The art of the perfect fit

Working in the Arts: Ruth Millington

Posted by Emma Restall in Interviews · August 2022

We have revived our Working in the Arts segment and this month we talked to Ruth Millington from Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

So, where do you work? What is your job title?

I am Head of Careers at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, based in London’s beautiful Bedford Square, Bloomsbury. It’s an area with so much art history, and the British Museum is just a 2-minute walk away. I’m also a freelance arts writer, which I do from my less-glamorous kitchen table!

What are your key tasks?

At Sotheby’s Institute, I manage the Careers Service for students who are undertaking Masters, semester and GAP programmes with us. I am responsible for designing and delivering workshops on CV and cover letter writing, networking and building a brand online. I also host events, often with alumni speakers from across the international art world returning to share their careers advice with our community. Much of my day is spent offering 1:1 careers appointments to students, and this is my favourite part of the role – especially when they take on board advice and use it to gain the job of their dreams! I also love setting up internships and placements for students, in galleries, auction houses, art advisory firms and more.

What time did you wake up? What are you usual working hours?

I am not a morning person! But I do like to have some time to myself before starting work, so I get up around 7.30am and make coffee. Typical Sotheby’s Institute hours are 9-5, but events often run during evenings, and I will do my freelance writing work during evenings and weekends.

What was your career path to this role?

I started my career in museums and galleries. During my own Masters in Art History, I volunteered at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (and I always advise students to volunteer, as it lets you have a taster of a job role and sector). This experience on my CV helped me to secure a job as an Education Officer at the Estorick Collection, where I ran family art programmes, school workshops and tours of the museum. From there, I went to work in commercial galleries, taking on more and more writing in my jobs. My next step was into Higher Education, where I have managed alumni relations and careers services within arts departments. When the job came up at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, I knew I had to apply! For many of us in the arts, our career paths will be a squiggly line. My job now brings together my background in both the arts and higher education, while I keep writing when I can! This year, I published my first book, Muse (Penguin) which tells the stories of 30 muses from art history. Being involved in the arts really helps me in my role as a careers adviser, as I can offer up-to-date and relevant advice, which I have had to follow myself!

What are the best and worst things about your job?

I love the variety of my job – in just one day I could have a meeting with a new NFT gallery in Mayfair, meet a student to give them careers advice and run an evening networking event for alumni, where I get to learn from them. And last year, I spent some time on our New York campus, which overlooks the Chrysler Building!

What careers advice would you give to your 18 year old self with the benefit of hindsight?

Follow your heart. I was often told that I shouldn’t study art because it wasn’t a proper subject, and that a career in the arts would be difficult, if not impossible. Stay true to what you love, keep learning and you will become an expert in your field.

Have you had a secret job that is not on your CV?

Many! I always had temp jobs while studying at university, and the best of these was house sitting for various clients. One of them had 4 cats that were always fighting, and I had strict instructions to keep them from clawing each other. But that same client had a hot tub in the garden…so no complaints from me!

Thank you to Ruth for taking the time to talk to us and look out for future insights into the art world. Find out more about Sotheby’s Institute of Art here.

Notes from DRAW · 25.08.2022

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