Top 3 Things I Learned at Creative Conversations: Curate Your Career

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending one of the most (if not THE most) useful creative conference I have ever been to. Creative Conversations is done twice annually through a group called Emerging Arts Leaders/LA. This group is essentially a diverse volunteer group for amazing young people in the arts looking for resources and opportunities for meeting other amazing young people in the arts. They provide inspiration, education and collaboration for the up and coming arts leaders. Events include the Creative Conversations, mixers and workshops alike. Wonderful, right?

Our keynote speaker for the event was the brilliant Dan Goods, visual strategist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. I URGE you to click this link and check out his projects because they are STUNNING in their complex simplicity. Goods essentially created his position by showing the right people what he was good at--playing. He was given six months for a trial and has been there 10 years. Who knew a gigantic research facility would need a visual designer to communicate the wonders of the universe? Dan Goods did, at least. Thank goodness for him.


Dan Goods' Beneath the Surface installation recreates the surface of Jupiter using infrared and cellphones to see the stormy conditions.

Needless to say, I'm incredibly happy I stumbled upon this group and their events. Not only did I meet a metric ton of people in my field who were as kind and bright-eyed as myself, but I learned things about the career zone and myself that are priceless. Here's a look at the top three things I learned from attending this conference.


No one else is going to do it for you. Camille Schenkkan from Center Theatre Group gave us tips on how to make the moves to progress in your career yourself. The main points:

  • Know what you've done to improve your organization. Make it quantifiable. How much time/money/heartache have you saved your organization?
  • Become more than your job. Be the person people look to outside of your position to educate them in your field. Write blogs. Teach classes. The main question asked here that blew my mind is "What specific arts-related thing can you do that many others can't?". I realized I have learned how to book and schedule 35 MM films from studios for special screenings, which is a plus in studio relations and negotiations.
  • Know what you're doing to sabotage yourself and most importantly, what you are going to do to fix it. This was a HUGE lesson for me. The workshop we did completely tapped into the fears I have when asking for promotions or following up interviews and interactions. My fear of making the wrong move that destroys my future (no, seriously) has blocked opportunities for me. I will change this by accepting that sometimes things don't go your way, but somethings will to replace those things.

Already, I have learned more about myself in the first workshop than I have in the last five years.


This makes me think of my actor friend who took steps to incorporate himself, because his talent, literally, is his body and his skill. As artists, we tend to frown upon thinking like a business...I mean, honestly, if we could graduate from college with a business management degree and start making six figures soon after we'd do it. But the important thing to remember, Jodie Bentley from The Savvy Actor points out, is in order for us artists to feel completely free to do our artsy things, we need to plan for that now. Here's some small but useful tips on how:

  • A human can only focus on 3-5 goals at a time. This includes social, professional, and personal goals. All the goals. Don't overload yourself. Do this by focusing day to day, goal by goal. Create a Daily Six: six things you shoot for completing a day ordered by priority. Estimate how long it will take, then add two hours for emergencies. Don't beat yourself up for only accomplishing a few things.
  • Spend 30 minutes every night on your business with intense, focused energy. By the end of the week, that's 2 and a half hours toward your business. Each night can be different, too. Switch from marketing, to networking, to scheduling...
  • SEE ART. A wealth of people get so wound up in their ambition they forget to see a movie, take a walk through a gallery, or visit a museum.
  • Use online resources to cut down on your time spent organizing. iCal for your scheduling, for to-do lists ( or check out this fun one¬†), to sort your mail for you. More of an analog lover? Use paper, as long as it keeps you productive.

There are endless resources and apps at your fingertips to streamline your busy schedule. Use them to your advantage and play later.


We've all been asked to describe ourselves in one word. And we've all starred emptily at the wall trying to figure what that one word could be. Sam Bennett from The Organized Artist Company taught me the most valuable lesson of the day: be yourself, your whole self, and embrace everything that makes you you.

  • All your attributes are on a spectrum. You can be perceived charming by one person, and sleazy by another. Even your negative attributes are useful in some way. Which friend are you going to bring to the courthouse when some one is trying to build a jailhouse in your backyard? The stubborn one.
  • Trick yourself into finding the words that describe you that you admire in yourself. Do this by listing your heroes and what adjectives you admire about them. Those are you. Mine were kind, mysterious, emotional, open, hilarious, defiant, unyielding, and selfless.
  • Use your words to pump your confidence. Write them over and over before an interview. Keep a running list of compliments. It's not cheesy or narcissistic. It's necessary.

The worksheet Sam Bennett passed to us with all my words and heroes.

So there you are. A fraction of the things I learned while participating in this conference. The most important thing I pulled away from this all was who I was and how important it is to love yourself in a transitional period, especially because YOU have to sell YOURSELF. No one else will, and no one else is obligated to do you favors but yourself. Remember what it is about you that people deserve to have.



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