Tips for a successful career in the arts

As an academic adviser with the UW School of Art + Art History + Design, I have the distinct pleasure of talking to recent alumni of the program on a regular basis to hear about their fascinating career pathways following graduation. I’m always curious to know the biggest takeaways from their creative educations, and hear the advice they can share with current students. Here are the themes and great advice that I’ve gathered over the past year that I’m pleased to share with you:

  • Networking is essential for your future, so start practicing now. The UW faculty, staff, students and alumni you will interact with in college have had amazing lives, careers and experiences that you can learn from. Across the board, our alumni encourage you to introduce yourself to everyone you meet, attend events where you can expand and grow your community, and get to know others. These connections may lead to others, expanding your network, and now is the time to start building the support structure you will lean on as you make the leap into the “real world” after graduation. College is a wonderful space to become well-versed in this practice. Doing it as a student will help you be ready for many job interviews ahead.
  • Show up. Your time here is precious and while it may feel slow at times, your college experience will fly by. You only get this student experience once, so do it right! A continuous theme from our alumni is their desire to take more classes, and take advantage of all of the resources here on campus. Also, attend those events! Not only are they another networking opportunity, but they are part of what you are paying for (though not required). Campus events like lectures and openings are an extension of your classroom experience and your faculty and peers will notice if you’re making an effort to get there.
  • Give back. Alums shared that some of their greatest moments and life changing experiences in college came from volunteering and engaging in experiences where they helped others. There are countless ways to do this as a student! Start exploring resources like the UW Carlson Center and our UW School of Art + Art History + Design job and opportunities board. Seattle is rich with arts-centered volunteer experiences will not only feel great on your conscious and inspire your academic life, but could also make a lasting impact on your future career choices for years to come.
  • Be curious and keep an open mind. An elective course might end up being the class that changes your major plans, or your life! A faculty member may end up being your mentor and biggest advocate. Setting goals is excellent, but remaining flexible to all that UW has to offer may lead you to some amazing experiences that you never imagined. Intellectual curiosity will not only serve you well in your classes and academic life, but in your career ahead.
  • Work hard, find a way to do what you love. If you are fortunate enough to find a major that you love, work hard at it and you will find a way to transition those ideas and skills into a fabulous career following graduation. The job that you want might not exist yet, but you might create it. Seek patterns of joy and fulfillment in your academic and work life, and make space for great things. Committing to something you love is never a waste of time.


By Liz Copland
Liz Copland Academic Adviser