Creating a resume can be daunting, especially for people in visual arts. It’s hard to know what to include, what to leave out, or how to lay it all out to best effect. Even those who specialize in the field of resume writing disagree over what does, and what does not, go into a resume. Added to that complexity is the additional challenge of creating a resume for a business environment that is driven by innovation.
Resist despair! Instead, follow the tips below, experiment with putting the information into some templates, and prepare a comprehensive first draft that you can circulate among your peers for feedback. Tweak your resume based on feedback and specific job requirements, and you'll be off to a good start.
I’m using the Mono Resume template from Envato Market to create my sample resume, but how you choose to present your resume might depend on a number of factors, such as what aspect of your resume you need to emphasize, business standards in the sector you're applying to, and even what you like personally.
Something that stands out without being garish is good. In my example, there’s a generous header that gives you the chance to profile an image. Choose an image that speaks to your personal style, vision, or specialization. You could use the same image as, or an image that complements, the image you've used on the cover of your portfolio to create a cohesive, professional look. Also think about the composition of the image. I chose an image of a French water tower that balances the left and right sides, and provides enough empty space to allow my name to stand out clearly. Don’t overshadow your name and title with your header image.
I’ve left in place the information the template comes with for the rest of the page, so you can see how all the elements are laid out.
Mono Resume comes with a letter, resume, portfolio, and header/footer, which you can see in grouped layers, above. The template is fully editable, so it's easy to change anything you need to.
Content: What to Include
Personally, I never put an address on a resume. You never know where that information will end up. I’ve seen resumes lying around on countertops in full view of the public and have even seen resumes pushed into bins without being shredded.
Having said that, a prospective employer does need to be able to contact you, so be sure to include a recent phone number and email address. Make sure your email address is something sensible. If it isn’t, consider creating something for work-related purposes only. Make the email address easy to spell and relatively short and simple. If you can create a custom email address like email@example.com, then all the better.
Include a link to your website if you have one and it’s relevant to your application. If your website is dedicated to your collection of plastic, miniature poodles, that’s great (really...), but maybe save it for your pals.
The example I'm using also includes a Skype handle. Many employers use Skype for initial interviews and then ongoing meetings, particularly with freelancers, so if you don’t have a Skype account, it might be wise to set one up.
There’s no real need to include your nationality or relationship status unless it’s pertinent to the job you’re applying for.
Personal Details or Profile
Although this is a good opportunity to talk about yourself, my advice would be to keep it short. Too long and this section can come across as conceited or defensive. Let your experience and qualifications speak for themselves.
The section for personal details in our template is four lines, which encourages you to sell yourself in a concise, professional, and friendly way. It’s a tough balance: too formal and you may come off cold and stuffy; too friendly and they might think you can’t be taken seriously. My advice is to be polite and semi-formal, but with warmth.
Mono Resume includes icons that you can use to display your level of skill across various disciplines. I’m not a fan of infographics in resumes, but for the right sector, they can be a good way to visually show your skills and show your skills at communicating visually.
Experience, Awards, and Grants
Do you have experience? Don’t worry if the answer is no. It’s a catch-22 for all of us at some stage; we want a job but can’t get that job without the experience we're pursuing by applying for the job. If you're facing that particular hurdle, think about how you can get relevant experience to include on your resume. Volunteering might be an option, or self-generating a project with the potential of pitching it out or having it published somewhere so you can include it.
Keep your listed work experience relevant. You don’t want any obvious gaps in your employment if you can help it (unless there’s a great reason, like you took a gap year and travelled, in which case, include that!), but you also don't want to create mental noise by including, for example, unrelated retail or call centre work you did back in the day when you needed cash. If you do include that type of experience, make sure it’s just a throwaway line, date, and location.
Exhibitions and Features
This is where a resume for the creative sector begins to look very different than a standard business resume.
Have you exhibited your work? If so, include a list of the most recent shows and where they were held.
Likewise, if your work has been featured in books, magazines, or articles, list the relevant information, including the name of the publication and where it was published. If the work also appeared online, include a link.
If you’ve been exhibiting or publishing like crazy, great! Maybe consider sorting your work into categories to make it easier for your reader.
Think about this section as a profile of your most relevant, recent work rather than a laundry list of everything you’ve done for the past ten years. An exception is to include any notable successes (a Pulitzer Prize, perhaps?) even if not recent.
Remember to also include any grants you've been awarded. These demonstrate that someone has recognised your talent as worthy enough to reward, or further fund. If those grants lead to other things, such as an exhibition, publication, or award, be sure to shout about that and give examples where appropriate.
Education can be a tricky section to work on. It’s tempting to put in absolutely everything you can think of, but try to keep your listed education relevant to your chosen career. Having said that, I’ve seen articles that recommend not putting in anything unrelated, and I disagree. If you have a degree in, say, maths, and you’re now a photographer, I think your degree is still worth including. You’re not saying that Pythagoras’ theorem is going to come in useful on that travel commission (but who knows, right?), but you’re demonstrating that you’ve worked in an environment that requires you to be able to think and work to certain standards, and that’s no bad thing.
