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CMCI Careers Event: Building a Career in a Sector in Transition: Employability, Resilience and the CMCI

On Thursday 1st April, the CMCI Careers Committee hosted their second event of the week, which was orientated around the importance of resilience within the CMCIs, and how to navigate the sector whilst it is in transition. Within the discussion, we were lucky to host three professionals with diverse career histories: Marine Van Schoonbeck, who currently directs the project ‘Thanks for Nothing’ in Paris, Candace Chan, a content marketing specialist at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London, and Ernesto Miranda Trigueros, who is a cultural policy consultant in Mexico.

Marine began the discussion by outlining to us her career path, which went from working in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago as a special assistant to the director to most recently becoming a director of Galerie Chantal Crousel. Yet, within her journey, she wanted to connect her professional life to her personal interests, which was her commitment to NGOs (non-governmental organisations), therefore leading to her creating Thanks for Nothing, which aims to curate cultural projects such as exhibitions and festivals in connection with NGOs working on the ground, in order to make a real financial impact. Additionally, she is currently in the process of creating a new museum in Paris, which would connect an exhibition space with a shelter for refugee women, creating a new cultural centre for a new generation. This step took a lot of risk, and really highlights the necessity of resilience and tenacity whilst pursuing your interests in the sector, and Marine herself said that the reason this project has succeeded is because the team chose not to stay in a defined path, contesting the narrative that your career needs to have a linear progression.

Following this, we heard from Candace Chan, who is an alumnus of the CMCI department, studying CCI as an MA. She characterised her career as a slow and gradual process, endeavouring to change roles through ‘small pivots’, and she worked in a variety of theatre marketing roles, such as at Jacksons Lane and Royal Court Theatre. Yet, after 7 years, in a similar way to Marine, Candace wanted to combine her passion of charity and animal welfare with her marketing skills, leading to her role at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, where she now specialises in content creation, and works within a team of 50 people, as opposed to the smaller teams within theatre marketing. 

Finishing the panel discussion was Ernesto Miranda Trigueros, who joined us from Mexico at 7am! Following on from his Masters degree in Digital Humanities at King’s, Ernesto’s career spans 10 years, where he worked for three federal Mexican organisations, specifically consulting on projects of virtual repatriations and cultural heritage, liaising with English officials to retrieve objects belonging to Mexico. Within his career, he emphasised the importance of human skills, where he was able to gain a lot doing traditionally ‘lower’ jobs, and he ended the panel giving the advice that as ‘a young person with ambition, you have nothing to lose’.

During the Q&A, the three speakers highlighted the need to not remain lazy within your job, with both Marine and Candace stating that usually after two years, they began to feel too comfortable in their job, which signalled to them the need for a change. When asked what they believed made them stand out when applying for jobs early on, Candace highlighted the importance of volunteering and networking, with Ernesto attesting to the value of experiences, which can lead to so many transferrable skills. Vitally, the three speakers gave an insight on the most challenging aspects throughout their career and how they remained resilient, with Marine finding the most difficult in leaving her position as a director to create her own project with only a vision, and no secured funds. Following from this, Candace stressed the reality of burnout, where linking your identity to your job can lead to being emotionally overwhelmed, supported by Ernesto, who stated that he became so invested in his job within the projects that when it finished, it was extremely difficult for him, and both then attested to the need to care for your mental health, which is often stigmatised. The discussion then ended with the important advice of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, with Ernesto advising to stay curious, and Marine emphasising the importance of finding what gets you out of bed and interests you every day.

Thank you so much to Marine, Candace and Ernesto for joining us in this fascinating talk and thank you to the CMCI Careers Committee for arranging this opportunity!

Event 2: Building a Career in a Sector in Transition: Employability, Resilience and the CMCI 

Speaker: Marine Van Schoonbeek

Since 2008 Marine has directed all Thanks for Nothing projects, teaches at Sciences Po and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Primo Levi Center. From 2015 to 2018, Marine was Director of the Galerie Chantal Crousel, in charge of development, relations and sales to institutions and international collectors. From 2012 to 2015, Marine directed relations with FIAC collectors and institutions. For 3 years, she developed the entire VIP program in partnership with 200 institutions, foundations and private collections internationally. From 2009 to 2012, she was in charge of public relations and patronage at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, where she developed the policy of fundraising and coordinated the official inauguration of the venue, the first cultural institution of this scale to be relocated in France. In 2008, she was a special assistant to Robert Fitzpatrick, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, where she analysed the structure of American cultural institutions. Marie lives and works in Paris, France.

