Thursday, January 24, 2013

The 2 Most Important Skills for a Career in Arts Management

I've been involved in many conversations about what arts organizations are looking for in new employees, and there are two areas of expertise that come up the most: Fundraising and Marketing - in that order.

If you are trying to start a career in the arts, or you want to build on your current career, then get experience in fundraising and marketing - in that order.

Fundraisers are invaluable for obvious reasons - but don't think that you have to be a smooth talking muckety-muck to do it (in fact, if that's you then you should probably get some additional practical skills). There are many functions within a development department that you can perform.  You could become a sleuth with Tessitura and this will make you appealing to almost all mid-large size arts orgs. You could plan the most fabulous events in town, or be a numbers whiz with data. In both roles, organizations of all sizes will want you. If you have the right personality, you can be the social ambassador to an organization. This is much more than just going out to lunch! You have to know and remember everything that happens with everyone who is someone. You have to know how to talk to billionaires and how to make them feel important without being a lap dog.  And you have to know how and when to ask people for what.  This skill is particularly useful for larger orgs.  If you have a reasonable understanding of all of these skills, and you've got some management experience then you can run a department. Also a job that is much easier said than done.

On the marketing side, you similarly have options. Online marketing and social media have become their own niche. Graphic design for print and web is a skill all organizations need now. Brand development is something that all arts organizations will face at least twice in their life. And of course, traditional advertising (print, newspaper, snail mail, etc) is still relevant and has its own set of skills and logic.

Of course there are lots of other roles in arts orgs, and I don't want to discount any of them.  But if you are looking for a job, or a career move, then having development and marketing skills on your resume is a sure way to make the short list.

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