Career Pathways

Resumes and cover letters

Resumes

For artists, the portfolio often reigns supreme in terms of important elements to your professional identity. That does not mean you should overlook your resume. Your resume is a summary of background, skills, and qualifications. It is often the first document your audience will typically look at, so it serves as your first impression in the selection process. Like your creative practice, your resume is always in a state of growth and development.  

Use the resume creator in HireVCURams to start building a basic resume. Follow our HireVCURams Resume Creator [PDF] to accessing the feature in HireVCURams. Check out our Resume Guide [PDF] for general advice or explore the examples.

Artist resumes

The word resume and curriculum vitae (CV) are often used interchangeably. To add to the confusion, the arts & design field include an artist resume as well.

In general, use a resume when applying for positions outside of academia, and possibly unrelated to your art discipline (administrative positions, other office jobs, etc.). Use an artist resume primarily when applying to positions with commercial galleries, museums, exhibition opportunities, and certain grant applications. Finally, create a CV when considering academic employment in higher education.

Both the College Art Association and Getting Your Sh*t Together offer additional insights and resources for developing an artist resume.

Quality content is more important than design

When it comes to choosing a format, some arts or media organizations may be more tolerant of design-heavy resumes that use color, graphics, or otherwise veer from the traditional one-page resume. Keep in mind that regardless of the audience, the interest is in quality content over a highly-designed document. In fact, some may view overly-designed resumes as a tool for masking a lack of experience. Use work samples and your online portfolio to show your design skills so you can keep your resume content-focused. 

Start with who you are             

Contact information should include keyword descriptors that resemble a business card, a LinkedIn or website/reel, and, more often than not, no street address. This is also a great place to add a design element.

Use the description

The description provides vital clues as to what you should focus on in your resume. Review the description and look for keywords or phrases.

Add academic coursework/projects

Experience comes in many forms. Group projects or relevant courses are rich forms of experience. Were you asked to design a logo? Did you complete a short film for a class project? Make sure to include those types of experience.

Highlight your skills

We’re all good at something. Stress your skills in your resume by using subheadings such as “Design Skills” or “Performance Skills.” If you can use a particular type of software or are skilled in a particular medium, be sure to include it on your resume as well.

Cover letters 

Your cover is meant to achieve two goals: to demonstrate your genuine interest in the opportunity and to explain why you are the MOST qualified person for it. It’s tempting to fill your cover letter with clichés about work and commitment etc. This will not help you set yourself apart. Instead, use your personality and tell your own story. Our Cover Letter Guide [PDF] offers basic information to help you get started.

  • Think of your introductory paragraph of your cover letter just like a link description in a Google search result. It should set the tone of your letter and give the read a general sense of where the letter will go. Follow these general rules for writing a good cover letter.

  • Keep the cover letter short (less than one page) and written in the tone of the organization.

  • Tell the reader why their mission connects with the work you hope to do

  • Explain why you are the right person for the opportunity and support it by discussing why you have some of the skills listed in the description of the opportunity.

  • Offer contact information and outline a plan to follow up

  • If you are sending your files digitally, make sure to include your name and the words “cover letter” in the file name, it will make it easy for the reader to locate your file (i.e. Last Name, First Name Cover Letter).

Cover Letter examples

Arts cover letter 1 [PDF]

Arts cover letter 3 [PDF]

Arts cover letter 2 [PDF]