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Build Your Toolkit: Career Advice from the Inside Track on Marketing and PR for the Arts and Entertainment

by Samantha Sartori 

This winter quarter, our cohort had the opportunity to get an inside perspective on career paths in the marketing and PR sector of the arts and entertainment. This mini-series event featuring hiring decision-makers was all about leveraging the best set of tools to get your resume to the top of the stack and how to succeed during the job interview.

Here’s some of the sound advice we learned in order to execute a smooth job search and land the role.

Before you apply…

Do your research.

Not only about the company where you’re applying for the role, but also their clients. Elizabeth Neukirch, vice president of The Silverman Group, a Chicago Public Relations boutique, said the biggest red flag for her when interviewing candidates is when they cannot express which clients they are the most interested in. Your cover letter should reflect that you’ve done your initial research. When it comes to the best prospective candidates, Neukirch had three words to describe them: precise, accurate and thorough.

Plus, when you put in the time to do the research upfront, it gives you some agency in the process. Yolanda Davis, human resources manager at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, echoed the importance of having this initial company knowledge because you can confirm before you even apply that the company actually aligns with what you’re looking for.

When you apply…

Remember there’s a human on the other side reading your application.

Doing that first level of research (it’s clearly important) and addressing the cover letter to the right person helps your case. Music Box Films Communication Coordinator Will Sonheim says this may sound obvious, but it can be a determining factor on whether or not you get an interview. Your cover letter should also sound like you are talking to another person…because you are. “When you humanize and empathize with [the hiring person], it makes the pitch stronger,” said Sonheim.

During the interview…

Craft the narrative.

When talking to the interviewer, come prepared and be thoughtful. Davis recommends using your communication skills to craft the narrative about why this organization fits into your career journey. She suggests preparing answers to the “story questions,” when an interviewer asks to tell me about a time when

But importantly: don’t forget to be happy that you got the interview. “You should already feel great,” Davis reminded us. “They want you to be that person for the job.” The interview is just another opportunity to tell them the story of why you’re the right fit.

And remember to ask questions! This should be a good fit for both you and the employer. Marya Peters, vice president of Allied Touring, says the best candidates always ask about both the company and the company’s culture, which can often get overlooked.

Peters also added some tips about getting your foot in the door if there aren’t any active job openings. She recommends asking about opportunities to shadow someone in their role to get an inside look. And as someone who has been passionate about theater for a long time, she reminded us that theater is a collaborative art and there are many ways to make connections. “Work in a box office, volunteer as an usher and get a sense who goes through those [theater] doors,” said Peters. “Go to the 12th page of the Playbill and look at the staff, because there are a lot of people behind the scenes.” Even if you’re not looking for a job in the theater scene, her advice is a great reminder that there are often roles that you’ve never even considered.

At the end of the session, Sonheim call out one thing that really stuck with me: you need to come into a new role with a tool kit, not all of the answers. And the job application process is the time to really show off that tool kit and let a potential employer know that you have the skills they need.