Monday, June 15, 2015

ArtsTechChick's Advice for 2015 Arts Admin Grads

With the benefit of a year's hindsight, here are three pieces of (hopefully) sage advice I'd like to share with the class of 2015, specifically you fresh-faced newly trained arts administrators, as you embark on your job search.

1. Enjoy your accomplishment. Don't start the job search the day after graduation!

Congradulations! You finished grad school and it was no easy feat. Take time to pat yourself on the back and revel in that for a little while. Yes, you need to find a job and put that expensive and hard-earned degree to use, but try not to be in such a rush that you forget to enjoy the moment and celebrate the successes you've already achieved.

I'm extremely grateful for the week that the artstechhubs and I spent driving across country because it gave me time where there was nothing for me to do but drive and think and talk. Internet signal is not exactly consistent everywhere, and I was exhausted after 10-12 hours of driving everyday, so I really couldn't start my job search. Sure, I had bouts of anxiety about not having a job from time to time, but having something else fun and exciting to focus on helped me to give myself permission to relax and enjoy some responsibility-free time. Working adults don't get nearly enough of it.

2. Find the job that's right for you. Even if it doesn't come along right away.

Our first couple weeks here I was preoccupied with getting settled in our new home. We hardly brought any of our furniture from NYC so we had a lot of shopping to do, and the stuff we sent with movers took nearly three weeks to arrive. The artstechhubs had already started work, so getting the household in order was up to me and I didn't start really looking for a job until after we were unpacked in late June. And it didn't take long for the "I'm-never-going-to-find-a-job-in-this-field-I'm-useless" anxiety to kick in once I really started searching.

I went on a lot of interviews - both informational and for available positions. It took me four months to find my first job and I had started to feel pretty desperate. On paper, I thought the job looked like a great fit, but after just a couple months in the role, I realized it wasn't the right position or organization for me. In hindsight, there are a couple of things I think I should have more thoughtfully considered that could have helped me realize it wasn't the right opportunity before I accepted:

  • The tasks that I enjoyed during my internships, rather than the department and job title. 
I had enjoyed my internships and coursework in both development and marketing, so  I searched for jobs in those departments. But what I loved most about my internship at the Bush was using my technical skills to make the job of development easier, not so much doing the strategizing and schmoozing involved in development work.
  • The discussions, ideas, and assignments that inspired me most during grad school
The discussions and assignments I engaged in most passionately, including my thesis topic, had to do with pushing the boundaries and implementing innovative approaches to the business of art with the goal of creating a sustainable sector. I wasn't really invested in conversations about ensuring the survival of an individual organization or long-standing institution, but I would always engage thoughtfully in discussions about how to make sure that everyone for generations to come can experience art that they can relate to and engage with on a personal level
I'm lucky to have now found a role where the organization and the work I do further that cause. 

3. Don't be afraid to change your mind. Even if it means starting your search over.

It's hard to take the long view of your career when you're drifting without a job and even harder to consider leaving once you've accepted your first position. However, no matter how strategic you are about targeting the perfect role, it's impossible to know for sure that a job is right for you until you're actually working in it. So that means that some of you will make a mistake, like I did. But this first job after grad school starts you down a career path and the further down that path you walk, the harder it will be to make a U-turn. In my experience, leaving a job early isn't viewed as negatively as most people believe, especially when you can articulate clearly to an interviewer why the job you're leaving isn't the right fit for you (and the one you're pursuing with them is).

So new grads, there's my two - well three - cents. Best of luck to you, and welcome to the field! Any path you take to administer the arts will be stressful and challenging and *spoiler alert* probably not very financially rewarding. May you find a niche that's rewarding in the ways that matter most to you, and allows you to support art that inspires you.

You're welcome:

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