Job market / Warwick

The art of self-promotion

Self-promotion isn’t a dirty word: it’s a vital part of the graduate job search, particularly if you’re looking to establish yourself in the arts world. Rachel Guthrie, final year history of art student and aspiring art critic, tell us how it’s done….

rachel_guthrie_190Self-promotion has never been an easy idea for me. I’m a wannabe art critic, who’s always liked to think that my writing could do the work for me – speaking of my ability and drive to write about the arts alone. But in the world of journalism, and even more so in the sector of the arts where critics, writers, reviewers and reporters are now all freelance and battling for every commission, self-promotion has never been more important. Having an active online presence is key to my future as an arts journalist – it’s the way in which I get known, as well as being the means of getting my writing out to a wider audience of readers and commissioning editors.

Keeping it professional

Self-documentation has always been a more comfortable concept. I began my post-school education practicing art 9-5, and my number one hobby is still photography – I love to document what I see, do and feel. This is in some ways what drew me to criticism because I couldn’t help but respond to the exhibitions I was attending and so I set up a blog (originally a blogspot, now a wordpress) when I left school. It was a commitment I made with myself and the wider web to write about every exhibition I saw. It would be my online portfolio of writing, increasingly building over a period in which I was not writing as part of my education. Here’s where twitter came in: it was a means of documenting, but not simply a list of the day’s activities one by one, but always putting an evaluative slant on all that I did.

Foremost, my twitter account was set up to be a professional rather than a personal account. But at the same time, it had to be personable, culturally all-rounded. If I want to be a critic, I am putting myself in a position where I sell myself as a beacon of good taste. I have to be trusted by readers, I have to seen to know not just what I am talking about (therefore have a good education in art history), but also be able to decide what is good and what simple is not, in the exhibition scene. This is why I’ve linked my twitter into my blog so that people can read how I’m spending my time – how, essentially, I’m broadening my horizons.

Building your persona

Moreover, as a critic, you have to be a persona. This is quite different to general journalism – to your trained news reporter – I have to have a distinctive voice. The most well-known (and fearfully respected) art critic is Brian Sewell. He hates more or less everything he sees, but he is a 100% memorable, recognisable. He is himself a brand, and this is what a critic must be. And as a critic of the visual, I have to create a brand that is visually appealing, hence I have a blog with a clear aesthetic, which hopefully reflects my writing style and artistic [contemporary] preferences, and business cards which too mimic those graphics.

My active online presence – I speak mostly of my blog and twitter account (which I believe should be seen as a form of micro-blogging) – is then a matter of self-documentation and promotion. My blog is the place in which you can find my CV, photographs and read my articles without asking for them, thereby cutting out the middle-man. My website is essentially an advertisement for my expertise, and in being cheeky enough as to suggest that I should be paid for what I love doing, I have been.

Twitter is great for this too. By following key organisations (those you’d like to work for) and including them in your tweets you can catch their attention, and they can catch yours when they mention job opportunities, competitions and the like. I also have an automatic setting so that everything I publish on my blog goes on twitter (as I have more followers on twitter where the things I speak about are broader than those on my blog), and I tweet with hashtags to gain the kind of followers that may be useful for me. By making the most of the internet, I find unknown opportunities arising helping to widen my potential.

Rachel was voted Best Arts Writer at The Boar (2011-12) and shortlisted for critic of the year at the 2012 Guardian Student Media Awards. Rachel blogs and tweets@rachelguthrie8

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