'Professionalism' Part Two: Case Studies in professionalism

By Team IMA

We might be forgiven for thinking that it's everyone else that isn't professional, surely we are always professional? Surely not us... right?

In this 2nd part we present 2 case studies. Case study 1 is by IMA's Mark and his experience at a graduate showcase in a prominent arts institution. Case study 2 is from IMA's founder Samantha Huang who discusses a recent experience in outsourcing design work.

Keep you palm close to your face. You might find them meeting multiple times during Part 2.

Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

Part 2: Case Studies on Arts Professionalism

Case Study 1

I was inspired to write the original piece on professionalism, (read 'Part One' here) or lack of, after a visit, pre-lockdown, to a graduate showcase in one of the UK’s best-known art schools. This was a “preview breakfast” for professionals in the industry to come and meet the graduates. I was representing IMA and we were in the process of looking for potential artists to work with us on our visual branding. This was the students' opportunity to connect with their industry and beyond, to make a positive impression and to hopefully make some important contacts.

My first impression was that many looked like scared sheep, cowering in the corners with the peers. Okay, understandable that some are nervous - it’s their work on show and we might look a little intimidating. But very few looked as if they were prepared to engage in a conversation. A small number stood by their work and I asked some about what they had been doing. Some of the work and the students themselves were interesting and they communicated their passion well. I took a card and moved on.

What each of these conversations had in common was that they all spoke about their work, but none spoke of anything beyond this. No one described what they would like to do next. And more importantly, none asked me who I was or what I did, and so they were missing out on keeping the conversation going and making a connection. I did explain to some graduates what we were about and that we wanted to hire someone. No one asked for my card.

I emailed a few graduates a few days later. One didn’t reply and one sent me their daily rate without asking anything of the project. Very few of the creatives had their own website but a lot had listed their Instagram account on their business cards. Unfortunately, these all turned out to be personal accounts with photographs of them and their mates on holiday, shots of their pet cat, etc. None took a professional approach in any of their communications with the wider world. These were MA students and yet they weren’t ready for the next step. Perhaps some of the blame is with the art courses. It’s tough enough already trying to get work, but if we don’t present ourselves in a professional way, people won’t always take us seriously.

Photo by Robin Schre