When it comes to finding a job, Mosa Parris, 21, faces three challenges: graduating into a tough job market; having catch-up work to do after switching majors last year; switching to a major not known for being in universal demand -- fine arts.
Still, the Hofstra University senior left Tuesday's career event, "Not All Artists Are Starving," full of hope and enthusiasm. A former pre-med student, she said, "It was inspiring, revealing and everything I need to hear."
One key theme from several of the seven speakers, all former arts majors now working in the field: Don't expect a straight path to finding a job or building a career.
"If you have a plan, expect it not to happen, and that doesn't mean it's a negative," said Amy Dresser, a 1998 Hofstra graduate, now a freelance photo retoucher and illustrator in Los Angeles. She told of having to develop business savvy after a staff job ended. At first when she was asked for her hourly rate, she said she thought, "I don't know how to talk that way."
Sean O'Kane, a 2008 graduate and photo assistant for InStyle.com, told the close to 90 students attending how the unexpected could happen "in really good ways."
Early on, he had applied for freelance work with that Web site. Nothing came of that, he said, but when he least expected it, he was contacted for an intern position, which seemed to "come out of the blue."
Another key message: Honor your passion even if you're not sure where it's taking you.
Yvonne Dagger, a 1994 Hofstra grad, told how her love for animals led her to paint portraits of shelter dogs and cats. Her husband asked what she was doing; she said she didn't know. But soon after, MarthaStewart.com learned of her work, which is now featured on the site.
Also, develop a practical side, several speakers said. O'Kane told of his increased appreciation for things like health benefits, which he has on his job, and the need to "give practical matters a thought."
One of the hardest things for an artist is to do self-marketing, said Dagger, yet it must be done. Also, if you want to be a painter, her advice is, "Don't quit your day job."
The event was coordinated by Emily Miethner, a Hofstra senior and marketing-events intern at Time Out New York magazine, in conjunction with the school's career center. "We're graduating soon, and that's scary in general," she said. Hearing from those who have made it, "gives you hope."
Parris, who grew up in Guyana and says she "dreams fashion designs" in her head, agrees. Her plan is to attend the school's job fair next week in search of an internship, hopefully related to fashion. Yes, she said, there may be times when "you're down in the dumps. But the day you give up is possibly the day you would get your big break."
More job search tips for art majors
1. Customize your portfolio to the job you're going after, said Mark Whalen, promotions art director for Time Out New York magazine. If at the insistence of a client you did a project you hate, you don't have to include it in your portfolio.
2. Get to know your professors. Amy Dresser, a photo retoucher and illustrator, told of getting her first job after a glowing recommendation from a teacher.
3. Forget about hanging out in your dorm room, said Amy Odell, a marketing manager with Getty Images Inc. Join organizations, attend art events and galleries in the city, get your work - or mention of it - out there on Twitter and Facebook.
Jobs landed by art majors
-- Photo assistant for magazines.
-- Photo researcher.
-- Ad agency art director.
-- New media specialist at corporations.
-- Web designer at nonprofits.
-- Junior designer at interactive design agencies.
-- Jewelry and handbag designer.
-- High school art teacher.
-- Decor designer for banquets and corporate parties.