Illinois State fine arts students had the opportunity to get a head start on their careers last week.

On October 17, four employers and 17 Illinois State alumni came to campus to share their advice with 159 current Illinois State students as part of the second annual CreativeCon. The event was organized by the Career Center and the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts and held in the Center for the Visual Arts.

“CreativeCon is a niche event for students in the arts,” said Janet Tulley, the assistant dean of Academic Programs and student affairs for the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts. “A lot of students in the arts will not see value in attending a career event because they may want to go out to an audition, which is very different from going out for a job at a Fortune 500 company. I think that this event will help creative students in those unique areas.”

While the event focused on careers in creative fields, CreativeCon welcomed students of all majors and provided professional tips that could be applied to nearly any profession.

“It’s an opportunity for students to learn key skills that will help them in future interviewing and professional networking,” said Maureen Roach, the Career Center’s senior assistant director for programming and events. “It is also an opportunity for them to learn about themselves and the strengths and skills that they have. They can hear success stories from alumni and learn about the different career paths they can pursue.”

Employers, such as the Illinois State University Police Department and Core 3 Property Management, were able to show students in the arts how they can apply their skills to unexpected fields through leadership, intercultural fluency, and efficient oral and written communication. Between the expertise of alumni and the inside knowledge of employers, the students that attended CreativeCon received advice on how to attain career success after graduation.

Students and alumni conversing at the second annual CreativeCon

Students and alumni talk at the second annual CreativeCon.

CreativeCon was held in a large gallery in the Center for the Visual Arts, filled with students posing their questions to alumni. There were tables set up around the room for networking as well as separate areas for employers to talk to students. Conference rooms in the Center for Visual Arts were utilized for rotating 15-minute presentations.

Presenters covered topics such as transferable skills, freelancing and gigging, networking basics, and alumni stories. The transferable skills presentation, for example, emphasized skills that can be applied to any creative profession. 

Alumnus Joe Mandrell ’10 studied sculpture and jewelry at Illinois State. After tireless networking, he landed a job at the Field Museum in Chicago as a traveling exhibitions production supervisor.

“In my experience, problem-solving and an ability to work with others are skills that employers look for,” Mandrell said. “It’s also important to fit your skills and tailor your resume to the job that you’re seeking.”

In addition to the other professional skills emphasized at CreativeCon, networking was an integral focus of the event.

“I know that it’s very important to network in the arts,” said Tony Williams, a sophomore majoring in graphic design. “I came to CreativeCon because I decided it would be a great opportunity for me to meet new people and start planning for the future.”