Ask an expert: Reynold Levy’s helpful guide to a career in the arts

Ask an expert: Reynold Levy’s helpful guide to a career in the arts

Reynold Levy served as the president of Lincoln Center for 11 years and is the former president of Robin Hood Foundation. He has written several books about the professional trade, including “They Told Me Not to Take That Job: Betrayal, Heroics and the Transformation of Lincoln Center,” which was a New York Times Bestseller.

His latest book, “Start Now: Because That Meaningful Job Is Out There, Just Waiting For You,” draws on his experience and offers advice on how to network, interview and climb the career ladder effectively. To celebrate the release of the professional guide book, ALL ARTS corresponded with Levy and asked him questions we routinely hear from aspiring art professionals. See his answers below and stay tuned for a second installment of questions.

How do I combine working full or part-time as a waitress, Uber driver or barista with landing the job or role of my dreams?

By taking care of your physical and psychic health. Good nutrition. Regular exercise. Exploring ways to minimize stress — yoga, meditation, good friends and a supportive home life. Breaking through to that dream job is often a struggle. It requires discipline, sacrifice, good humor, hard work and resilience. Developing excellent habits — physical, mental and psychological — will keep you able to multitask and to cope with the inevitable obstacles and setbacks that might otherwise block your way to that idyllic job.

Reynold Levy hosts Lincoln Center Dialogue breakfast meeting, “The Challenges of Leadership: The Museum.” Credit: Stephanie Berger.

For those whose careers have a limited life like ballet dancers, circus performers, stunt men and women, how do I prepare for what is next?

From dancer to teacher and choreographer. From circus performer to physical trainer and gym owner. From stunt woman to gymnast. By observing successful career transitions, you will see the ways that resourceful professionals use education, training, workshops, reading and apprenticeships to prepare for their next professional life, even as they excel in the one they now occupy.

People who can help you are everywhere: your fellow congregants at church or synagogue, the parents of the children in the same school as your own, little league coaches, fellow members of the gym or the book club, neighbors who reside in the same apartment building or nearby. By refusing to narrow your circle of acquaintances only to those in and around your current place of employment and by meeting, greeting and conversing with others whose career paths you seek to emulate, amazing things can happen.

By starting now when you are very devoted to success in your current occupation, the clues and cues to the next phase of your life can be revealed. Don’t wait until it’s too late to secure a smooth transition. As the title of a new book with which I am fully acquainted is worded: “Start Now: Because That Meaningful [Next] Job Is Out There, Just Waiting For You.”

If I am interested in one or another arts administration role, how helpful is it to earn a masters degree in arts administration or business?

As a practical matter, you are probably better off spending more time learning at work, meeting with colleagues inside your organization or those in sister institutions. When it comes to administration, arts outfits are among the least educational and credential conscious. Neither the current general director of the Metropolitan Opera nor his predecessor are college graduates. Who cares? The degrees they acquired were in-house, from supervisors, mentors, coaches and by experiencing vicariously the challenges they seize.

Save the time. Save the money. Invest more of yourself in employment settings and with and among professionals you admire.

What are some effective ways of keeping myself on the minds of prospective employers while not annoying them or turning them off?

Offer to help if you detect an unsatisfied need of a boss or another influential figure in your organization or outside of it and become well known as a team player. Take your work more seriously than yourself. Enroll in extracurricular activities as a writer or a public speaker or a consultant or a committee activist or a volunteer to another organization. Quietly, modestly, burnish your own brand. Finally, ask others who know them well and who are respected by them to favorably mention you to target employers whenever the time seems right.

“Start Now: Because That Meaningful Job Is Out There, Just Waiting For You” is now available for purchase. Click here for more information.