important first step.
Once you have identified places where you would like to work and jobs that fit your skills and strengths, you can write letters outlining your abilities, mail them to the people in a position to hire you, and follow them up with calls to make sure they were received and to reiterate your interest in the positions. This approach directly targets positions you want, making your search that much more effective.
One of the most powerful ways to find a job is through networking. Occasionally you will hear of unadvertised openings, and if you are referred by a networking contact to a potential employer, you have a much greater chance of being hired.
It is said that about 80 to 85 percent of jobs nationwide are filled by networking before they are ever advertised; that means that you should be spending about 80 percent of your job search time in networking activities. Many people are uneasy about networking, thinking of it as schmoozing or using people. Networking is just a way of getting more people to know who you are and to keep their ears open for opportunities. They won’t get you a job—you will have to do that for yourself! However, they can let you know when they hear of a promising opening, pass your resume along to a friend or colleague, and put in a good word for you. It's likely that you’ll have a chance to repay the favor in the future.
Networking activities include informational interviewing, joining professional organizations and attending their meetings, visiting arts organizations, attending openings, talking to faculty, friends, family, and acquaintances about your career goals, and keeping in touch with faculty, internship supervisors, and others so that when an opening appears, they think of you. The idea is to talk about your aspirations to as many people as you can think of so they are alert to opportunities.
The first step to good networking is to make a list of all the people you know who are in any way related to the work you hope to do and the organizations where you hope to do it, including faculty and alumni contacts from SFAI and any previous colleges you attended. Next, add acquaintances, friends, and family who might have connections to those organizations: former roommates, the folks at the gym, and the guy you met at the coffee shop down the street. Don’t forget to include your parents' friends as well as the parents of your friends. In short, your list should include the names of any people who might be able to help.
Calling your contacts is often difficult the first time you do it, so it makes sense to start with the lowest-risk, kindest people on your list. Start with people who are most approachable and have the most time to talk to you, giving yourself a chance to practice your networking skills before tackling the more difficult calls on your list.
The purpose of your call is to set up a meeting with the contact, either at his or her office if it’s a business contact or at a more social location if it’s a friend or acquaintance. Your initial script can be fairly simple: “Hello, Ms. Brown, my name is Paul. I was your son Mike’s roommate at SFAI and he suggested I call you to talk about my interest in working in a gallery since he says you worked for many years at Suchandsuch Gallery. Do you have a few minutes this week to meet with me?” If she says yes, set up a time and a place that is convenient for her. If she says she’s too busy this week, ask if you can call back in a week or two when her schedule eases. Usually, people are happy to help if you are sensitive to their schedules and make it easy for them.
At the meeting, your agenda is to tell the contact what you are seeking, ask him or her for advice on how to go about looking for such a job, and determine if he or she has additional contacts you might pursue. Your goal is to turn each contact into at least one other contact. As your network grows, the chance that you will hear of an interesting opportunity increases exponentially.
Applying for Jobs
Once you have found some job leads of interest, you should apply by following the employer's instructions. Some employers require an application form in addition to a cover letter and resume. Others want a statement of purpose or other documents such as letters of reference. The important thing to remember is to follow directions carefully, respect employers’ deadlines (note whether they want the application postmarked or received by the deadline), and always submit neat, professional application materials. Don’t substitute other documents for the ones specifically requested by the employer, even if they contain the information requested. If you have questions about the application process, it’s a good idea to call the organization to clarify rather than risk mistakes. Employers would usually rather answer your questions ahead of time than try to unsnarl the problems later.
While it is important to make an employer's deadlines, if you happen to hear of the perfect opening a few days late, it is worth a call to the organization to ask if they will still accept your application. If you are convincing about your enthusiasm for the position, they will sometimes allow late entries. It is critical to send your materials immediately once you receive permission, so be sure to have an up-to-date resume and a good basic cover letter ready at all times.
Keeping good records of the applications you have mailed, the follow-up calls you have made, the interviews you have had, and any approaching deadlines requires good organizational skills. Your calendar will become your best friend during a job search as you track appointments, apply on time for jobs, and make follow-up calls or write thank you letters. There are as many different systems for keeping track of all this information as there are job seekers; devise a system that works for you and stay on top of your commitments.
Allotting Enough Time
Job searching can be quite time consuming. You should be putting as much time as possible into your job search; the most common mistake job seekers make is to give too little time to it. Try to save purely social contacts for after you have completed your job search work for the day. If you must take a part-time or full-time job to support yourself while you search for your ideal job, try to find one that allows you several hours daily during normal working hours to meet with your networking contacts and attend job interviews. Otherwise, you will keep needing time off from work and that will not endear you to your current employer—someone a future employer may want to contact for a reference!
Keeping a Positive Outlook
There are several tactics for keeping a positive outlook during a job search, and you will surely devise some of your own. One important strategy to keep from feeling stopped is always to have one or two activities going on; it is when you have no active leads, applications, or calls outstanding that you are tempted to feel defeated. Keep applying for jobs, calling for networking appointments, and attending professional meetings to add to your growing list of job search activities; staying active and energetic will help to keep your spirits up and increase your chances of finding the perfect job quickly.