Research Part A: identify key people for your career

Nobody wants to be Vincent van Gogh

Careers are a lot about networking. As artists, we’ve spent a lot of time refining our ideas and honing our craft. We don’t always talk too much about business issues and networking skills. A great artist without the ability to connect to others is kind of a Vincent van Gogh. All these years later, many of us love his work. Love the intensity of his vision. But pretty much no one wants to live the misery of his life.

So… let’s reach out to the world. Let’s figure out who’s out there, who’s important to us, and start thinking about interacting with them!

image: Elise Degarmo / The Balance

Key People

Who are some key people for your career? That depends on your goals.

Art Galleries

  • Curators
  • Owners
  • Front Desk People

Animation Studios, Advertising Agencies, Graphic Design Shops

  • HR Directors
  • Creative Directors
  • Art Directors


You can also research artists you like. Who inspires you? Whose work do you think is strong or innovative. Who would you like to meet?

image: Liam Thinks

Make a List of 5 People!

Start making a list of 5 Key People who are relevant to your future career.

Say Hello!

Yes, this is the part you were dreading. No pain, no gain, right? You have to break down and actually talk to people. And the thing is, this is easier than you think!

When you have to ask someone to hire you, that’s a big ask!

Hi, I think your work/career/organization is awesome! Can I buy you a cup of coffee and learn a little bit more?

Now you’re not asking them to give you an annual salary and a desk, just to talk about their awesomeness for a few minutes. Much smaller ask. People often want to be helpful when the help you ask them for isn’t too daunting. At talks by Artists, Authors, Actors, all kinds of creative people, some audience member will ask “how do I get a career?” It’s awkward and the successful person doesn’t know what to say.

It’s not that it’s a secret or that they don’t want to help you. But their success is a long complicated, personal story and they might not really know how you go get a career. It’s a long and hard process. But if you’re not asking for magic wands, just a small “informational interview”, that’s much easier.

Some people get thousands of emails a day! Obviously, if you email or DM on some platform, many people won’t get back to you. But some will! If you message 20 people, I bet you’ll wind up with 4 meetups. That’s super awesome!!

Your Mission

Your mission this week is to make that list and actually reach out! Offer to go to their place and buy them coffee, or to meetup on Zoom. Whatever you’re comfortable with. Or if they’re not in SoCal, then probably Zoom.

Post your list on Canvas. After each name put the date you messaged them and the current status, like “no reply yet”, “meeting on Tuesday”, and so on.

Don’t be afraid! You can do it!

Shout if you have questions, or if I can help with anything:

Viewer Profile

Pick one of the people you’ve identified this week and use them to write a Viewer Profile. A Viewer Profile is sometimes a fictitious or composite character. In this case you will be using a real person. Commerce websites often create composite viewer profiles of their shoppers so they can have this target audience in mind when they’re presenting their products.

In your case, the “shopper” is the arts professional you’d like to have looking at your work. The “products” are You and the work you are offering.

By writing a profile of a Gallery Curator, Animation HR Director, Ad Agency Art Director, Illustration Buyer, Book Publisher, etc, you can have them in mind when you make design choices for your portfolio.

  • Which works should show or not show?
  • What should be featured on my home page?
  • What font do I choose?
  • What color pallet?
  • White type on a dark background? Dark type on a white background?
  • Large single images? Square grid of images? Masonry grid?
  • Graphic sensibility of my portfolio
  • What do I feature in my Artist’s Statement (About Me page)?
  • How do I contextualize the work I’m presenting?

There is no absolutely correct answer for any of these questions. It depends on what you’re trying to say to who. Your Viewer Profile is a person you can keep in mind when you’re making all these choices. What would they like? Respond to? Be excited by? Be put off by? Be bored with?

Post your Viewer Profile on your Canvas. Include some of their professional style if they’re an artist or curator. If they’re a collector talk about their collecting interests. For an HR Director, talk about what their company does. Also include a few personal details: where did they go to school? Hobbies? etc.

Sample Viewer Profile

Jennifer Smith, 35, Art Director at Creative Web in Santa Monica. Jennifer hires photographers & illustrators on a per-project basis. Her shop is known for its whimsical, edgy, contemporary design sense. Their clients include media companies like Buzzfeed, action sportswear companies like Nike, and fashion labels like Patagonia.

Jennifer was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and she studied Marketing & Design at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. She moved to California 10 years ago and has been an Art Director at Creative Web for the past 5 years. She works a lot of hours during the week, loves to go to the water on the weekend, and is a competitive standup paddleboard racer.


Post on Canvas:

  1. Your list
  2. The status of your attempts to contact them, meetups, etc
  3. The Viewer Profile you write
image: Adweek

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.