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You’re almost done or just done your program. You are feeling the impending doom of being launched out of the comfort of the academic world in to reality; bills, loans, responsibilities, and finding a job. We’ve all been there.

Taking the first steps into your career is daunting, and if you are reading this, it means you are hoping to build a career in the arts. Take it from me, that is not an easy path, but, as I sit here writing this, let me tell you it’s possible, just extremely difficult. 

Before we get into the job hunt itself, let me just remind you of a few things you should probably get in order before the hunt begins.

  1. Resume: you’ll need to show potential employers what you’ve done before (I know it can be frightening to look at a short list of accomplishments and wonder “who will hire this recent graduate who has no professional experience?”, but someone will, and if not, there are things you can do to keep improving your resume, even without a job.
  2. Online presence: Let’s be real, these days EVERYTHING is online. One quick google search and employers can see your whole life. Take a minute to refine your privacy settings on social media, or scan through to see what might pop up if you were to google yourself. Be aware of that image when your name falls into an employer’s inbox or onto their desk.
  3. Patience: This one is tricky, because you have to eat, and pay your bills, and it can be frightening, frustrating and downright unrealistic to take time on the job hunt. Keep in mind this will take time, and lots of luck is involved for people who have big opportunities quickly.

What type of job are you looking for?

Arts jobs is a blanket term for many different types of jobs ranging from administrative positions to actual artistic jobs. A good place to start is The National Occupational Classification (NOC) which is Canada’s national system for describing occupations. Here you can find different types of jobs recognized in Canada, learn about their main duties, what education is required to work in those jobs and other useful information. You can also check out Cultural Human Resources Council’s website which has a lot of useful resources for different industries arts jobs. Here are some different types of arts jobs:

Administrative jobs

For example: Project Coordinator, Project Manager, Artistic Producer, Managing Director

These jobs offer the most pay and stability in the industry and there are a lot of them constantly looking for candidates.

Artistic jobs

For example: Actor, Dancer, Musician, Singer, Director, Writer, Painter, Sculptor

These jobs are very competitive to get and usually don’t pay that well. The better paying ones depend on building your resume so make sure to continue to take classes and participate in the industry in any way you can to stay on top of your skills and to add entries to your resume.

Technical – Production jobs

For example: Stage Manager, Sound or Lighting technician, Rigger, Prop Maker, Stage carpenter, costume maker

These jobs require specialized knowledge and experience in handling specialized equipment. Training is almost mandatory as well as experience. Train with a reputable University program or volunteer with a local theatre. 

Design Jobs

For example: Set Designer, Costume Designer, Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, Video Designer

These jobs are usually tied to a project, so make sure to hang around with directors and Artistic Directors and become a part of their team. When a Director books a project they will take you on with them. Another path is to build your career by volunteering, shadowing, interning with senior colleagues or theatre companies to prove your skills and deception which will increase your chances of getting hired next time they have an opening.

Where to look?

Now that you’ve got these things ready, let’s look at where to find arts jobs (in Ontario, Canada).

  1. Work in Culture: Work in Culture is a database of resources and job postings for jobs in culture (not only in Ontario, but across Canada). It includes creative and administrative jobs from all industries.
  2. TAPA: The Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (dance, theatre and opera) is an organization that supports and rallies these creative industries in the city of Toronto. Their industry listings page includes paid employment, workshops, internships, auditions, and more. 
  3. CAEA: The Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (dance, theatre and opera) is an organization that supports and rallies these creative industries in the city of Toronto. Their industry listings page includes paid employment, workshops, internships, auditions, and more. 
  4. PACT Arts Board: The Canadian Actors Equity Association is the union for theatre artists in Canada provides audition listings for theatre projects across the country, you can sign up for their e-mail blasts for free.
  5. Casting Workbook: This platform is an international (Canada/USA) listing for film, television and theatre jobs, and occasionally includes calls for administrative assistants and other entry level positions. It does, however, cost money to see these listings.
  6. Unions and Member organizations: Unions such as Actors Association, or Playwrights Guild or Associated Designers of Canada are a great place to learn about opportunities that might be available before they are even published.
  7. Industry dedicated newspapers and websites: Have you checked out Now Magazine or Intermission Magazine? For administrative positions also check Charity Village and Work in Non Profits.
  8. Agents: Agents receive arts job postings from various employers. Having an agent is super useful because someone else
  9. General Job listing websites: Usual job listing sites usually don’t have that many arts jobs but they’re still worth checking. Mostly, the arts jobs posted here are in administration or broadcasting.
  10. Government job portals (Young Canada Works): You can upload your resume to some of Government Canada programs such as Young Canada Works. The jobs offered here are Intrenships dedicated to building your career in Arts Administration, some are bilingual and some even cover jobs abroad, paying you for travelling and working. How cool is that

