The Habits Of Successful Young Arts Admin Professionals

One aspect of #NAMPC 2013 I neglected to mention was just how enjoyable it is to mingle with a broad cross section of professionals at different career stages; which is merely a polite way to say that there was a wide variety of newbies, mid-carrier, and veteran arts pros in attendance. It’s especially enjoyable to interact with the 20-somethings, now more than ever because the post-downturn crop of inductees is very different in that they are not what you usually encounter, and I mean that in the most positive sense.

Adaptistration People 020With several years of anecdotal and observational knowledge to draw from, I’ve identified the following traits (good and not-so-good) among those who stand out from their peers and many of these qualities are very different from previous generations.

Avoid The Apathy

The latest crop seems to be almost naturally resistant to apathy; in some cases, they seem to act like an apathy antibody, single handedly reversing the dark, viral creep one department at a time. Simply put, they just don’t care if their fellow arts managers are masters of ennui and damn it, they are going to move forward regardless. At the same time, the darkness is patient and in the game for the long haul so it will be interesting to see how long this trait lasts.

Practicality Chic

Pursuing a degree during a major recession seems to be producing a useful degree of realism that was missing in previous generations. Instead of gravitating toward those with the latest gadgets and tools, this generation seems more impressed with those who can do more with less. This is especially useful in that it begins to shift attention toward accomplishments rather than assigning value by budget size.

Clock Watchers

This generation doesn’t appear to be as willing to work long hours late into the night. They want to get their work done then go out and have fun but the important observation here is they do it with a healthy sense of time management. They want to quit at the end of the day because their work is done; meaning, they do an excellent job at balancing their professional and personal time without sacrificing one for the other.

All About The Flex

This is closely related to the Clock Watcher item in that this generation almost expects their arts org employer to foster creativity by way of flexible work schedules and environments. Productivity is especially important to this generation and if they do a better job by working in a coffee shop the first hour of the day, then so be it. Interestingly enough, this is one area where I observe a good deal of frustration among this generation with the traditional system as arts employers can be slow to change.

Hyper Communicative

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they are constantly communicating via Smartphone and tablet but they do an especially good job at responding to questions and requests without it having a negative impact on their primary workflow. Not only are they getting their work done, they’re doing a better job at helping you get your work done too.

What About You?

What sort of successful habits do you recognize in the current generation of incoming arts managers? Feel free to share in the comments below.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “The Habits Of Successful Young Arts Admin Professionals”

  1. This is a really interesting article that I wish I could pass around to so many employers. I guess I would be considered one of these “young arts professionals’ – and I wish I was appreciated for my different work style instead of almost being feared for it. I firmly believe in leaving my work at the office at the end of the day as long as my work is done. If I can NOT get my job done in 40 hours, then I need to evaluate what I’m doing wrong, and not spend more hours at my desk. Quantity of time does not make up for quality of work. But I have had so many supervisors who believe that their staying till 9pm is a testament to their dedication to their job, while my popping out at 6pm for Happy Hour is a symptom of my young and careless ways. If my job is getting done and done well – I don’t see the problem. I feel so many traditional arts managers feel threatened by this kind of different work ethic – and expect young arts managers to toil away at jobs for 50 hours a week, and feel as frustrated as they are. I

    • Staying late on a regular basis as proof of dedication is, more often than not, a terrible policy. A good boss looks for employees who can complete their work on time, stay healthy, and retain a creative edge.

      Granted, issues related to overloading employees with work as reason for staying late is a separate discussion as is the negative impact cutbacks have on distributing too much work throughout too few workers because it is the only choice.

      In those cases, it becomes a board issue as they should be able to identify administrative overload and take measure to reverse.

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