Q. Where does the nameThanks for Nothing come from?

A. Symbolically, we decided to name our association after a work of art. This is also the case for each of our events. Thanks for Nothing is the name of a John Giornopoem, which he gave on the occasion of his 70th birthday. He has repeated this performance several times, including at the Palais de Tokyo in 2015. It is a performance that is very well known in the art world.

It was important for us to choose this poem to represent Thanks for Nothing, because it is symbolic of the ambivalence of things in life: he thanks at the same time the good moments of his life, but also all the failures and the difficult moments that allowed him to progress.

Finally, this poem shows what it means to link social commitment and art, and the natural way in which we create bridges between the two. The idea is that there should be no need to thank us for our help, because it should be normal, because art is inherently social.

Q. As both co-founder and director of 'Thanks for Nothing', would you like to share one of the most unforgettable project or event with us briefly?

A. I would like to introduce them all to you! But if we have to decide, let’s focus on our event at Nuit Blanche 2018 in Paris, which was called Le Pont des Echanges. Thanks for Nothing was invited to participate to Nuit Blanche 2028 by its Artistic Director, Gaël Charbau and the aim of the event was to bring together artists, associations and visitors around art and solidarity, for one night on the Alexandre III bridge in Paris.

The artistic program was meant to be close to a festival, with dance, singing, reading, contemporary art, and performances. Artists like Marie-Claude Pietragalla animated the evening with dance highlights, giving a performances to the public. By the way, the whole name of this event corresponds to one of the artists’ works: “Ideally, this text will make you levitate” by Laure Prouvost.

The particularity of this event is that art was mixed with associations, which were part of the project, having stands on the bridge. Associations such as the Fondation Abbé Pierre, or Bibliothèques sans frontières were able to animate the evening and mobilise the public around social causes.

Moreover, all visitors were invited to participate in the event, becoming both actors of change through the action of associations, and artists by participating in artistic performances. The beauty of this event lies in the fact that it gathered many different people, sometimes people very far from art, who decided to come on this bridge which was open to all passers-by.

Q3. If youre asked to choose words to describe your career path so far, how would you describe it in 3 words?

A: Opportunity, Fearless, Committed.

Speaker: Candace Chan

Candace is a King’s alumna with an MA in Cultural and Creative Industries. She is a content and social media specialist currently working for Battersea, a leading animal rescue charity. She creates content across film, photography and copywriting for digital and social media channels. Candace also has over seven years of experience in the performing arts sector. She was Marketing Manager at the Royal Court Theatre and Almeida Theatre, where she led on marketing campaigns and audience development strategies. She has also worked for organisations including Jacksons Lane and Pride in London, and is a Clore Emerging Leader.

Q. My first question is: how did you link what you learned in university with the requirements of the professional world? 

A. During my time at Kings I studied topics including cultural policy, visual culture and the labour market, which gave me a solid understanding of the arts sector so I knew what I was going in for. As a part of my course I undertook internships at the British Film Institute and Iris Theatre, which gave me invaluable industry experience and insights into the UK working culture.

I was also a finalist of the inaugural Kings Cultural Challenge, where I presented a proposal on how Southbank Centre could bring their programme to a more diverse audience around the UK. It was a really fun and inspiring experience as I got to come up with a campaign for one of my favourite cultural institutions, and consider how it could be promoted and executed. Winning best presentationwas a real confidence boost, and encouraged me to pursue a career in London so I can turn my vision into reality.

Q. You mentioned that you are from Hong Kong. As an Asian worker in the cultural and creative industries, have you ever faced any challenging situations?

A. I am fortunate to say that I have never experienced overt racism at my workplace, although I am aware of its existence from talking to friends and colleagues in the industry and hearing about their horror stories. What I do have experience of is a lack of diversity and shared experience in some of the institutions, due to the fact that they are run by gatekeepers who are predominantly white and dont necessarily have the understanding of or appreciation for the lived experiences of people of colour.

