Dear Dr. Civitelli,
I am currently an art student planning to pursue a career in the art field, in graphic design, illustration, marketing, etc. I love to draw and my dream job would be concept art, but for now, I am looking for a way to get my foot in the door and work my way up. I am not sure where to start, or what my portfolio should look like. I have about 1.5 years of education, and I have worked for a private studio before, as well as doing some volunteer work for a church where I designed flyers, programs, and such for advertising. I am not afraid of hard work. I work full time and go to school full time as well. Eventually I want to freelance and have my own business. My teachers in art school say that I shouldn’t worry too much about my portfolio yet, but I am not sure they are right. Should I do some informational interviews with professionals in my field to find out what I should be doing? If so, how would I go about doing that?
You are absolutely right that doing some informational interviews would be the next best step for you. No one knows better than industry insiders what a competitive field is like. I wrote this article about how to do an informational interview and you can tailor the suggested questions to your specific career situation. Be sure to ask interviewees what skills are valued for your target niche, what experience is essential to land an entry level job, and exactly what your portfolio should contain. Interview at least 3-4 people so that you aren’t making career decisions based on only one person’s opinion.
Hope this helps!