ISSUE 9 | VOLUME 3 | 2009 | February 18, 2009


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Dear Readers,

Welcome to our almost-Spring 2009 issue of Art Career News, focusing on workplace developments and trends for both employers and employees in the international arts & culture industry. As always, we welcome your comments and input at


As the economic climate continues to offer new challenges, museums, arts & culture organizations and businesses are increasingly seeking assistance with workforce reduction. Budget cutbacks in government, a curtailed level of private patronage and a sharp slump in the art and auction market at the global level are resulting in an arts & culture downsizing crisis, and extensive recent layoffs at Sotheby's and organizations of a similar scale point to a general trend for the immediate future across for and non-profit boundaries.

At Thomas & Associates, Inc., we’ve seen an unprecedented spike in demand for outplacement support services from our clients, and it's important that HR Directors at museums and arts businesses realize the necessity for planning when workforce reduction becomes the only option. There are ways to immediately alleviate the situation that do more than provide stopgaps until hiring can recommence. Retaining positive communication with outgoing employees, negotiating public relations, keeping staff morale positive and adjusting to a streamlined organizational chart are all imperative.

Larger organizations without an outplacement plan may find themselves unable to easily transition into new workforce arrangements, both with outgoing and remaining employees. Valuable time and energy can be wasted as departments struggle to juggle their workloads among a staff grown nervous about its future and possibly resentful. Bad publicity can attend a downsizing program that seems callous or arbitrary, and the lingering effects of this can prevent the organization from attracting committed talent in the future.

Fortunately, arts organizations can actually help outgoing employees advance their career by providing them with the proper tools. HR Departments can help them strategize and move on to their next position, assisting with resumes, reference support and interviewing skills. Seminars and career advisory sessions can address both group and individual concerns. With proper care, arts organizations can turn an unfortunate necessity into a proactive and even positive experience.

It’s not only possible to create an outplacement plan that accomplishes the above, it is essential for the long-term health of a great arts & culture organization or business. As a relatively small professional community, it is important to take care of each other in the most positive way possible, so that when the economy rebounds your past employees are still your collaborators and colleagues.


Geri Thomas, President


As museums, auctions houses, galleries and performing arts centers continue to initiate hiring freezes and downsize workforces, it’s imperative for employees at these organizations to be proactive about their job-seeking skills. At Thomas & Associates, Inc., we are currently seeing hundreds of new resumes come in daily, and it’s important to realize that every resume sent has to make its impression in a crowd. Even if you’re currently employed at a rewarding position and have no immediate plans to move on, it pays now more than ever to prepare for doing so. The following are steps you can take now to arm yourself against a possible layoff and turn unemployment into an opportunity to actually advance your career:

1. Don’t panic!

2. Don’t procrastinate!

3. Review your resources. Your resume, cover letter and references are part of a total approach to your job search and they must work consistently and clearly to advance your skill set and represent your experience and objectives.

4. Be aware of trends in the arts & culture industry. Has there been a cut-off in specific types of funding in your community? Is there an upswing of interest in certain programming? What organizations are relying more on project work or consultants? All of these will help you create a sense of what opportunities might exist outside of a full-time position. Ask yourself – How can I be useful?

5. Network, network, network. Your best resource for finding a position is through your friends and colleagues in and out of the industry. Expand and nurture your professional relationships.

6. Consider a career advisory session to make sure your resume, interviewing skills and references best represent your abilities, your goals and your career path. A consultant with arts-specific experience is best suited to help you revise or create these resources, address career-change questions and help provide long-term perspective.

7. Plan positively. Don’t think that a challenging job market means that you need to settle for a lesser position. Taking a proactive approach will allow you to find opportunities that help you make important steps in your career path.


Even in a contracting economic climate, arts & culture organizations are still faced with the necessity of running programs, developing boards and hiring for key roles. Whether replacing a retiring executive director or commencing an annual campaign, it’s important to keep thinking strategically despite possible financial concerns. The following tips may prove useful:

Do review your organizational chart: how do responsibilities flow in your organization? Are there roles that can be combined, eliminated or added? A comprehensive review of your organizational chart can help you make sure that necessary priorities are being allocated to the proper administrative channels.
Do be aware of weaknesses: is your staff spread too thin? Is your board uncommunicative? Are your facilities cramped or out of date? Be poised to make swift decisions that will move your organization forward and be aware that your flaws are actually needs.
Do know your employment requirements: when hiring, review the full job description and revise it as necessary. What is its relevance? What are the core responsibilities? What are the immediate tasks? Are there functions that can be added, combined or removed? What is the current salary rate for an equivalent position? The more you know about your own long-term expectations and needs, the more ably you will be able to gauge applicants.
Don’t put off hiring: if you need a position filled, fill it. Assuming that conditions for both employees and employers will change drastically in your favor in a few months or even a few years are likely to be unrealistic and counterproductive even if true. The right employees for your business or organization are going to be as challenging and as important to find regardless of the general financial state of the world.
Do think long-term: any position worth filling or program worth doing is a position or program with long-term value to your organization. Never give up your own professional standards or take on an employee whose experience you are uncertain about. Stopgap measures seldom serve even their immediate purpose.
Do consider hiring a consultant to assist with these processes: select a consultant with a background in arts & culture who can help you prioritize and then address each of these key aspects in turn. Board management, employee relations and organizational development can all be tackled with the assistance of an expert whose outside viewpoint can provide much-needed impartiality, crisis-oriented support and professional context.
Do communicate, communicate, communicate: Should your organization need to downsize and reduce your workforce, communicate as soon as possible with employees. Explain how choices are being made and try to eliminate programs and activities that are not core to mission before you layoff your most valuable and important resource – your people!

As always, we welcome your comments and input at
Confidentiality is always assured.

About Thomas & Associates, Inc. /
With offices in New York City and Chicago, Thomas & Associates, Inc. is an innovative firm that offers staffing, consulting, and professional development workshops for museums, galleries and arts and culture businesses nationwide and internationally. The company has recently launched its career services division to address the needs of arts and culture professionals everywhere.

For employment opportunities and to subscribe to the quarterly newsletter, Art Career News, visit

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