You’ve made a decision, and perhaps a leap of faith, to go to graduate school. You do your research, visit some schools, talk to faculty and current students, apply, and get accepted into your dream program. Voila.

You are now a student in an arts management program (in my case, at American University in Washington, D.C.)!

Now what?

There is no perfect recipe for success that works for everyone, but here are a few tips (more to come next week) and advice from some brilliant and passionate arts professionals as well as from my personal (well, professional) experience:

1. START WITH YOUR ACADEMIC PROGRAM

You are likely to meet people from various and very interesting professional backgrounds in your graduate program. Start with this inner circle.

For example, my classmates include a database manager for a nonprofit, a development associate at a museum, an orchestra manager, a stage manager, a music teacher, and an actor/director of a theatre group.

They have zero to over 20 years of experience in the field. Not only you can learn from their experiences and share your own, you can also meet their friends and colleagues and expand your circle.

Another circle that you might not think of immediately is the alumni network of your program. In our case, we not only have an active email listserv of current students and alumni, we also have an active Facebook group where news articles, arts issues, and events are posted by current students, alumni, and sometimes professors.

These alumni have been in your program and turned their interests and passions into their careers. Learn from them!

From course recommendations to where to eat in town, from job searches to which conferences to go to, they are a wealth of knowledge that you ought to take advantage of. Later, you can pay it forward to future students when you are out in the real world (again).

Another “inner circle” not to neglect is your program faculty. Schedule meetings with them or take them out for coffee in order learn about their experiences and tell them what you are interested in.

You may not wish to teach graduate school in the future but these professors most likely have connections in the field or were arts managers prior to becoming professors. They can give great advice in where to begin looking and networking as well as make introductions to help you get to where you wish to be.

2. EMERGING (INSERT FIELD) PROFESSIONAL GROUPS

For some people, going to graduate school requires moving to a new city or even a new country. If that is the case, networking is like killing two birds with one stone.

You meet a group of like-minded professionals who most likely understand your pains and wants of working in the arts. They have been there and done that. Introduce yourself to them (do you have an elevator speech yet?) and ask them about how they get to where they are.

They are usually happy to share with you their experiences and give advice, and sometimes lend a hand in making introductions and even letting you know about job openings in their institutions.

In Washington D.C., networking opportunities are endless. Emerging Arts Leaders DC and D.C. Emerging Museum Professionals are two of the many active professional groups in town with multiple events each month. Get involved!

Although there isn’t a school requirement for you to go to an EALDC networking First Friday lunch or a DCEMP Happy Hour, I suggest you go whenever you can as these informal conversations often lead you to people and opportunities that you might not have expected.

Feeling a little too shy for impromptu conversations at happy hours?

Go to the career development events with less talking and more listening then.

I recently attended a DCEMP career development workshop on interview skills. Not only did I learn a lot about interviewing, I also got to meet some great people—most of them either looking for their first jobs out of graduate school or those who are looking to transition into a new area in the field.

What are some of the ways you networked in your graduate school days?

Speaking of networking opportunities, the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is hosting an Arts Management Mixer at American University on March 24, 2012, 1-3 p.m. The event will kick off with a tour of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, followed by a casual networking reception with coffee, cupcakes and cookies. Please RSVP by email to auartsymposium@gmail.com if you are in for some real-life networking!

And of course, the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is another great way to meet professionals in the field, and it will be held on April 15 this year, right before Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. Registration is open now at http://eals.eventbrite.com. See you there!

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Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.