ISSUE 5 | VOLUME 1 | 2007

July 15, 2007

In this Issue:

A Day in The Life

The Burning Question

Career Talk

Add to My Vocab

The Corner Bookshelf

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Dear Readers,

As challenging as it can be to find a job, it can be even more difficult to leave one. How do you know when it’s time to leave your current position and what is the best way to do so?

We know from our recent study, The State of the Arts: An Art Career Inventory™ that arts and culture professionals leave their jobs for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. The opportunity to develop their own area of expertise and expand their skills and experience.
  2. A better working environment that includes sound management practices, a career path and a fair compensation package.
  3. Greater empowerment – more responsibility and decision making power.

If you’re wondering how to leave an unsatisfactory job, begin by assessing your financial state, emotional well-being and work history. Finding a new position takes effort. Make time in your schedule to research, identify and apply for jobs. Some people are in a position where they can afford to be unemployed for a period of time. If your budget and lifestyle require a regular paycheck, this may not be an option and you will need to continue working while searching for a new job.

The decision to leave a job is a personal and professional choice and should be a learning process. Consider leaving a job less as the end of a negative experience and more the beginning of a positive opportunity.

Geri Thomas, President

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Senior Content Producer/Editor
Send your resume and cover letter to Geri Thomas at


A recent study provides evidence that employees leave their bosses, not just their jobs. Conducted by Wayne Hochwarter, associate professor of management at Florida State University's College of Business, a national survey of 700 employees in a variety of jobs found that:
• 39% of workers said their supervisor failed to keep promises such as a promotion or raise.
• 37% indicated their supervisor failed to give them credit when due.
• 31% said their supervisor gave them the "silent treatment" during the past year by excluding, ignoring, or giving them the cold shoulder.
• 27% report their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers.
• 24% indicated their boss invaded their privacy.
• 23% said their supervisor blamed others to cover up personal mistakes instead of taking ownership of the problem.


Do . . . Assess if leaving your job is the best solution. Have you tried to improve the situation by talking to your manager? Is it possible to change departments?

Don’t . . . Quit your job when you are emotionally charged. Making a rash decision when you are angry or upset may seem appropriate at the time, but as you settle down, you may regret the long-term effect of your impulsive action.
Do . . . Give your employer at least 2 weeks notice whenever possible. It shows respect and that you want to leave on good terms.
Don't . . . Be vindictive when you leave your job. Deleting important documents, disrupting computer files and sending out nasty emails are not appropriate ways to express your frustration. Such actions are unprofessional and can be illegal.
Do . . . Be positive about wanting a change and stress that although you learned a lot, it’s time to face new challenges and make a greater contribution. Don’t denigrate your previous employer at an interview for a new job.


A snapshot of how different arts and culture professionals are shaping their careers.

Amir was extremely excited to get his first arts job at a small but cutting-edge gallery in Los Angeles. The hours were long and the pay low, but Amir thought it was an opportunity to “get his foot in the door” and gain experience with all facets of gallery management.

As months went by, Amir began to find the atmosphere at the gallery stressful and his work unpredictable. The gallery's Director, initially very warm and helpful, became rapidly less so. As he neared the end of his first year, Amir found himself dealing with abusive behavior on a regular basis. He also realized that the gallery was actually not very well run. Clients and artists alike complained about administrative and financial errors. After attempting to bring the situation to the Director’s attention, Amir was accused of being incompetent in front of several other employees. At this point, Amir decided that he could no longer continue working at the gallery.

Without a new job lined up, Amir wrote a formal letter of resignation and delivered it to the Director the following Friday with two weeks notice. He also communicated his willingness to help train a replacement. When the Director told him to leave immediately, Amir was ready. He had taken the precaution Friday evening of emptying his desk of all personal items.

When he applied for new jobs and arranged for interviews, Amir listed the gallery along with other relevant experience and focused on the skill set he had developed while working there: phones, databases, exhibition installation, client and artist relations. When asked about the experience, Amir stressed the positive aspects, talked about how his skills developed and praised his former employer’s fine eye for significant contemporary art. When asked why he had left, Amir said that he felt ready for the challenge that a larger gallery environment posed and also mentioned his desire for better compensation. When asked why the gallery’s Director was not among his references, Amir stated that the Director’s management style was very confrontational and that he felt it better to move on into a more constructive environment. However, he never criticized his former employer or suggested that their final parting was anything but professional. He remained cheerful and enthusiastic about the possibility of new gallery work.

