So, in a few short weeks you’re graduating with an arts degree. Now what?! In the safety of college, one can ignore the realities of the outside world, where housing and meal allowances aren’t rolled into a tuition payment and jobs aren’t available simply because you’re a student.
It wasn’t long ago that I was also facing this milestone, though I was fortunate enough to graduate just before the economic downturn, when everyone and when most businesses were optimistic and hiring openly. When I was a student, we were told education was an excellent field of study, as there would always be a need for teachers. However, in recent years that hasn’t been very accurate, as schools have had to endure layoffs to balance shrinking budgets. The good news is that arts students are usually aware that they’re going to have a bit of a struggle before finding gainful employment or making a name for themselves as a self-employed artist. So, in many ways, arts students may be more prepared than others for post-graduation realities.
When facing the first serious steps down a career path, we can all use some honest, tried-and-true advice from a working professional. When writing this column, I was thinking about who I could interview on the topic, and I thought who better than someone with a lifelong career in the arts, who travels the world working with young professionals across the globe? For me, the clear choice was Francesca Zambello, not only the artistic and general director of my employer, The Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, but the artistic director of Washington National Opera and an internationally acclaimed and much sought-after stage director in her own right. Francesca is not only very familiar with the opportunities and economic climate of New York state and most major U.S. cities, but boasts a resume that includes work in countries such as Australia, China, Russia, and, most recently, Switzerland.