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How Volunteering Can Help with Your Art Career
Make the most of your time there - if you don't ask, you don't get.
Career 07 Feb 2023

It takes more than passion and talent to forge a career in the art world. If your dream is to make a living working in the arts —whether it’s to be a painter, curator, art critic or auctioneer, volunteering is a great way to start.  A volunteer or intern placement in the arts can give you the opportunity to build contacts and gain valuable experience. But what should you do to make the most of the experience?

Here we share tools and techniques that you can gain from your volunteering experience that will help in your life and future art world career.

Setting the tone 

Before you begin your volunteering position, first get a clear understanding on what kinds of things will be expected of you. After gaining this knowledge it’s time to be honest with your mentor about what you hope to gain from the overall experience to set the tone. By this we mean agreeing on a role and task, so you don’t end doing coffee runs for the duration of your stay.  These roles don’t have to stay the same as you work through the experience. Over time you will discover what is working and what is not working for you.  If there are aspects of the job that aren’t working for you, be brave and go back to your mentor and ask for amendments to your role. This way it will make you become more focused and helpful and aid your future development needs.
Picasso and Dali

Become an eager beaver

Grasp every opportunity you get to try something new or learn with both hands. Whether that’s taking tips from a senior member of staff, partaking in training sessions, or trying something new. It’s important to demonstrate a passion for the role and a willingness to take part in all sorts of jobs. This may sound intense, but it will show other staff how eager you are and give you the opportunity to try new things. Throughout the duration of your stay this will develop your volunteering experience even more and give you a better overall insight into the art world!

Make the most of your time there

Make the most of all the support you are offered and ask for reviews from your mentor at milestones. This will help you understand and recognise your achievements. It will also help ensure that the experience you are gaining will help you land your dream job. If you don’t feel like you are getting the right experience, it’s time to have a chat with your mentor to ask for new roles.  If you don’t ask you don’t get!
The girl with the pearl earring and mona lisa

Try something new

After your volunteer experience you may start to wonder if the career path you have planned is the right one for you. Don’t worry this is another bonus to volunteering before you enter the art world. This way you won’t become stuck in a job you end up hating by learning your likes and dislikes in the creative career field. Being an artist may have always been your end goal, but through your volunteering role you may have now discovered that you are great at helping others and want to become a teacher.  If that’s the case chat with your mentor for some advice. Ask them to revise the role, so you gain more experience in the areas that you like to better suit your new career path.

Dear diary …

Keep a diary of your volunteering experience. Note down the negatives and positives as there is something to learn from both! Include notes on things you have done, personal achievements, key learning moments and skills you’ve learnt. By jotting these points down in a diary, you will not easily forget them when asked in the future. This includes during an interview and also helping to jog your memory when writing your CV.

Turning your experience into a real job

Once you end your volunteering position, you may realise that you love the company you have been helping at. Ask around and keep an eye out for open vacancies within the company. Volunteering with the company may not guarantee you a job afterward, but it will put you in a better position when applying for a permanent job afterward. When filling in the application form or preparing for an interview, go back to your notes you made and use real life examples from your volunteering  experience to demonstrate how well you meet the requirements of the role. Good luck!

Text by Peigi Mackillop
Images via @severinededia @brujitalove Victor Hugo – OCEAN & Pinterest & axOyy

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