You Made It to Graduate School…Now What? - Part Two (An EALS Post)

Posted by Vennesa Yung, Mar 23, 2012 2 comments

You've made a decision, and perhaps a leap of faith, to go to graduate school. You do your research, visit some schools, talk to faculty and current students, apply, and get accepted into your dream program. Voila.

You are now a student in an arts management program (in my case, at American University in Washington, D.C.)!

Now what?

There is no perfect recipe for success that works for everyone, but here are a few more tips (get the others here) and advice from some brilliant and passionate arts professionals as well as from my personal (well, professional) experience:


Are you more of a listener and need a little warming up before you feel like networking? You have got plenty of options as well!

Look for conferences, symposiums, webinars, and colloquia online and ask around for recommendations. Good places to start looking are the websites of Americans for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, and other graduate programs in your area.

I have attended and volunteered at many of such events and have met so many great people and learned so much that I cannot possibly explain in two blog entries. Many conferences offer student discounts, scholarships, and fellowships so do not let the registration price tag deter you. If all else fails, there is always the option of volunteering for a conference.

Trust me, it never hurts to ask, the worst answer you can get is a “no” but you might just met your new friend or mentor from that conversation. You can often volunteer for one day of a conference to be able to register for a discounted price or for free for the rest of the conference. My experiences from these conferences have always been very positive, and I highly recommend volunteering to anyone new to the arts world.

Have a full-time job and a big student loan or simply don’t have time to travel? Again, fret not, there are still many ways to get involved.

There are often affordable (or free) webinars, webcasts of panels and conferences, webchats, tweetups, and slideshows available to view online. Good places to look are Guidestar, Foundation Center, idealist, and the National Arts Marketing Project in addition to the websites mentioned above.


If you are ready for some one-on-one time with people in positions you hope to be in, it is time for some informational interviews.

For example, if you aspire to be a gallery director, visit galleries and do research on directors and managers of these galleries. Meet them at an open house or send them an email to ask if you can meet them for coffee or in their office to ask a few (well-prepared) questions about their professional experiences.

I recently did an informational interview with a director of a gallery that I would love to work for in the future, and it was just a great experience chatting with him and learning about how he got to where he is now.

These chats will help you prepare for better-focused job searches and better-prepared interviews. Although I do not see myself being a registrar or collections manager of a museum in the future, I had an informational interview with a collections manager at one of the art museums at the Smithsonian (whom I met at one of the conferences) to better understand the work of her department, as well as how it fits into the greater picture of museum management. And I came out of the meeting having learned those things and more.

In short, keep an open mind and do not let someone’s job title determine your interest—you might learn something you do not expect in each encounter!

Hopefully these tips are helpful to you, my fellow colleagues-in-training. Do share your experiences in networking in the comments below.

Speaking of networking opportunities, the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is hosting an Arts Management Mixer at American University on March 24, 2012, 1-3 p.m. The event will kick off with a tour of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, followed by a casual networking reception with coffee, cupcakes and cookies. Please RSVP by email to if you are in for some real-life networking!

And of course, the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is another great way to meet professionals in the field, and it will be held on April 15, right before Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. Registration is open now at See you there!

2 responses for You Made It to Graduate School…Now What? - Part Two (An EALS Post)


March 26, 2012 at 8:58 am

Good point, Ramona. I also have been receiving more and more informational requests and I definitely take time to speak to the graduate students when I can. I know many of us took different paths to our positions and it's important for students to know the field they are going into has all types of people with a variety of experiences.

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Ramona Baker says
March 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Great comments, Vanessa. I also encourage graduate students to use their moniker -- "I'm a graduate student." It opens doors. It tells others that you are serious about pursuing education and information in your field. People who otherwise might not find the time to help will often find the time to help, share, give advice, provide opportunities, etc to graduate students.

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