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Five career lessons I learned in college

May 24, 2019

Naomi Kennedy's arts management skills weren't her only takeaways from Ohio State.

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Naomi Kennedy got her degree in arts management and quickly landed a job as a packaging engineer for L Brands’ Bath & Body Works line.

Unexpected? Perhaps.

But Kennedy’s Ohio State experience taught her to look for connections that link the seemingly unconnected.

Visual merchandising, she discovered, is almost identical to the art curating she did as student, including the Autumn 2018 BFA Exhibition show she curated for her senior thesis project. Kennedy also staged an exhibition at Ohio State’s Urban Arts Space, exploring the future of art shows designed with the visitor in mind.

Here are five other lessons Kennedy learned during her time at Ohio State.

Photo of Naomi Kennedy

Naomi Kennedy's Ohio State education provided her with excellent arts management skills, but also the knowledge she needed to succeed in the workplace.

1. Your career ambitions will evolve.

I began my college career at the University of Cincinnati with the intention of majoring in graphic design, but I ended up transferring to Ohio State, where I went in undecided but thought I would major in marketing with a minor in studio art.

It’s mandatory as a transfer student to meet with an advisor, and my advisor asked me, “Have you heard about this arts management program?” The program is only about six years old, and it’s focused heavily on nonprofit management but focused on arts organizations. It’s perfect because I grew up with a brother who is an incredible artist, so I never wanted to touch art — that was his thing — but I have always loved promoting artists.

2. Your job title won’t always match your job responsibilities.

I got a part-time student job as an event coordinator at the Urban Arts Space, and it’s funny because I didn’t do anything with events. I did a little of everything, as you do working in art institutions. During my time there, one of the organization’s tour coordinators left and I ended up taking that role over. My first project was creating a to-scale design for an exhibition of African American art from Hale Black Cultural Center.

3. It’s all about the relationships you build.

The staff at the Urban Arts Space is fantastic, and I created really great relationships with all of them. You can’t overestimate the value of professional relationships, especially for a student. The reason I was able to do my thesis project is because I was so close with the people at the Urban Arts Space. I was the first student to curate a show there. Now I’m asking my Arts Space colleagues for advice, using them for references.

4. The most useful thing you learn in college is to work with other people.

The most valuable thing in college in general is changing your worldview. It’s all about learning that people come from different backgrounds, and you have to take that into account when it comes to working collaboratively.

5. Creativity makes you valuable in any workplace.

You can still spin the things you learn in college to be applicable to other jobs if you know how to spin it. Being able to say you can creatively problem-solve and think outside the box is valuable in any workplace.