Career offices step up arts advising


With the continued economic slump creating uncertainty for students seeking careers in every field, Yale is redoubling its efforts to assist those looking for jobs in the arts.

Undergraduate Career Services held a career panel with six arts alumni Thursday, the second such event this calendar year. UCS is expanding the number of online resources available to students looking for career and internship opportunities in arts-related fields and plans to bring more arts alumni to campus in the future, Allyson Moore, director of UCS, said in an email. The increased efforts also extend to Yale’s professional arts schools, many of which have created new career offices in response to growing student concerns.

Associate Dean for the Arts Susan Cahan said UCS does not currently assist students with arts opportunities the way they prepare them for work in finance or applications to graduate schools.

“I want to work with UCS and use the suggestions of our alumni to give arts students the same kind of support,” Cahan said. She added that she has pushed for more career-oriented events since taking over as associate dean for the arts in 2009.

A large number of students currently decide against careers in the arts because of worries about a tough job market and low salary prospects, said Jun Luke Foster ’14, a student musician. He added that his peers studying music have recommended that he avoid music professionally if possible.

“They say ‘only go into music if you can’t live without it, but don’t do it for the money,’ ” Foster said.

But Moore said that UCS wants to make arts careers more feasible for students.

“We have seen a push towards a new ‘artists in the marketplace’ situation over the last 10-15 years,” Cahan said. “The fine art world has become an industry.”

The career panel is one example of the UCS push to help art students, Moore said. The organization is also promoting resources like ARTSEARCH, a national employment bulletin for the arts, and the New York Foundation for the arts. She added that UCS is also looking at positions for students via alumni and firms like the auction house Sotheby’s, which became an on-campus recruiter this fall.

Cahan said that she wants to expand what Yale can do for its arts students in the future, and that arts alumni seem willing to help accomplish this.

Lanch McCormick, UCS arts advisor, said the high level of attendance at the panel showed arts students’ interest in career assistance.

Laurel Durning-Hammond ’14, who plans to look for opportunities in theater after Yale, said that the panel was useful in starting a conversation about how UCS could help students seeking careers in the arts.

“It seemed like everyone was listening and ready to address the situation,” she said.

Among other new initiatives, Yale’s professional schools in the arts are also increasing outreach to alumni for student career support.

In recent years, the time for School of Architecture graduates to find employment has grown to between six months and a year, said Bimal Mendis, the school’s assistant dean.

“There’s a certain level of anxiety among students,” Mendis said, adding that students have become increasingly preoccupied with the short-term goal of finding jobs.

In response to these concerns, the Architecture School established a career strategies office three years ago.

Meanwhile, the Yale School of Music also launched a new career strategies office earlier this year, said Dana Astmann, a spokeswoman for the school. Headed by Astrid Baumgardner, a professional career coach, the office is designed to equip Music School students with the skills to develop their own career opportunities and find the best fit for them, Baumgardner said.

“With the changing landscape of the arts, jobs in institutions like orchestras are not as plentiful,” she said.

Baumgardner added that she sees her job as making musicians recognize that they can successfully find work, even though traditional opportunities are not as plentiful as they once were.

Theater students may be relatively more fortunate. Yale School of Drama Dean James Bundy said that the outlook for YSD students remains “reasonably good.”

“Although the field has contracted since the recession, [ … ] careers in the arts are a viable option,” Bundy said.

He added that the overwhelming majority of Drama School graduates find jobs within a short period of time after they graduate.
Steven Padla, senior associate director of communications at the Drama School, said that specific career placement programs exist in each of the School’s departments. He added that a critical aspect of the school’s support for its students are the showcases it holds in Los Angeles and New York each year.

Professor Toni Dorfman, director of undergraduate studies for the Theater Studies program, said the number of arts opportunities exist in direct proportion to students’ willingness to search for and create them.

“The theater as a profession has no ladder to climb that goes to ‘the top,’” Dorfman said. “It has [ … ] one ‘top’ at a time: the show you’re working on, whether it’s on Broadway or in a storefront in Red Hook; and when you’ve got that show, you’re gold.”

The alumni who participated on yesterday’s panel emphasized that the Yale alumni network provides strong connections in the arts industry, citing specific examples from their own careers.

Rebecca Wiegand ’05, who worked at W.W. Norton publishers and New Line Cinema before co-founding a creative media agency, said she encountered a number of Yalies over the course of her job at W. W. Norton. She added that alumni can help students in a number of ways, such as providing commentary on original work like scripts.

Thursday’s panel was a collaboration between UCS and the Creative Yale Alumni Network.

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