Career Corner: Pursuing the Passion

November 30, 2005

 

After many short-term jobs since graduation, I've finally figured out what I really want to do: arts administration. Trouble is, my only relevant experience is from college. How do I get my foot in the door?

Congratulations on identifying your passion. You've saved yourself years of working in unsatisfying positions. However, you may have an uphill battle finding your ideal job. You're up against the classic Catch 22: To get experience, you have to have experience. And in the world of entertainment, it's also a case of whom you know.

Do research on locations and organizations where you might want to work, then focus on getting people in arts administration to know you and what you can do. If you can afford it, you can go "cold turkey" and find an internship in an arts organization that you admire. There are, of course, no guarantees that you'll find full-time work as a result--or that you'll be paid anything. But with some due diligence, you can find an opportunity that puts you in touch with arts administrators and helps you pick up essential skills.

If you can't intern full time, consider extensive volunteer work. Don't overlook the fact that lower-level, paid administrative positions, in membership development, for example, or fund raising, can lead to higher level opportunities--once people know your strengths. Most people in the field started at the bottom, so don't worry if you spend the bulk of your time typing, filing, and generally doing tasks you could have done in eighth grade. Do your job well, and your bosses just may give you higher level responsibilities.

One final piece of advice: Invest in lunch. Invite interesting arts administrators to eat with you and share their advice and knowledge. Once they get invested in your success, you're on your way.