April 13, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
University of Dallas
Kelly O'Briant: While the pandemic has changed much about galleries, exhibitions, non-profits, and art centers, most of those entities have also created new programming online and in-person. In fine art, there have been many positive impacts that will hopefully last. The accessibility of lectures and demonstrations has increased a hundredfold. Students have experienced classes, critiques, and making artwork in the digital realm. It seems that the new graduates may be more prepared to network and collaborate digitally.
Kelly O'Briant: Exhibitions, internships, and the capability of showing work professionally in an online format stand in for certifications/licenses. Workshops at schools like Penland School of Craft and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts offer an intense learning experience that can allow a recent graduate to build on skills and techniques. Many art students have a desire/need to teach, so any pedagogical experience gained could significantly impact success. Taking advantage of the plethora of online demonstrations and artist talks is crucial.
Concerning earning potential, it comes down to two things. Relevant experience in the most current trends in a given medium is of the utmost importance. Paired with teaching experience, this is the primary way to increase earning potential. Should they pursue a path as a professional studio artist, understanding the business principles of marketing and communication pairs very well with an arts degree. Understanding those disciplines helps artists get their work out in the world in a format ripe for purchase.
Kelly O'Briant: Understanding a range of material properties and processes, knowing how to work with one's hands can translate into many jobs, as noted above. Having some experience with basic animation and 3D modeling software and the hardware that accompanies, such as 3D printers and laser cutters, is helpful. The importance of general knowledge of creative software such as the Adobe Creative Suite cannot be overstated. Understanding those programs is relevant to creative work in various commercial and fine art related settings. Everything we use or engage with is created by or in consultation with a creative thinker. The clothes we wear to the dishes we eat from, the houses we live in, to the roads we drive on, the advertisements we see, the music we listen to, the filters we use to make our photographs look better on Instagram, the furniture we sit on and the movies we watch. The list is endless! We owe all of this to creative thinkers. All of these questions are related to one key strength of a fine arts degree: creative problem-solving. Students who earn a degree in fine arts learn to work with their hands and gain an intimate knowledge of material properties. In addition to technical/material problems, students must also face conceptual concerns and learn to articulate their ideas verbally and on paper. This dual problem gives art students a unique ability to approach problems from multiple angles. Creative thinkers brainstorm without fear of failure because failure is part of the process of making something. Being comfortable with failure instills resilience with regard to development, prototyping, and perfecting a concept. Art students can think through concepts and options and consider many avenues at once, and consider a project on a colossal scale or an intimate one. They understand that their work can have an impact on a few or many and work accordingly. These are logistical skills, and they translate to almost any field. Artists are uniquely positioned in this regard.
Art Department and Arts Administration ProgramWebsite
Wen Guo: Definitely. The pandemic might lead to much loss for graduates in many ways. Some professions will not recover well during a short time, and some will. The arts sector was especially hit hard, but it has been a great example of being resilient, creative, hopeful, and collegiate during the pandemic. With an evolved understanding of human relationships during the pandemic, the arts sector will thrive and transform greatly, which demands new energy and skillsets from the newly minted graduates. I believe the enduring impact on graduates is mostly positive if they keep working on what they are passionate about and being hopeful with the world. Instead of feeling bad about the situation, the graduates should do a little bit of reflection on the following aspects:
-What does the pandemic help me know better about my perception or values of professional success?
-Does the pandemic make me more emotionally and intellectually resilient? What is the evidence?
-Do I develop a better sense of understanding macro trends and sudden changes? Do I better understand how such macro trends and sudden changes transform the industry or profession I am interested in?
-Does the pandemic change your way of making decisions, and how?
-How should I carry what you learn during the pandemic forward to my professional life?
Wen Guo: I believe teaching, marketing, and basic accounting literacy are essential skills for arts graduates. Google, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Intuit, and other websites offer free and charged certification programs for students at various levels. Going to arts management graduate programs or other business programs can also be a great option if they do not face a heavy financial burden. You may also consider DEI training or certification programs and think about you integrate your DEI training experience in your arts career or arts education practices. Each arts discipline has its own specific certification programs and it is always good to try to pursue those that fit your artistic vision for yourself or your arts organization.
