Take charge of your career

 3 February 2011

Staying at the same organisation for a long period of time can result in your skills stagnating. Suzanne Rolt told Creative Choices how she ensures continuing professional development as director of St George's music venue.

Working your way up an organisation

"I kind of started at the bottom, really. I started as a promotions coordinator. I came in and I was the person who did the actual fixing and the practical arrangements for concerts.

As the years went on, I stayed and moved up into a marketing role, eventually becoming Head of Marketing. I then became Assistant Artistic Director and then finally applied for the role of Director.

"By choosing to stay within the same organisation, it has meant that I've had to be very pro-active about actually ensuring that I sign up for courses. That I go out and meet other people at venues and other arts organisations to talk to them. I've had to be quite hands-on in terms of shaping my own development."

How to pursue your professional development 

"Lots of arts organisations are quite small. So you need to be able to multi-task. You have to have direct access to someone who can help you."

"There have been courses that have been provided for by the organisation itself. I've also tried to be aware of what's going on around me, to try and sign up for new initiatives, if forums are put together, to see if I could get a place on those forums.

"Anything really, to ensure that I could engage with a wider artistic community. That's really been my plan.

"Being within the same organisation and doing different roles, I've naturally been able to have the kind of experience of what it actually is to set up and run an event. The technical and the practical aspects, then with the marketing – a whole science in its own right. There was a lot of specialist training that was available for marketing.

"I became a member of the Arts Marketing Association, and then on the fundraising side, the Institute of Fundraising. The membership of these organisations has made sure I've been informed about opportunities for training and deeper engagement around the arts."

Getting good career guidance

"An important part of your development is the people you work with. I've been very fortunate that I've had two very strong Chairs of the organisation.

"The first was a chairman who had a very strong business background, and I learned a lot from him over the years about financial management. That was wonderful, having access to this person on a one-to-one basis to actually learn about running a business, which is essentially what my job is about.

"More recently, a chairwoman has now come in who has a very different background through education and the local authority. So again, I've been able to learn from her in different directions. A lot about HR issues, which are very important at the moment as the organisation grows, you find that you do need to know about that.

"The thing about arts organisations is, a lot of them are quite small. So you do need to be able to multi-task. Suddenly you find you have to be a master of all these areas. So to actually have that direct access to someone who can help you with those things, coach you on them, is really important."

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