Do you know about another great way to find a job, that we are to aware of yet? Please share it with us!

Tips to Apply?

Now that you have some resources to find some jobs, here are some useful details to help you make sure you have a good first impression on the people you are applying to!

  1. Research the company and the team
  2. Write a cover letter
  3. Double check your e-mail before hitting send
  4. Track your applications
Research the company and the team

One important, and often forgotten in the constant job search of the arts world, is to take some time to ensure that you understand the values and mission of a company or organization that you are applying to work at. Take some time to see who is working for that company, or who is part of the creative team of the project. Find them on LinkedIn and connect with them, so that when they see your resume crossing their screens, they might have seen your name at least once before then.

Write a cover letter

Hundreds of people apply for each of these positions, how do you stand out? One easy way is a cover letter that expresses your interest, and shows your personality. This will help the people hiring get a sense of who you are.

Double check your e-mail before hitting send

Always ALWAYS just take one minute before you hit send to step back, and re-read your e-mail, ensure it is addressed to the right person/people, and double check the appropriate attachments are indeed attached to the message. As artists we are always looking for jobs, and applying to many different positions, and sending the application one minute later will not affect your chances, but sending your e-mail addressed to the wrong person will not make a great first impression.

Track your applications

Start a calendar, journal or log of all your applications. Not only will this allow you to follow up in an appropriate timeline, but it will also allow you to improve on your applications over time. It also will help you have context and evidence of how much you have worked and applied over time.

The ROI of job applications

For of all, I am sure many of your are wondering, what is ROI? The term means Return on Investment and comes from financial world, but artists can use it’s very easy to understand principle too. Basically, this simple calculation allows you to track how successful are the efforts of applying for jobs and how many applications needs to be sent out in order to earn a desired sum of money. For calculating your ROI, divide the number of jobs with the number of applications and this will give you your success rate.

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How do I choose which jobs to apply for?

I learned about the rule of three when I was finishing my education; each job has three aspects that you must evaluate when selecting whether to apply or take the job offer;

  1. Money: This position can actually pay your bills, you will be getting paid to make or to support arts!
  2. Dream Team: The people working on this project are people you look up to, people who can have a big impact on your career, and people who you can learn a lot from.
  3. Juicy Project: This project is extremely rewarding for you to work on, by the impact it has on audience/participants, or by the topic, or content, you are artistically, and personally fulfilled by the project.

Each of the projects that you work on in your career will have only 2 of these. If you are lucky, one or two throughout your career will have all three, but those will be rare.

It’s up to each person to determine which jobs they can take, financially, and which projects they want to work on, for the non-financial benefits.

Our Take

There is not one single way of building a career in the arts. Finding arts jobs in Canada is tricky. It’s a competitive industry into which lots of eager people join each year as each graduating class finishes their education. This post reflects our opinion, our experience, and tricks we used to find an arts job.  It’s important to be realistic, and understand which companies or organizations hire people in the same stage of career as you are, and understand you will probably have to work your way up to your dream position.

We wish you the best of luck in your careers, and hope this is helpful when it comes to finding arts jobs!

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