Seattle Symphony Production Manager
Networking & informational interviews
CES: Elizabeth, thanks so much for serving as a volunteer in the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Network, and attending ASK Night! You mention in your ASK Profile that you are a believer in the Informational Interview. Why do you feel it is so important for students?
EW: Everyone talks about networking as a very important part of business, finding a job, or getting where you want to be in your career. I think that is true, but just coming out of college, I didn't really know what that meant. And especially, I didn't know how I was supposed to successfully network.
I found that my very best tool was informational interviewing. I started with the network I had built during college (professors and an oboe teacher) and asked them to suggest people I should talk to within my field of interest. Every person I contacted about meeting for an informational interview was happy to do it. I'm still in contact with every person I met during that process and actually work professionally with four of them.
I was initially very nervous about meeting with a professional in my field of interest that I didn't know previously, but quickly found out that everyone loves helping out, giving advice and talking about what they do. Anyone would make time in their schedule for the opportunity. I know I do.
CES: You also mentioned that you ended up finding an internship as a result of your informational interviews. What was the internship?
EW: I met with two ladies who worked at the Seattle Symphony in the Operations Department. Operations is responsible for the logistics of producing concerts -- taking care of the artists on-stage, the equipment they need, and the music they play.
I went in expecting only to ask them about what they do and what working in the orchestra field is like. After talking with them a while they told me they needed some summer help and asked if I would be interested. Of course I definitely was.
CES: How did your internship at the Seattle Symphony contribute to your career path?
EW: That internship experience was a great networking opportunity. I got to know the members of that department and others at the Symphony and they got to see my work skills. I learned an incredible amount about the way an orchestra's administration works, especially the concert production side. That would have been very useful in any job I could have ended up in, but as it worked out, they then were able to recommend me for an job in the ticket office. Later, when a job opened up in the Operations department, they asked if I would apply for that position. I was hired and have been there ever since.
I do not think that you can expect this kind of 'fairy tale' from an informational interview and you should not approach the process with expectations of such an outcome. But I am a firm believer that this kind of networking cannot hurt anything and it is more likely to help in some larger way that you cannot necessarily predict or plan for.
CES: So now you work full-time for The Seattle Symphony! What is your title/role?
EW: I am the Operations and Artistic Coordinator. I have a variety of responsibilities as part of the concert production team, but mainly I work on logistics related to our visiting guest artists (i.e. soloists) including their contracts, scheduling, travel, and hospitality.
CES: What advice would you offer students considering a career in arts management?
EW: Take opportunities for as many internships as possible in a variety of roles. Look for advertised internships, but if you don't find one, or if you have something you are specifically interested in, go to them and ask if they would like an intern. Many arts agencies, and non-profits in general are so busy just staying on top of day-to-day things that they don't have time to look for an intern, though they are excited for the help. At the Seattle Symphony, sometimes we don't even post an internship because by the time we need someone, we have already recieved e-mails from students expressing their interest if we should have an opening.
CES: How did your Puget Sound education prepare you for success in the professional world?
EW: I think that for many jobs, including mine, very few of the facts and technical skills learned in college are actually used. Nearly every skill specific to your role will be learned 'on the job'. This is why I think a liberal arts degree is valuable, because you accumulate such a varied and well-rounded experience that you have more tools to find creative solutions to problems, and to think outside of the box.
In Arts Management (and in some roles more than others) it is valuable to have this varied experience because the sustainability of your art is dependent on getting the community involved. With a liberal arts degree you are more likely to have some way to relate to almost anyone in the community you are trying to draw in. You have the experience of drawing connections between your art and what they may be interested in, and thus encouraging their interest to be involved.
Alumni Sharing Knowledge
Elizabeth is an ASK volunteer. Contact her through the ASK Network.
2013 Update on Elizabeth...
We're thrilled to announce that Elizabeth has joined the Career and Employment Services team as CES Coordinator!
Elizabeth's philosophy of working with Puget Sound students? "Every student has a unique story and I want to help them explore how every part of that story—their background, experiences, studies, and dreams—plays a role in providing direction for their future."
So if you have questions you'd like to ask Elizabeth about her career path, you can find her in Howarth 101. (If you've read her bio on this page, you know she's a major proponent of informational interviews!)