The Arts & Everything in Between

May 10, 2024 | Duration: 40 mins

Squiggly Careers, Rockstars and Superstars


Anna Wiseman

In this insightful episode, the third of our International Women’s Day series, host Lucy Costelloe sits down with Anna Wiseman, Director of Wise Collaborations, to explore the concept of “squiggly careers” and how arts professionals can embrace non-linear career paths. Anna shares her journey from audience development and marketing in heritage and theatre to project management, ticketing systems, and eventually setting up her own consultancy.

You’ll learn:

  1. What a “squiggly career” is and how it differs from the traditional career ladder approach, allowing for more variety, growth opportunities, and alignment with personal values.
  2. Anna’s theory of “Rockstar Mode” vs. “Superstar Mode” – how some professionals thrive on specialisation while others need constant challenges and variety as “generalists.”
  3. Why arts professionals are well-positioned for squiggly careers due to their resilience, problem-solving abilities, relationship-building skills, and capacity to wear multiple hats.
  4. The importance of identifying your core values and key strengths to guide your career choices and navigate potential distractions or misaligned opportunities.



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About Our Guest

Featured Guest

Anna Wiseman

Director of Wise Collaborations

Anna is a commercially-astute generalist ideally suited to fractional leadership and project roles. She has a proven track record in leading strategic projects change management and supporting purpose-driven organisations to scale successfully.

With a wealth of experience at the intersection of arts, culture and tech for good, Anna loves helping small organisations with important ambitions to grow.

Squiggly Careers, Rockstars and Superstars with Anna Wiseman of Wise Collaborations

Alice: Welcome to the Arts and Everything in Between podcast brought to you by Ticketsolve. At the Arts and Everything in Between, we chat with industry leaders and specialists about some of the big issues facing professionals working in arts, culture, heritage, and live entertainment.

Lucy: Hello and welcome to this episode of the arts and everything in between podcast. My name is Lucy Costolo and I am head of sales and marketing for Ticket Solve. Today, I’m delighted to be joined as part of an episode that also features in our series, a very special series for International Women’s Day 2024.

Today, I’m joined by Anna Wiseman, the director of Wise Collaborations. Anna joins us on this episode today and she shares her insights of her career to date and we talk a little bit about squiggly careers and why that’s something that we should all be considering within our role in the arts and cultural sector.

I hope you enjoy this episode with Anna. Please remember to like, subscribe and share the podcast.

Hi Anna, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.

Anna: Hi Lucy, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for

Lucy: inviting me. So Anna, it’s quarter past 10 for my recording. What time is it for yourself there at the moment?

Anna: It’s quarter past five here in sunny Bangkok Thailand. I feel very like I should be humble bragging about the fact that I’m here because it’s very lovely considering it’s the middle of March and probably pretty cold in England at

Lucy: the moment.

Absolutely. It’s, it’s, it’s March, it’s bleak, the rain is constant. Uh, where I am today I can tell you that for sure. So Anna, how exciting. I think you must be, are, are, are, Our longest, uh, by kilometers distanced guest, uh, joining us live for the arts and everything in between podcasts. So, um, that’s already an unusual topic.

You know, usually our, our podcast, our guests are located, um, within the UK, Ireland, also within the States as well. So, um, tell us like, how are you traveling at the moment and, and working and, and also, um, happy international women’s day 2024.

Anna: Oh, well, happy International Women’s Day to you too. Um, so yes, I’m able to travel and work, um, because I, in the last seven or eight months, set up, um, a freelance consultancy.

And that was one of the reasons is because I wanted to be able to travel and work. Um, I have family here in Bangkok, so, um, I’m able to come and stay and help out with multiple children, um, and at the same time do stuff. Do a bit of work. Um, so it’s a real privilege. It’s a pleasure. And yeah, it’s, uh, something I strongly recommend to people with their flexible working allows them or their businesses allow them to do that.

Lucy: Amazing. So Anna, you’ve just, um, founded your own company recently. Tell us how, how did you manage to kind of, I suppose, find the, the energy or, you know, take that leap of, of, of, of. Bravery and go out on your own as, as the title of your company says, you know, you’re, it’s, it’s wise collaborations of, of Anna Wiseman.

Anna: Yes. Well, you, you make it sound much more like it was a very proactive choice of my part. And, um, those who know me would have been quite surprised about this because I’m generally quite risk averse. Um, but actually, you know, a lot of people say there’s nothing so motivational as being made redundant.

