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How the Arts Lead Me to a New Career (from The pARTnership Movement)

About 18 months ago, my boss informed me that they had decided to shut down the New York City branch of my division and, as the saying goes, “my position was being eliminated.”

I saw this as my big chance to do something different. Just exactly what that was I had no idea; I just felt very strongly that I was meant to use this opportunity to make a career change. I had spent fifteen years working in finance, and there were things about it I liked, but I never LOVED it.

I didn’t have to think too hard to recognize that I love music. So my first logical thought (because I am a very logical person) was to look for a finance job at a music company, like Universal Music or Steinway pianos. Unfortunately, even though almost every company has a finance function of some sort, I didn’t find a plethora of finance jobs at music companies that fit my background.

But I still had this strong pull toward music, and was determined to “think outside of the box.” I must have been going on about all this to my piano teacher one day, when she said to me, “I have a friend that works at Carnegie Hall, do you want to meet with him?” Are you kidding me?? CARNEGIE HALL? As in, the Mecca of Music? YES PLEASE!!

So I met with this young man, who was very nice, and asked him on a very basic level, “what would someone with a background like mine do at a place like Carnegie Hall?” He thought development would probably be a good fit.

To be honest I was not initially excited about development, because I pictured this to be calling people up and asking them to give money, which is not my forte. But, trying to keep an open mind, I accepted his offer to introduce me to someone in the development group at Carnegie Hall.

When I met with them, I learned that there is a lot more to it than just “calling people up and asking them to give money.” It is more about cultivating relationships, and depending on the type of development work, involves a lot of writing. THESE are things I am very good at.

I was offered the chance to meet with another woman at Carnegie Hall who had previously worked for a big bank like I had (in fact it was the same big bank). Meeting with her further increased my interest in development and the feeling that this could be a good fit for me. She was the second person I’d met with to suggest that I do an unpaid internship somewhere to see if I like it, and also to give myself some credibility.

I dared not ask if Carnegie Hall was looking for any interns, but she mentioned that their current intern pool would be turning over at the end of the year and if I were interested, I should send her my résumé. [See my above remarks starting with “Are you kidding me??”]

So, I landed a five-month internship in the development group at Carnegie Hall, where I had the opportunity to do prospect research, write proposals, and prepare reports for donors. I enjoyed it very much, and when I started a serious job hunt, I decided to focus on development for nonprofits in general.

I firmly believe my internship experience was invaluable in getting me several interviews and ultimately, an offer. I am now the Manager of Corporate and Foundation Giving at the Cancer Research Institute, and so far I like it very much.

So, even though I am not actually working in the arts right now, it was my interest in the arts which led me to this new career. And it is highly likely that at some point I will use my development skills in the arts world, even if only on a volunteer basis.

By following my love for music, I made a connection to the world of development and found a new path for my career.

(This post is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!)

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