It is very difficult to articulate the experience of unconscious bias. It could be something as small as not understanding a shared cultural code, or as big as feeling like you are not given the space to be your authentic self. I have once tried to speak to a colleague about this, only to be advised to work on my self confidence. The silence or ignorance of the issue, alongside a lack of vocabulary to articulate the experience, has made me second-guess myself many times, and exert way too much energy on trying to assimilate or erase my differences’.

Its still a work in progress, but I have come a long way since then. Overtime I have learnt to embrace my identity, because its my unique experience and upbringing that made me who I am. And Im at my best at work when I can outwardly embrace my authentic self. 

Ultimately, this is an issue that is much bigger than myself so we need everyone, not just people of colour but our allies, to come together to challenge and demand change in organisations to bring forth a more diverse and inclusive culture.

Q. Last but not least, as an alumna of Kings and CMCI, do you have any advice for current BA and MA students?

A. For me one of the best parts of the programme is the network I was able to establish with my classmates and through participating in courses and events. To this date I still have good friends working in the cultural industries around the world from South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the United States to Egypt. I am aware that the circumstances are vastly different now due to the pandemic, but I would advise making use of any available opportunities to build a network of people who will give you advice, share insight and support you along the way.

Another tip would be to keep your eyes and mind open when it comes to job hunting. I like to look at job opportunities which are more senior than my current role, just to see the skills and experiences I am missing and what to work towards. This is something I do regularly, even when Im not actively looking for a job, so that when the right opportunities come along I know I will be prepared.

Speaker: Ernesto Miranda Trigueros

Ernesto Miranda Trigueros is Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of the Cloister of Sor Juana. Since 2012, he has provided consulting and project development for private and public organizations on policy, creative industries and digital strategies for cultural heritage and the arts.

Q. You used to work for a Ministry and now work for the Embassy of Canada in Mexico. How does one develop new skills when changing to another job? 

A. You need to be resilient and open to the new adventure. Changes are not always easy, so it is best to be focused and calmed.  There’s a lot to take in, so make it step-by-step and mostly, ask questions to your manager and new colleagues, they have been there before you.

Q. And how does one get used to a new working environment? 

A. As in every human activity, when you are in a new working environment you want to adapt as quickly as you can.  o do this, you need to gain confidence and feel comfortable enough to prove your talent and skills.  Be patient and confident, deliver what and when you’re asked for and mostly, be honest whenever you don’t know something or you made a mistake.

Q. What are the challenges that need to encounter when working under two different cultural backgrounds

A. You will need to have a double cultural sensibility, what works for one culture might not work for the other. This is indeed a very powerful tool! To tackle this I always try to make a very conscious effort when addressing colleagues coming from a different cultural background:

-Talk in terms that are common for both cultures

Don’t assume the other know already what you are saying (better provide more context than less)

– Reiterate even if it takes more time, it’s better to be very clear

– Celebrate your differences instead of making them an obstacle for working together

Q. Finally, do you have any tips to those of us who are trying to make the jump from entry-level work to mid-level/management roles in our sector

A. Deliver, deliver, deliver. Even if we are seeing strong challenges in our sector, its unique dynamism and resilience will make it strong again in the short run. To make the jump, you need to prove your worth by delivering what you are asked for, go the extra mile, be bold and speak yourself, but also be patient, it will come when it’s time for it. Rushing your pace might make you anxious and leads you to make mistakes.  

(Summary of the event by Yasmin Anwer, interview of Marine Van Schoonbeek by Lyn Huang, interview of Candace Chan by Xuanzhu Hu and interview of Ernesto Miranda Trigueros by Zheyao Shen, all members of the CMCI Careers Committee 2020-2021)

In 2020-2021, CMCI's Student Committee included the following BA students: Lyn Huang, Xuanzhu Hu, Isabella Lercari, Zheyao Shen. It also included the following MA students: Yasmin Anwer (MA ACM), Rebecca Davison-Mora (MA ACM), Dasha Em (MA ACM), Shannon Fox (MA ACM), Juliette Husson (MA ACM), Ksenia Kazintseva (MA ACM), Yaoyao Men (MA ACM), Sophia Xenaki (MA ACM), Camilla Wider (MA GMI). It was coordinated by Dr Mafalda Dâmaso, CMCI’s Careers and Employability Lead.