And that was what happened to me, he lost May. Um, and even in that moment, you know, I’ve never, Thought about running my own company. Um, I love to facilitate other people’s amazing ideas. I’m not, uh, I didn’t have like a dragon’s den idea that I wanted to bring to anyone. Um, but I was fortunate enough as part of my, um, redundancy package.

I got the opportunity to work with a career coach, which was amazing. I highly recommend it. Um, and she helped me make some decisions that were about the here and now, rather than necessarily the longterm. And part of that was, well, If you’re not 100 percent convinced about where you do want to go, think about the things that you currently really love and see if you can find some, um, projects that would work for that.

So I started that in September working with a handful of different clients and said, well, I’ll do it till Christmas and then I’ll see if I’m still enjoying it, if I’m still finding work. Um, and so then I, I basically, I kept stretching that deadline because I’m really enjoying it. Um, I had my Redundancy was from a far right outside of the cultural sector.

Um, and I’m really enjoying being back in, um, and working with some of the people that I’ve, um, had the pleasure of working with earlier in my career from a slightly different angle. Um, so yeah, so it was a not really, uh, I’m so motivated to set up my company. It was like, Oh, what shall I do? Well, this sounds like a good, um, way to answer, well, what do I want to do right now?

It ticked a bunch of boxes for me and that made me, I guess, braver, but through circumstance, rather than my own actual bravery.

Lucy: No, absolutely. And thank you so much for, for your honesty on that. I think the kind of like the emotion of what you’re talking about is something that really resonates. With a lot within our sector, particularly if we were to think back during COVID and uncertainty, I’m not sure if that kind of feeling of, um, am I, um, secure in my career has really ever left the sector at the moment.

And we’ve seen that in lots of different ways, but with lots of movement, um, some intent and some not so intent as well happening within the sector. So I think it’s, it’s. Um, it’s quite inspirational definitely to hear that sometimes circumstances are completely out of your control, but because of your passion for, for doing, you know, everything that you, you, you love doing, that you’ve, you’ve managed to kind of, um, make your own path back into the sector.

And I can tell you, the sector has definitely welcomed you with, with, with open arms and, and just your, your charisma. Um, absolutely. So thank you. Anna, why don’t you take us back a little bit, you know, how did you, um, first, uh, engage, uh, with your career, uh, in, in, in the creative industries?

Anna: Um, you’re really asking to go back in time now.

Um, so I, my early career was in audience development and marketing in heritage and theatre, so kind of culture more broadly. Um, and at the time I was based in West Yorkshire, um, and I worked in venue, um, with a series of different organizations and I found there a real passion for collaborative working, um, particularly through working on projects that were kind of cross organization and cross industry to some extent.

So, for instance, one of the things that I think is still running strong is the Access Leeds Theatre Collaboration, which a bunch of theatres in Leeds work on to help ensure that theatre is as accessible as possible, basically. Um, and, um, Did things like coordinating events with local artisans, artists, and community providers.

And I really like that was the stuff that really struck a chord with me. And I then moved into project management of collaborative projects, particularly around unusual and kind of unexpected partnerships. Um, like I worked with, uh, which was actually a university funded project, um, with academics and community groups working together on researching local history.

Um, I worked with tourism businesses and cultural organizations trying to work together to drive up, um, tourism to Calderdale, which is an area in West Yorkshire. Um, so I did a real mix of different things, um, and it was, um, Through that work of, um, building kind of multilateral partnerships, um, that would help the sector, kind of the local cultural sector thrive, that I ended up in tech.

So with one of those projects, I had established a new company, like a limited company, um, under which a group of arts organizations were going to be able to procure a CRM ticketing system together. Um, because they could get. better value by doing it that way. Um, but also longer term that was going to enable them to co produce and co market more easily together in the future, um, as well as benefiting just generally from economies of scale.

So it was through that process that I kind of got exposed to, um, how technology was really starting to have a huge impact on the cultural sector. And so I then spent six years working my way through a variety roles at a ticketing provider, starting with looking after client relationships, because I’ve been working with lots of different organizations, more collaboration, and eventually building a, partner ecosystem for that organization.

Um, so I got to work with a bunch of other tech providers, which is super interesting. It’s the best way to learn about tech is just talk to them all. And then you suddenly understand it. Um, cause they’re very generous with their time. Um, but also consultants, agencies, membership bodies, and charities, all that kind of, that whole broader ecosystem that’s helping and supporting arts and culture to thrive.