The template I used keeps information about education short and concise. With a quick glance, you can see the year, the qualification, the school that awarded the qualification, and the subject. That’s all you need. Any further breakdown or explanation can come later—perhaps in a cover letter if you've been asked to provide information about particular skills that you acquired at school or if you get an interview.
Software programs are profiled in Mono Resume, but I’d be tempted to change that to software skills and make it a bit broader. For example, instead of listing Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom, you could indicate, instead, that you are skilled in managing, manipulating, and editing photographs with Adobe software.
I'd also be careful about qualifying your skills by putting them on a scale, because what’s the measure? Say you’re fantastic at using Photoshop for the needs of a photographer, but not perhaps, to the same level as a graphic designer, so you mark yourself as half way on the skill. That can actually suggest you’re really not particularly adept with the software at all. I’d rather list Photoshop as something I’m proficient with (within the context of my experience and the job I'm applying to) and then if a conversation follows later, I can go into more detail then.
Don't take your skills for granted. You may do something every day and no longer have to think about it, but it isn't that way for everyone. You've learned and honed your skills over a period of time—so well that you make it look easy. But that doesn't mean it is!
It can be tempting, but don’t lie or embellish your experience. You can get caught out in a lie easily and there’s no way you’ll get the gig after that.
Many companies will happily train you to fill a skill gap if you’re the right person for the job in every other sense.
Tailoring to Suit
If you’re going for a variety of jobs, you might need to tweak your resume to fit each set of requirements. That’s not to say you should lie or make something up, but removing things that are irrelevant and putting emphasis specifically on the qualifications the employer is seeking will be to your benefit.
Boom and Bust
If Your CV is Lacking ...
- Try including your artist statement or cover letter as part of your resume, although contained on its own page.
- Give your resume a deliberately styled minimalist look.
- Make your resume portfolio-orientated with the emphasis on your visual work rather than on your experience.
And if Your CV is Booming ...
Simply duplicate the resume group of the template to provide more space with the same style. Delete anything in the duplicated layer that becomes irrelevant. Remember to keep the footer with some contact information on every page, just in case your pages get separated when you’re printing and sending ... or when someone at the receiving end is sorting and duplicating.
What to Include in Your Portfolio
Mono Resume comes with a nice portfolio section. This is for those who want to display a quick selection of their work, but not place all the emphasis on a grand portfolio. Using this section may or may not be appropriate depending on the situation, so use discretion.
Pick your best and most diverse work to display. Even if your projects on the whole tend to all look the same, try and pick the photos from each that, together, make an interesting selection. Try to complement the work you include in the portfolio section with the skills and experience you listed in your resume, and similarly, use the portfolio section to highlight your listed skills and experience.
I've populated some of the picture clipping masks here, so you can see what the finished pages would look like. If you have lots to show off, duplicate the portfolio group of the template and create as many pages as you need. Bear in mind that nobody will want to sift through pages and pages of content, so try and only demonstrate your best and most relevant work.
This section will also probably need to be tailored to suit each job you apply for. It's useful to have a saved version that gives a great, overall, complete view of what you've done, then duplicate it for a second version that you can customize for the application.
Once you've created your resume, it's a much easier task to update it when appropriate rather than have to start fresh each time, so try to do this semi-regularly to save yourself stress. Here's a summary of the main points to remember:
- Keep the layout simple, but visually appealing.
- Current contact details are important. Consider creating a Skype account if you don't have one and an appropriate email account if your email address is too friendly to be professional.
- Keep your profile informative, engaging, and short. You should be able to summarise what you're about in a small paragraph.
- Include only relevant work experience and keep this as succinct as possible.
- Remember to include any grants, awards, or exhibitions.
- When it comes to education, include anything earned at a post-graduate level, even if it doesn't seem completely relevant. The information shows that you can work to a high standard and to deadlines.
- Don't take your skills for granted; shout about how awesome you are!
- Tailor your resume to suit the job you're applying for. Include more of what's relevant and less of what isn't.
- Never lie or embellish your resume.
For inspiration, have a look at some of the other templates from Graphic River that might suit a resume for a creative job:
- Swiss Resume: Make a positive impression with this simple and clean 5-pack resume template. With a strong emphasis in typography, this template will present your information concisely in a layout that is pleasing to the eye and easy to read.
- Professional Resume: An easy to use, customisable template. Change colours and create a resume that looks uncluttered and professional.
- Professional Resume/CV: A strong typographic structure includes a baseline grid and image alignment to text leading. The complete template includes a 2-page resume, a cover letter, and a mini-portfolio.
- Resumes7 Clean and Simple Resume Templates for Visual ArtistsMarie Gardiner
- CareersHow to Make Your Resume the Perfect Length (+To the Point)Charley Mendoza
- ResumesWhat is the Difference Between a CV vs Resume?Charley Mendoza
- ResumesHow to Highlight Freelance Work on Your ResumeLaura Spencer