Savannah Christensen, marketing & communications intern for NCA, interviews Laura Myers, associate director of student career advising for students in the School of Communication and Bienen, to gain insight into the job and internship search process in the arts and entertainment industries.
SC: What majors or minors would you recommend for students interested in arts & entertainment?
LM: Well, here at Northwestern, students are not defined by their major. I would say that what’s nice about Northwestern is that you could be, for example, an Econ major, and go into the arts, if you shape your experiences by what your internships are and what your involvement is. So I don’t think that there is one major that is the major for these fields.
SC: You mentioned internships. Do you think they are key to arts & entertainment career paths?
LM: Oh, yes. Like any industry, internships are really important. But I will say, everything doesn’t have to be called an internship. For example, within entertainment, if a student were to have an opportunity to help out on a film set, they might not call that an internship, but it’s definitely still a valuable experience. On the flip side, within arts, we’ve done panels where we’ve brought alumni back who are doing arts administration, and an overwhelming amount of them say that their “in” into arts administration was really from, not an internship, but from a volunteer experience that they’d had. Let’s say they had a day job or volunteered as an usher at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra…they got to know people. That way when a position did open up, they had that advantage.
SC: For students who are looking for an internship, or to volunteer, what organizations would you recommend they look into? In the Chicago area specifically?
LM: I think there’s a lot of opportunity in the Chicago area. For the arts, there are many amazing museums, and almost all of them post internships in CareerCat. There’s the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. There are also a lot of strong music organizations and orchestras like the CSO and Grant Park Music Festival. For entertainment, there are a number of talent and casting agencies in Chicago. I would strongly recommend students do some research into those organizations and reach out to people and network.
SC: Speaking of networking, how important is it to arts & entertainment?
LM: In all industries networking is important, but I would say in entertainment specifically, with film and TV, it is probably more important than any industry. Here’s the myth I try to bust for students: they think they have to know someone already or their family has to know someone. That’s really not true. We have such a strong Northwestern network… we have such a presence in the entertainment world. And I would say, from my experience… I’ve taken students three times now to L.A. for the film & TV career trek that we do, so I’ve learned a lot about the industry and I’ve gotten to know a lot of alumni. They are the nicest, most willing alums to talk to students, because it is a very work-your-way-up industry and a lot about who you know. But the “who you know” can be a Northwestern alum that you meet. So I try to reassure students that you don’t have to know someone already. You can use that Northwestern connection.
SC: Would you recommend students actively engage in these industries? Go to events or shows? Interact with performers or directors?
LM: Yes for sure. A film producer who is part of the career trek always emphasizes that you have to know what’s happening. You need to read Variety, you need to know what’s coming out and what films are being made. If you have an opportunity to go to a show or event, and go up to someone and be bold, do it. A student I currently advise shared a story with me about a very bold move she made. When there was a very famous entertainment alum on campus, she gave that person her resume, and it paid off because less than nine months later, she was contacted for an updated resume to apply for a position and landed an internship! So I tell students all the time, the more proactive you are, the better.
*This interview has been edited and condensed.