Um, so, so yeah, so that’s what I did that for, for a couple of years. I’d say about six years. And then once I felt I had done everything I wanted to do at that organization, this was when I forayed into my different tech for good space. Um, but as I said, that, that for I did not last long and I have been.

It feels like I’ve been welcomed back into the cultural sector, um, with very open arms, which is lovely. And now, um, I work with small startups, scale ups, um, who have products that can help the cultural sector to grow and develop, especially if they are, um, making use of technology. That’s kind of my real, like, interest point.

Lucy: That’s amazing. Um, it’s so interesting listening to you describe your career because I know, um, you’re, you’re Kind of your passion for, for technology is, is something that I think at the moment, and I mean this with, uh, you know, the, the, the best compliment. It’s so on brand for where we are in society at the moment where things are changing so quickly and everything is moving at such a pace and we’re trying to, you know, keep doing everything that we’re doing, but also learn about, oh, this new development within AI or how this is changing or why we no longer called.

Twitter, Twitter, and now it’s X. But it’s so interesting to kind of, you really get wrapped into your passion for it. And, and I do believe, um, there’s, there’s so much that technology can really do to kind of foster, um, a really thriving ecosystem within the creative industries. Um, so, Anna, You’ve done so much and you’ve, you’ve, you’ve, you’ve kind of created this, this path and, and something that I kind of want to pick up on you on with is, um, from one of our first conversations that we had, and I’ve also seen it on your LinkedIn, you talked very positively about this concept of a squiggly career.

What is a squiggly career?

Anna: Well, if it wasn’t my job as part of this podcast to tell you, I’d ask you, what do you think a squiggly career is Lucy? Um, but I guess my, I’d love to hear your view also. Um, but it’s something that I kind of discovered, um, through an amazing organization called Amazing If, everyone should look them up. Um, when I was on my kind of journey to try and figure out what was next, um, And it really resonated with me because the story that I just told probably less unusual now, but certainly about five, between five and 10 years ago, like people would hear what I done or look at my CV and be like, What, why did you go from being in what was a clear career trajectory in an arts marketing role like a junior arts marketing role.

Like, why did you a leave even go from a theater to a heritage project and then why did you go into these weird like project management roles, people really couldn’t get their heads around. why you would do something like that when you had the opportunity to like start from a very clear what was almost a vocational or was traditionally a kind of vocational path like particularly in arts marketing.

Um, so I found that quite tricky and it’s only really in the last year that I’ve been able to learn that there are lots of other people that do the same thing and to learn how to celebrate it. Um, and for me as a generalist, which I’m sure is another term that we’ll come to, like, it’s actually one of the things that helps me build my unique skills and experience set, um, is the fact that I really thrive on variety.

And I like to get a feel for lots of different industries and working with lots of different people and being able to do that. I can then cross pollinate and take a kind of external perspective, um, that maybe some specialists will struggle to do because there’s so much into focus into the depths of what they’re doing.

Um, and so, yeah. A squiggly career, to answer your question, is, um, I guess a non conventional path. So rather than this idea of, um, going up a ladder, and this is what the amazing women on Amazing If often say, is like, rather than thinking about going up a ladder, it’s more about thinking about your next career opportunity, um, and not being so obsessed as our kind of capitalist society often is on like, well, the next one has to be more money and it has to be a bigger title and all of these things.

Um, it’s more thinking about, well, actually, what are my values? How can I bring, where do I bring value, and where can my strengths, right, support the things that I value? Um, so

Lucy: yeah,

Anna: that’s what it is to me. What is it to you, Lucy?

Lucy: Wow, I won’t be able to articulate it in quite the same way. But so interesting, I suppose, that you’re The way you’ve described it, I think probably my, my connotation of what it was, was, was far from the, the truth.

I just saw it as rather than it being kind of the straight line of where you are now to where you want to end up, it kind of does all these beautiful little maps and squiggles and you touch upon everything but at the end of the day. It’s, it’s like, it’s a part of this journey and you’ve, you’ve made it to, to what that next thing is.

But now that I’m thinking about it, it’s like, and then it squiggles off again, cause you keep going. And I, I love that idea. And of what you’ve said that this idea around a squiggly career and you know, it not necessarily being the next rung on the ladder. It means that there is no end to the ladder as well, you know, that if you are going to use a ladder analogy, you’re going to keep climbing, but I think that’s something that is really interesting within our, our career as well.

