Ask an Expert: Highlighting Arts Experiences and Skills on Your Resume

Christine Beamer

Christine Beamer, Director of Career Education, College of Music

Question: How should I highlight my arts experience on my resume and in an interview?

Many of us get involved in the arts to provide a creative outlet, have fun with friends, or help our mental health. And anyone who has been involved in an ensemble or performing organization knows that a ton of thinking, collaboration, and practice goes into each performance!

Arts experiences can be extremely relevant for many jobs and internships, but you want to think about how you can describe and unpack the skills you gained from these experiences. If you are involved in a performing ensemble, organization, or student group, here are 3 tips for discussing your experience with an employer.

  1. Brainstorm a list of the non-artistic or non-musical skills you gained in this experience.

Involved in theater? You probably can:

  • Communicate with an audience to clearly express emotions and topics.
  • Integrate feedback quickly to improve impact.
  • Speak in front of an audience of 50-300 people.
  • Adapt to the actions of your colleagues or to unexpected conditions (the director, actor, changes in temperature, staging, etc.)

Involved in marching band? You might want to highlight how you:

  • Coordinate with 15-20 people to create a unified sound and look.
  • Memorize written information and spatial routines accurately.
  • Prepare individual assignments and integrate seamlessly into a team of 300.

2. Don’t forget to explain the sales and marketing skills you have gained as a part of your gigging or side hustle.

Are you an artist who sells designs on Fiverr or Upwork? You’ve learned how to:

  • Work closely with customers to understand their needs and realize their goals.
  • Develop and implement a sales strategy to create $X of sales per (year/semester).
  • Manage a sales cycle from outreach to closing to ensure a positive customer experience.

Play in a band? I guarantee you understand how to:

  • Communicate clearly with clients (i.e., venues) so that client needs are fulfilled.
  • Negotiate contracts and agreements with clients.
  • Generate sales leads through persuasive appeals to customers (i.e., getting audience members to buy your cd).
  • Develop successful digital marketing campaigns across multiple channels, resulting in audiences of [number of people at your shows].

3. Get rid of the “arts jargon”.

  • Don’t talk about how you “practiced repertoire” or “learned a role” or “performed 6 concerts” or “painted sets.” Instead, try to explain your experience in terms that a non-arts person would understand. Audiences are usually considered “customers” or “clients”, a gallery show or musical could be described as an “event”, and teaching music to students can be described as “individual instruction.”

Remember, you have learned important transferable skills from your arts experiences. Being prepared to articulate what you have learned and accomplished will help employers see how you can be successful in a variety of full-time positions.

By Christine Bastian
Christine Bastian Director of Career Education, College of Music