Attention struggling artistes! You may not necessarily want it but most of us need a job to support our creative selves. Personally, I’m finding the isolation of writing full-time a real incentive to keep applying for part-time jobs. (Actually, since I wrote this post I’ve decided to study creative writing full-time so job hunting is kind of on-hold for me – but please, don’t let me deter you!) And, of course, if we’re going to work, an arts-related job is the ideal.
Last month, I went to the Wheeler Centre where Writers Victoria director Kate Larsen gave a seminar on this very topic. I’ve summarised her pearls of wisdom here:
Ring them up if there’s a contact person and ask a question. This separates you from the pack. If you don’t have a question, make up a reasonably intelligent question and call anyway. If it’s a small organisation you might even actually speak to the person who will be doing the hiring so you’re getting in early with a chance to make a good impression.
Give concrete examples of things. Don’t just say I’ve had experience in customer service period. Say, when I worked at Joe Blogg’s hardware, customer service was an integral part of my job. I was always cheerful, helpful and responsible. My duties included….etc. Apply this to the selection criteria – concrete examples all the way.
Tailor your application to the workplace – do not send in a one-size fits all cover letter. You need to express a genuine interest in that specific job.
Address the elephant in the room. This might be, for example, that you live in regional Victoria and you’re applying for a job in Melbourne. You need to address this – I travel up once a week anyway to see my ailing mother, etc.
Practice your interview skills before the day. Think of the possible questions they might ask and have some ideas of what you will say.
Ask questions at the interview or if you really can’t think of anything politely tell them ‘you’ve covered all my questions’.
Say ‘I have no experience in X but….’ Rather I have X experience which is equivalent to ….whatever they’re looking for.
Bring show and tell unless they ask for it. If you’re going for an admin job with a writing organisation say, they don’t want to see your publishing backlog (unless they ask for it).
Ring up and abuse them if you miss out (like doh? Do people really do this?) According to Kate, they do!