Finally, Amir got a new job at a larger gallery with a slightly higher salary. His ability to focus on the positive and remain professional about his previous job truly impressed his new employers (who had some knowledge of his ex-boss and his temperament). Amir now enjoys working in a more congenial and stable environment, while never dismissing what he learned from his previous position.

Increase your understanding of common terms used in career development.

What is an exit interview?

In order to improve working conditions, employee retention and overall organizational culture, an employer’s representative often meets with a departing employee in confidence to understand his/her reasons for leaving a job. The interview gives the employee an opportunity to explain what they liked and did not like about their job and what s/he recommends changing to improve the position. Typical questions asked during an exit interview may include:

  • What were the most and least satisfying aspects of your job?
  • Did you receive enough training and adequate support to do your job?
  • What could have been improved to make you consider staying?
  • What recommendations do you have for finding your replacement?

When you resign, it may be a good idea to ask if your employer has such a procedure in place.

Deciphering the true motives behind interview questions.

Question: Why did you leave your last job?

Why you leave your job may depend on circumstance but how you leave your job represents your character and degree of professionalism. By asking why you left your previous job, the interviewer is trying to find out what caused you difficulty so that s/he can assess whether the potential job contains similar aspects and represents similar problems. But s/he is also interested in how you have handled interpersonal relationships, conflict and unsatisfying work.

Be succinct and positive. Tell the employer what you liked about your previous job and how this relates to what you’re looking to do now. Consider this sample answer:

“As public relations director, the opportunity to promote high-quality concerts and attract new regional audiences was very rewarding for me and increased subscription sales for the organization. Now, I’m looking for a more challenging position where I can focus my skills on building an international audience for both music and dance.”

Your career questions and issues.

"I’m in a situation where it is clear that I need to leave my job. My boss is very moody and unpredictable. There is no room for growth, the pay is low and in the past few months my tasks have been more personal than job-related. I know that I’m qualified for other jobs in the arts that are available in my area. The problem is my boss is very well known in the art world and does not react well when employees leave. I fear that if I start looking for another job, she will make it extremely difficult for me by bashing me and my work with her. What should I do?"

When an employee leaves a job unexpectedly, it is natural for employers to have a negative reaction. Many employers will react to the loss of productivity and increase in expenses required to hire your replacement. And, as in any relationship, the employer may be personally hurt and upset at your decision, feeling that their trust has been broken. Nevertheless, unless you are under an employment contract, in most states you are employed “at will”, which means either party can terminate employment at any time.

Chances are if your boss is as you describe, you are probably not the only one who has experienced this kind of treatment. While employers may be upset and angry, it is not appropriate for them to seek retribution by sabotaging your ability to find a new job.

When searching for a new job, you can specify to potential employers that you do not want your current employer to be contacted and you do not have to use your boss as a reference. Instead, try to find a co-worker or client who can provide you with a reference and speak about the good work you have done.


Leadership Ensemble: Lessons in Collaborative Management from the World's Only Conductorless Orchestra by Harvey Seifter and Peter Economy

As the only major orchestra that rehearses, performs, and records without a conductor, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is a unique organization. Founded in 1972 and based at New York's renowned Carnegie Hall, the OCO has been honored with four Grammy awards and is frequently profiled by the arts and business media for its practices in collaborative management. Rather than managing through a hierarchy, OCO is a “flat” organization that has minimal layers of management between employees and top leaders.

In their book, Orpheus’ Executive Director Harvey Seifter and Associate Editor for Leader to Leader magazine Peter Economy offer principles to help others create a more collaborative workplace:

Put Power in the Hands of the People Doing the Work
Employees take ownership when they have a stake in what they do. Give employees at all levels opportunities to make decisions. They will be more empowered and accountable, fostering greater commitment to the organization and enhancing motivation.

Create Clarity of Roles
Organizational effectiveness occurs when employees know not just the mission of the organization, but their specific role in helping meet that mission. Job descriptions, performance reviews and goal-setting systems create clear expectations, help monitor progress and keep communication open.

Share and Rotate Leadership
Everyone has different areas of expertise and creativity. Tap into new ideas and employee strengths by letting others lead projects or manage assignments. Sharing and rotating leadership develops skills and increases everyone’s level of responsibility.

Foster Horizontal Teamwork
Build effective teams by developing problem-solving work groups across departments, rather than teams operating in isolation. Ask representatives from every department to form a group that meets regularly to discuss best practices and review associated results.

Seek Consensus
The goal of consensus is to reach a decision where everyone is in agreement. Decision-making by consensus gives everyone a voice to speak to the issues at hand and an opportunity to offer solutions.


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