Wen Guo: Utilizing your artistic skills to develop side gigs will help you earn extra income and build your reputation in your community. Practicing grant writing skills will help you find better sources to fund your art projects. If you are in the performing arts field, make sure that you are in a local or regional union with collective negotiation deals with your employers. Keep an eye on your local/state arts councils, arts Facebook groups, and other popular arts communities to obtain financial opportunities for artists. Network, network, and network before you need a job opportunity. You need to give others the opportunities to know you before you convince them that you are a good fit for their jobs. Once you have established such relationships, it would be a lot easier for people to think of you when they need someone to do the job. I would also recommend that those who have a stable permanent position to consult with an accessible financial advisor to help you make a plan for retirement or investment opportunities.
Leslie Bostrom: I do not think there will be an enduring effect on visual artists. Visual arts are supported by, 1. Well-off consumers, 2. Government 3. Foundations. So I think these entities, less affected by COVID, will bounce back.
Leslie Bostrom: A lot of our students either go to grad school, get jobs in museums, teach in primary or secondary schools and programs, work as artist assistants or technicians. When you are an artist, the best job allows you enough time to do your work, and enough money to have a studio.
Leslie Bostrom: Employers want digital design skills, studio skills like printmaking, and tech skills like mold making, woodworking, metal working, and work with plastics. Matting and framing is good too. Artists starting out have to be versatile, willing to learn new skills, and flexible. And never stop doing your own work.
Department of Media ArtsWebsite
William Hill: Graduates will face new challenges that have already been trending in the discipline toward a more remote workplace and content delivery. But at the same time promoting a more collaborative production pipeline that foster graduates to be either more versatile in their skill set or more specialized. Additionally, the growth of the gig market and increase in content delivery options through streaming there will be increases in entrepreneur opportunities.
William Hill: The best entry-level job for recent graduates have always been ones that provide them the ability to leverage their specific skills and education while at the same time provide a challenge and growth window for forward advancement. Streaming Media, both content development and design is a growing sector across all industries. Most importantly is for graduates should continue to challenge their creative development where it is part of their vocation or not. Being engaged in creative projects that push their skill set will keep them engaged and controlling their future.
William Hill: Across the variety opportunities in Creative Media, consistently production speed is an underrated skill that transcends the discipline. Detailed, creative solutions are always an asset, but when new to the workforce, the speed of production, whether it is simply the use of keyboard shortcuts or efficient use of workday, employers quickly see the value that is being brought to the bottom line. I encourage students to master their technique with a repetition to foster more confidence in their workflow.
Western Connecticut State University
Department of ArtWebsite
Kenneth Scaglia: Some areas I'm aware of include self-publishing for illustrators in game environments and character development. Many of the graduates from the spring of 2020 continue to promote themselves and their art through unique products sold online. The upcoming graduates will experience more remote hiring and adapting to changing conditions as companies adapt to their clients. Many freelance opportunities will be available to those who can have a positive attitude toward multiple clients and overlapping deadlines.
Kenneth Scaglia: Digital skills in a variety of software have been, for several years, the entry point for many designers and illustrators. Adobe Creative Suite and newer alternatives are becoming increasingly expected by employers. The most important skill remains the application of critical thinking to a project using the particular tools preferred by any given studio. Internships are desirable but becoming harder to get in the remote environment.
Kenneth Scaglia: As remote working becomes more desirable and accommodated, some geographic restrictions will disappear. As long as creative hires can integrate well into a virtual team, they will be rewarded with repeat and longer lasting employment. Geographic areas that can support tech, healthcare, educational publishing, product design, cultural activities, multimedia, or video production will always be looking for creative hires. Across the US, design jobs are perennially found by graduates in companies that continue to need nimble, adaptable, and critical thinkers.