Wonder how our students find their way to a career in the arts? The College of the Arts has a dedicated Career Services office, headed by Greg Costanzo who started in the position this past Fall.
Prior to coming to Montclair State, Greg worked in higher education in various capacities, most recently as an assistant director of Career Services at Loyola University Chicago where, as an adjunct faculty member, he taught career preparation and academic internship courses to students at all levels. He holds a deep interest in the arts, and, most importantly, understands the career challenges that artists face. In his new role at Montclair, Greg has hit the ground running, advising College of the Arts students on résumé development, career search strategies and how to get ready for an internship. He also runs information sessions, plans professional development programs, and builds relationships with potential employers.
Q & A with Greg Costanzo
Q. What attracted you most about coming to Montclair State University to head up career services for the arts?
A. Several things. I am a New Jersey native, so the prospect of coming back home and working for one of the state’s top public universities right in Northern New Jersey was very appealing. The position of Director also promised a variety of challenges that I was excited to take on, including developing a comprehensive set of career resources tailored to art and communication students. I also have a proclivity towards the arts, having studied filmmaking at the New York Film Academy, and DJ’ing for a mobile entertainment company out of Ringwood, NJ. And over the last few years, I met and married a professional dancer and became quickly immersed in the Chicago dance world. While I learned to appreciate dance much more in a short amount of time, I also became intimately aware of how difficult the path of a professional artist can be. This realization has further motivated me to assist students pursuing their artistic craft to develop a holistic view and approach to their career goals.
Q. What are your goals for the career services office?
A. One of my main priorities in this role is to assess student satisfaction with career services and improve that rate. We have a strong history of students walking away pleased with the help they received in career counseling appointments and workshops, plus being very satisfied with the experiences they’ve had through our cooperative education program. I’d like to make this positive feedback even stronger by designing and delivering relevant workshops on career management topics every College of the Arts student needs, such as personal branding and networking. I also plan to increase the number of these workshops offered and move them to where students are on campus, making them as widely accessible as possible.
With the help from my career services colleagues on campus, I am planning an industry specific career fair for the Spring 2017 semester. The “Arts, Communication and Entertainment” career fair is set for Wednesday, March 22, 2107 from 3-5pm in the Student Center Ballrooms. This will be a great opportunity for all majors to learn about the variety of organizations out there that are hoping to hire talented MSU students for internships, as well as part-time and full-time jobs.
This will be one of those broad opportunities where students will be able to interact with professionals which include employers and alumni; however, I also aim to create smaller and more intimate networking events that will allow students to display their works and performances and receive feedback from these individuals. Such stakeholders have the potential to mentor our students, thus, I hope to create a program that fosters mutually beneficial relationships for purposes of career exploration, and creating professional opportunities for both students and College of the Arts alumni. I also want to engage alumni as industry experts, to serve on speaker panels and visit our seminar and capstone classes.
Additionally, faculty often know much more about what students are doing and seeking when it comes to their careers than me, plus many faculty are industry insiders. Therefore, I want to improve communication with them to ensure transparency when it comes to employer relationships so that any job and internship opportunities can be quickly shared.
A longer-term goal that we’re starting to already lay the foundation for is to develop and integrate career preparation and management content into the College of the Arts curriculum. So across all programs and majors you’ll see professional development topics addressed in courses such as freshman seminars and capstone courses. Workshops on resume/cover letter writing, building an online presence, interviewing techniques, networking, and more will be delivered along with a string of guest speaker and panel presentations from working professionals (including alumni) that build upon our existing speaker events in the college. We hope that this component nicely complements the high caliber education students receive with vocational insights.
I understand that not everyone has the time to stop by our office, so I’m working on drawing more traffic to the College of the Arts, Career Services’ website to make it easier and more convenient for students and alumni to access resources such as resume and cover letter samples, tips on interviewing and negotiating. This will also show what events are coming up that can get students face to face with organizations that are hiring MSU talent.
Lastly, I am amazed at how much talent College of the Arts students have. Through our “Success Stories” webpage, the goal is to not only highlight the achievements of some of our exceptional students and recent graduates, but these stories also serve as reassuring and guiding voices on how to attain our career goals. It also draws attention to the employing organizations of these students, proving that there are some excellent companies out there that want MSU students!
Q. What do students look for when they come to the office and what can they expect to find?
A. Often times students are calling, emailing or stopping by the office to learn more about how to find internships. While naming a few websites that are popularly used for job searches may seem like the quick and easy answer, what I share, or rather, what I ask are questions that allow me to better understand what each student is interested in and looking for. In order for me to advise what I think is best for each student, it’s helpful that I get to know what energizes that person and what their work values are. I like to have them paint a picture (not literally, though a number of Art & Design students might be game for that) of what their ideal work environment looks like. When they visualize what their professional lives can look like, I can better direct them. I also assess what steps they’ve already taken in achieving this vision. For instance, have they begun to search and apply for internships? Do they have an updated resume? Created a LinkedIn account? From there I can help to develop a clearer strategy with the student. Since managing one’s career is a lifelong process—we are always learning something about ourselves, what we like, don’t like; what we want out of work, don’t want—our focus and goals shift and, therefore, we need to adjust our approach. So I invite students back to the office to address any new questions that come up along the way and any revisions they want to make to their portfolios and applications.
Q. What career development advice would you give to a new freshman or soon to be graduating student with an eye towards a career in the arts?
A. That regardless of where you are in your academic career, the career development process is a continuous one. We’re always learning about ourselves and what kind of work is out there, and the intention is to line the two up. However, for a first-year student, there tends to be more emphasis on figuring out what to study, so I recommend choosing subjects that interest you. You’ll more likely be motivated to study and as a result, hopefully earn good grades. And while you’re keeping up with your school work, take advantage of projects and/or performances that will allow you to get practical experience in your area of interest. As artists, you’re here at Montclair to hone your craft, but there’s nothing like stepping onto a stage or working live in a TV studio where you can really put your skills and talents to the test. And there are plenty of these opportunities around, both on and off campus in the form of class projects, student organizations, co-ops and internships where you can apply what you’re studying in the classroom, gain clarity on a role, company, and/or industry, and have the luxury to make mistakes in a supportive learning environment.
An upperclassmen can be doing these same things as first-year students, with the aim to be developing a clearer focus on where he/she wants to go upon graduation. A career in the arts will be full of challenges; many who hope to perform will most likely need to find supplemental work to support themselves as they audition and/or submit their works to various organizations, galleries, and agencies; and in each of these instances will need to keep their personal brands visible and strong. This entails being able to effectively market themselves and their artistic abilities in multiple formats, including online, on paper (resumes, cover letters), in interviews, and at networking events (formal and informal).
Finding a job is tough; finding a career that excites you and keeps you motivated can be much more difficult. Therefore, don’t delay. You can take control of your career at any moment. Don’t wait until after you graduate or want to change jobs. Those things will eventually come, so be prepared. My office is here to help give you the life-long tools you need to control and manage your career.
The Office of College of the Arts’ Career Services is located in Morehead Hall, room 221. Greg and his staff can be reached at 973-655-7495 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.