Carving out a Career in the Arts

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By Mriganka Maroo, CAS Class of 2024, Wasserman Career Ambassador

Hi! I’m Mriganka Maroo, a sophomore at CAS majoring in Economics. I recently attended the Real Talk: Careers in the Arts, Media, and Communications session with panelists Shanita Brackett, Director of Operations for the National Museum of African American History; Shelley Punter, University Relations Senior Recruiter at WarnerMedia; Sasha Nycole, from the Artbound Initiative; and Howard Pulchin, Executive Director and Global Media Director at APCO Worldwide. The panel was moderated by Kyle Nicole Deveza, Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs at the Wasserman Centre. 

The panelists began by sharing anecdotes about their career paths—Shanita believed her career found her, while Sasha tried various roles to find hers. Some of our panelists pursued different fields in school, such as chemical engineering, but found their way to this industry through experiences. This was a key piece of advice: take up as many roles as you can and participate in diverse experiences, for this is a great way to find where you belong. 

Asked about characteristics needed to succeed, Howard shared four he finds most important, in addition to subject matter expertise: curiosity, empathy, cultural awareness, and an understanding of how the world works. This mix of characteristics can differentiate one candidate from others applying for or already working in the same role. Shanita added that when starting a new position, you shouldn’t expect yourself to know everything; rather, come ready and eager to learn. This perspective allows you to make mistakes and grow as a professional. Sasha advised networking across fields—not just with seniors in your specific industry—to expose yourself to varied perspectives and exposure. She implored us to use our resources and not only network, but build lasting relationships. 

When it came to discussions on how their race or identity impacted their careers, Shanita shared that she was in the 1-2% of African-American or Black female population in her first role. This provided challenges to feeling comfortable, and participating and engaging as much as she would have wanted to. However, she used this experience to push herself further. Shelley agreed, adding that she too saw no representation of African-American or Black women, and shared a quote from Luvvie Jones:

 “…Your job is not to chameleon your way through life to the point where you forget what your true colors are. If you are too big, then it’s a reflection that the place you’re in is too small for you. It isn’t your job to get smaller to fit there, but to find a place that is bigger than you so you can take up all the space you want and grow infinitely…” 

The session ended with closing advice from each panelist.  Shelley encouraged us to be our most authentic selves and feel empowered wherever we work. Howard wanted us to think about what it means to be a professional—a word he thinks carries a negative connotation—and strive to change its definition. Sasha advised us to seek mentorship and maintain work-life boundaries. Lastly, Shanita reinforced the importance of being open to learning, to not running away from things we don’t know.