Putting Out Fires: Arts Managers and the COVID Job Search

Arts Managers.

In the context of the performing arts industry, this includes stage managers, production managers, box office managers, house managers, tour managers, company managers, event managers, and anyone else in charge of making sure artists and audiences get to the right place on time without a hitch. The ones who put out fires.

But it feels like there’s one fire you can’t put out.

We know that the industry is going through a particularly difficult time right now. Most recently, The Broadway League made the announcement that Broadway will remain shuttered until June 1, 2021 at the earliest. The Metropolitan Opera announced just a couple weeks prior that it has cancelled the entire 2020-21 season. And at the beginning of August, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation ceased, leaving millions without enough income to support themselves. Did you know there are over 100,000 out of work due to performing industry shutdowns in New York City alone?

Has anyone pitched this to the government?

But here’s the thing: despite the deep sadness we feel every time we see announcements like those above, we hold a lot of hope for the people affected. Why? Because we know performing arts professionals. We know that the performing arts industry is full of some of the world’s strongest creative problem solvers, with tough skin to boot. There is an incomparable perseverance that lives at the core of every artist and event maker. “The show must go on” is so much more than a platitude - it’s a lifestyle.

So...now what? Arts managers are the backbone of the industry, and carry a lot of responsibility for not only themselves, but everyone and everything else. So please hear us when we say: It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to feel lost and confused.

But whenever you're ready to take steps to move forward, we’ve got some things for you to consider so you can find the right fit for yourself.

Define Two Things You Love About Arts Management

These things will help you keep engaged with your new industry. You should be able to say, “I love doing [THIS] and [THAT].” As someone in arts management, you are probably thinking of things like…

  • Keeping everything organized

  • Being the superhero and putting out fires

  • Collaborating with large teams

  • Creating and managing processes

  • Designing documentation

Whatever your answers: be honest with yourself to get to the heart what it is you need in your new industry.

Identify Your Four Greatest Attributes/Skills

This can be tricky, because sometimes we aren’t great at knowing what we are great at. Personal dynamics play a huge role in how we act and react, so if you’re having trouble finding your strongest skills, consider what people typically reach out to you for help with.

As an arts manager you are probably good at relating to people, organizing, managing details, and coming up with innovative ways to complete tasks or solve problems. These are not the things you can learn in a college class - leverage that.

Decide What Is Sustainable for the Life You Want

What kind of life do you want to live? What are some requirements for your job so you can live that life? (Yes - you should be fitting your job into your lifestyle, no the other way around.)

We will give you two VERY different examples for you to develop into your own response.

Option 1 - The COVID Clincher

  • You want to remain within the arts industry long term, and you are taking a temporary job to pay bills

  • You’re covered on someone else’s insurance, so it’s ok if you don’t have insurance right away

  • This job can be any time of the day or night, but you’d rather work evenings because you hate being up early

  • You don’t have time or interest in additional training/courses

  • You can get by on a $30K salary

Option 2 - The 180

  • You are leaving the arts industry long-term

  • You don’t mind if your new industry or job will require some additional classes

  • You want something with consistent hours (9-5… 7-3… whatever)

  • You require healthcare coverage and PTO

  • Within the next few years you would like to be in the $50K+ salary range

  • Extra perk if the industry is going remote and you can work from home/wherever

See where we're going with this? What’s most important is to be honest with yourself and lay out your needs. What will make this work best for you? What are you willing or unwilling to do for the sake of a new job?

We have a worksheet here to help you lay out all your answers. Then, using a combination of keywords from all three sections, you can begin to search for jobs or careers that will accommodate all your interests and needs. Finding a new job is not just about what you can do for them, but also about what you want to do and what the job can do to serve your needs.

Fuel your fire, arts managers, don't put it out.

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