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So You Earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts - But No Longer Want to Pursue Your Art

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Sometimes, four years of something is just plain enough. With the potentially prohibitive cost of changing a major mid-way through school, it shouldn't come as a shock that a large percentage of B.F.A. holders graduate school with no intention of pursuing their field of study.

Even more numerous are the actors, dancers, painters, writers, and dramaturges who give it a shot for a few years and decide that the lifestyle simply isn't for them. If either the new grad or the burned out artist sounds like you, you are far from alone.

You might feel that your friend graduating with a degree in Psychology and beginning work in marketing and PR is in a sturdier place than you, if you're graduating with a B.F.A. but looking to join the white collar world. The funny thing is, you'd be wrong.

As a B.F.A. holder, here are your strengths when it comes to a nine-to-five world job search.

1. You Stand Out

America's most popular undergraduate degrees are in business and the social sciences. Communications and biology degrees are also up there, in terms of numbers granted. What might that mean for someone whose diploma reads "Drama" or "Creative Writing"?

It means you immediately stand out to resume readers. Someone screening resumes for a PR assistant position sees countless profiles from communications or marketing majors.

Highlight any relevant skills you studied in electives or learned through an internship, and your degree in Creative Writing implies a strong grasp of any kind of writing and proofing skills, not just those directly related to fiction... or just those directly related to PR.

Your art and your target job are irrelevant here: the key is to think about the leg up you have over someone with the expected major for any given position, and to highlight it early on in your CV.

2. You Are Well-Rounded

This one applies equally to liberal arts majors, along with fine arts majors. In business and science degrees, even social sciences degrees, the emphasis is (properly) on learning a certain set of skills and facts, then applying that skill set to a career.

In arts education, the macro emphasis tends to land more on incorporating knowledge of the world in order to broaden the scope of your art (whichever art that is).

In terms of your job search outside the arts, this means that ideally you have a wide scope of interests. Any kind of company worth working for actively recruits curious, passionate people. Playing up this side of yourself to outweigh any perceived deficits due to lack of business degree (e.g.) is crucial to getting your foot in the door.

3. You Have a Singular Skill

Of particular use to start-ups and small businesses are your highly trained skills. For example, with a photography degree you aren't only available to a prospective boss as the office manager they're hiring - you're also available as a professional-grade photographer for their website.

An actor is more likely than your average job seeker to have a polished presence and stand-out sales energy. A fashion design major is more likely to understand the workings of their potential employer's fashion-related clientele.

Think about what you learned in school that someone with a major in biology (if you're aiming for pharmaceutical sales, say) or social work (applying to non-profits) didn't.

It is not at all uncommon to attain and undergraduate degree in one field of study only to pursue a completely different line of work. At my recruiting firm, roughly eighty-five percent of the thousand resumes we view daily belong to those who have totally left their bachelor's degree in the dust.

This figure includes not just arts students, but biology, communications, pre-law, and language majors, just to name a few. (Engineering seems to be the only high study-to-work adherence, anecdotally speaking.)

Whether or not it's a B.F.A. in question, you should never let your major limit what you do early in your career. With a few exceptions (such as getting your CPA), school is just school, but the real world is what you make of it.

Alison Ringo is the Managing Director of KAS Placement.

New York City Marketing Headhunters

Graciela Maldonado KAS Placement Recruiters

KAS Placement an executive search firm based in New York City that specializes in sales, marketing and media recruitment.

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