During my academic career I took the freedom to explore my interest in the arts through a balance of courses, internships, and work experiences. These experiences afforded me insights into development, museum operations, curating, conservation, member and constituent relationships, arts education, and audience engagement.
As an intern in the Education Department at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts I was exposed to educational programming and their STEM Learning Through the Arts initiative. This invigorating experience guided my job search towards arts education programming positions, as I am interested in the idea of creating educational programs that engage and develop the creativity of communities.
With 14 million unemployed in the United States—imagine all of the inhabitants of Los Angeles County plus five million more people jobless—the uncertainty of when I would find a job became my reality. I knew I had to hit the pavement and expand my job search to encompass other positions that suited my interests and skills.
Every interview became an opportunity to learn about an organization and about my skills. This process helped me talk about my skills from various functional standpoints and identify my strengths and the trends in my experiences that suited the positions I applied for. Most importantly, I learned how to be grateful for everything I had been blessed with—family, friends, health, education opportunities, talents, etc.
This helped me to remain hopeful even after 16 applications and 6 interviews with no job offer. The discomforting feeling of being unemployed can cause negative unproductive emotions to arise, but do not take rejections or the silence of organizations that do not follow through personally. Keep looking, there is an organization that needs your skills and they might not yet know you.
Networking, as I learned, is not an intimidating process, after all we are always making connections and people are always willing to help. With this in mind, after a job interview in Downtown L.A., I visited the Posse Foundation Office to catch up and re-connect with the Career Services Director. The Posse Foundation played an integral role in my undergraduate career as they granted me a four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarship and the honorary title of a Posse Scholar, now Posse alumna. It was through this visit that I received the contact information for a staff member in the Education Department at Center Theatre Group (CTG).
Without hesitation I contacted Patricia Garza, Senior Manager of Education and Community Partnerships, to discuss educational programming at CTG. During the informational interview I learned not only about how CTG invests in Los Angeles communities through high quality theatre educational programs, but also about job openings in the Development Department. After reviewing the positions and letting Ms. Garza know about my interest in applying, she kindly referred me to the Development Department.
Since CTG had provided me with my first theatre experience back in 2002 and I experienced other award winning productions at its stages, I enthusiastically applied to the Donor Relations Associate position. To my surprise, I received an opportunity for a phone interview! This went well; the phone interview put me at ease, removing the anxiety caused by face-to-face interviews.
Preparing for interviews with arts organizations is complicated, as I learned. Even if I practiced before, I only anticipated around 10% of the questions asked. It is most important to communicate how your passion and skills align with the organization’s mission and the department’s goals, and to ask questions that stimulate further dialogue. This of course requires research.
The phone interview was just the start to the hiring process. For the next step, I had a panel interview with five Development personnel. This was not as intimidating as I had envisioned—the staff is welcoming, kind, and highly passionate about what they do. Their energy and interests increased my affinity to this position as I saw that my skills suited the team-oriented environment of the Development Department. I waited with eager expectation, but the process did not end here: there was still another interview with the Development Directors.
By now the job hunting process had taught me active waiting, gratitude, courage, and now patience. After the third and final interview with CTG I was hopeful and excited to hear back and the moment of truth came. My heart broke into song when CTG graciously offered me the position! Now, as the Donor Relations Associate for the Guild I look forward to engaging donors, meeting their needs, and joining in the adventures that are yet to come for Development at CTG and the Los Angeles arts community.
Here are seven simple phrases I kept in mind while job hunting, given to me by mentors and friends:
· Careers in the arts and applying to these in the Los Angeles art sector take courage.
· Align your skills to various job positions, be flexible.
· Ask people in your network to reference you.
· If you make a connection, follow up!
· Finding a job is your full-time job.
· Ask for informational interviews.
· The job that you need needs you.
As an emerging arts leader, artist, and scholar, Maria Paredes seeks to apply best management practices and creative thinking to impact local and global communities through the arts. She graduated with a Masters in Arts Management from the Drucker School of Management and the School of Arts and Humanities at Claremont Graduate University. As Co-Director of the Arts Enterprise Chapter at CGU she fused entrepreneurial thinking with artistic thought to benefit the student community and their interests. Through a consulting project with Arts OC, she researched how arts organizations are adapting to today’s landscape by engaging their participatory audiences. Recently, she finished a project with Freewaves, a media arts organization, in which video art was integrated in the Los Angeles public transportation system and surveyed Metro Bus users to engage them more effectively.