UVa Career Center
YOU KNOW THE OLD JOKE... HOW DO YOU GET TO CARNEGIE HALL? PRACTICE!
Yet for students with career interests veering toward the arts, the general question of how to get a foot in the door is no joke at all. Whereas more traditional career paths, in business for instance, come with fully stocked reserves of corporate recruiters and internship opportunities, the doorways into the arts have proven more elusive.
The newly-branded UVA Career Center is now doing something about that. As part of a new industry-specific, “Total Advising” approach designed to connect student with alumni, employers and opportunities in specific fields, the department has launched “Creative Arts, Media & Design.” The pilot program encompasses a diverse array of creative pursuits, including Visual Arts & Design, Performing Arts, Entertainment, Tourism & Culinary Arts, Media/Communication and Arts Management.
This broad list of interests is just the beginning, according to Associate Director of Career Communities Kate Melton, who heads up the pilot program. “We have students interested in things like fashion design, which you can’t do at UVa. We have others interested in sports media.”
“Especially with the emergence and growth of Arts Grounds at the University, I thought we really needed to honor those interests more,” As the daughter of a musician Mom and the wife of songwriter Jesse Harper, Melton found that she had a particular understanding of the students’ needs in this area and could speak their language when discussing career avenues and opportunities.
“The Creative Arts, Media & Design Community is an incredible asset for students in the arts and design-related fields of study,” said Ty Vanover (College ‘16). “By recognizing that an arts student’s path to success looks drastically different than the path taken by a pre-medical or business student, Career Services is taking steps to ensure that UVa Arts programs produce scholars and creators who thrive on the cutting edge.”
Starting at the Career Center in 2009 as a Career Services “Generalist,” Melton began to feel frustrated in trying to support students in arts-oriented disciplines. “We had been seeing these Art and Architecture students who had really strong design skills, but the job market was not very strong. They were feeling a little lost in their job search. They really needed more from us.”
As the pilot took shape over the past year, Melton was delighted at the immediate and positive reaction she received from students and alumni. “It was so great for them to hear that someone cares, that someone was paying attention to this need that exists for these students to have better skill development, professional development, networking, and contacts earlier on in their planning process. The response has been amazing.”
That response has yielded immediate results through a range of outstanding programs and events that are giving students valuable experiences and important connections. Last spring, a Career Center “trek” to Richmond included visits to several arts organizations.
The program has reached the West Coast as well. “Last summer we collaborated with our employer relations team to reach out to the L.A. Entertainment Professional Network, one of our UVa Clubs. Alums were really excited to talk to students about what it looks like to move to L.A. and to give recommendations on internships, including how to make unpaid internships work while working on the side. In addition to being a great event, it helped us build a monster list of alumni out there.”
One of those attendees was Tim Granlund (College ’05). “When I first heard about this from Kate, my reaction was that I really wished something like this had been in place when I was graduating and getting ready to move out here.” Without it, Granlund went the old fashioned route of packing up a car and relying on the kind hearts and comfortable couches of friends while he pounded the industry pavement. He heard about a few jobs through friends and email lists before landing one at a small film production company. While there, he realized his true passion lay in the entertainment marketing side of the business. Today, he is on the Partnership and Marketing team at The Disney Channel.
Granlund points out that the competitive nature of the business makes this program even more important. “Networking and connections are key. It is how scripts are sent to producers and how deals are made. On the one hand, you have producers’ companies, which tend to be as small as 4-6 people, and only hire on word of mouth and connections. On the other end of the spectrum, you have a company like Disney, which has thousands of employees and receives thousands of applications a day. I spent a year applying to jobs on their website, but I never got a call or interview until I temped here and had some contacts that could pass my resume along and put in a good word. It is the only way to cut through the noise, so something like the Creative Arts group is crucial for Wahoos to succeed.”
This particular Career Community, according to Melton, has had another important impact on alumni relations. “One thing we are doing here is reaching out to a lot of alumni who may not have reached out to the University before. When it comes to people in the arts, there are financial realities involved. If you are not making a lot of money, you are not giving a lot of money to the University. But you may want to give other things, like your time and your talents, and that is really important to us as well.”
In addition to taking advantage of the alumni network, the program takes full advantage of the uniquely relevant skill sets of faculty on the Arts Grounds. “We worked with Kate Burke of the Drama Department to create interviewing workshops around the idea of ‘Finding Your Voice,’ Melton said, “It’s a small group interactive workshop about how to learn to articulate who you are and what you are looking for, and to build confidence through what can be an intimidating process. It is an amazing program and so important for us to have a faculty member like that who recognizes the importance and value of what we are doing. The really cool thing is that by showing students these people and sharing their stories and their connections, we are showing them what the world of work in this industry really looks like.”
The efforts are paying off in the most important of ways: student satisfaction. “The Creative Arts, Media & Design community is extremely active and thorough in informing students of internships, workshops, and relevant events at UVa,” said Rob Shimshock (College ‘16), who earned a journalism scholarship he hopes will help him along a creative career path. “Aside from sending weekly emails, which were helpful in my internship search, Kate Melton is well-versed in the various industries and meets with students one-on-one to bolster their resumes and help with career planning.”