I see a kind of within the climate in the UK where, you know, we tend to move in order to gain that kind of next endeavor on the CV or the, you know, our next exciting opportunity. It tends to be a shift from organization, you know, it’s, it’s not too often. all the time that we can keep within a single theater or arts organization and look at a different role.

And because of, you know, the fundamentals of what it is that, that those roles need to achieve, they need, they need to get the jobs done. So, um, it’s, it’s just a lovely way of thinking of, of, of the movement that we can create within our own careers, um, within the sector. Um, and I suppose like you’re absolute evidence of, of how you can have a very, very successful squiggly career.

And also, you know, you’re, you’re currently abroad traveling as well, but also maintaining, um, the work that you’re doing each week. And, um, you know, it’s clear that you have such a passion for your career as well. And, um, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s wonderful that you can kind of make that a part of your life.

I think. You know, there’s a lot of kind of narratives around why we, we leave work behind and, you know, obviously that is so important to do, but the way you’ve kind of constructed it is that you bring it with you, um, as well, you know, that you’re traveling doesn’t need to be separate from the work that you’re doing, but I do hope that you’re taking plenty of opportunities to go out, travel and explore.

Anna: Yeah, absolutely. And I think you’re really right, that really what you’ve just said there about. When it’s not a ladder, there isn’t an end point. I think that really resonates with me, and particularly when you think about, like, I think our generation is possibly a really, there’s possibly a really big gap between our generation and our parents generation in terms of, like, working life structure.

The idea now of, you know, retiring at 65, if you’re lucky, um, and, and just not doing anything feels Like, to me, certainly, it feels really foreign, like, I, especially seeing my parents, like, well, I’m in their 70s, I’m semi retired, they don’t want to stop doing stuff, well, I’m definitely not going to want to stop doing stuff, like, and if I’ve got a career that I love, not just a job, something I’m passionate about and care about, well, I’m probably still going to want to work then.

So then that totally rephrase the way you think about work, and you think about designing your working life, that it’s not about, for me, it’s not about. Doing as much as I can, kind of killing myself until I’m ready to retire. But actually it’s thinking about, okay, well what do I wanna do for the rest of my life?

How can I map that out? Um, and that’s also feels much more exciting, um, than thinking Yeah, your, your life starts to finish once you retire to some extent. Absolutely. Um, and I think we’re the first generation for that to act, to be a kind of really realistic. Thing to be able to do.

Lucy: No, definitely. And Anna, how do you think that translates then a little bit into, you know, our, our sector?

Anna: Really interesting. I mean, I think that the people who work in our sector are really well positioned to have squiggly careers, um, if they want to. I think that a lot of people will agree that the structures in our sector and the organizations, um, are not necessarily yet caught up with how, how rapidly the world of work is changing.

Um, and that’s a generalization. I’m sure there are some really progressive organizations out there. Um, but again, let’s go back to the people because in my experience, the people in the cultural sector are incredibly resilient and smart and dedicated. Um, and so I think that they are kind of perfectly positioned in spite of those structures that don’t necessarily, aren’t necessarily conducive for it.

Um, perfectly to kind of shape their own squiggly careers. Um, I’ve got kind of Bit of a theory about it. Um, I don’t know if you want to hear that.

Lucy: Absolutely.

Anna: So I’m gonna, I’m absolutely drawing on, um, Kim Scott’s Radical Candor here. Everyone, if you haven’t read it or listened to the audiobook, you actually should.

She’s also got a new, um, newer book out, but I’m a big advocate for this. It’s basically about talking honestly and directly, um, at work and learning how to do that in an effective manner. But she talks about some different types of People at work. Um, she talks about people who are, um, in rockstar mode.

And these are people who are really solid and solid as a rock. They love their work. They found their groove. These are people that you might consider often as specialists. And then. Not like you’ve probably met these people who sometimes they’re offered a promotion, but it would include it would mean them changing their role from doing something they’re very passionate about to maybe oversee or managing that and they’re not interested at all.

Like they really are like into the thing that they do. So those people are rock star mode. And I. No less about them because I don’t see myself as one of those. So I’m focusing on this second group who are called people in superstar mode. Okay. Um, so these are people who I know, right. She’s amazing. Like seriously, Kim Scott is absolutely fabulous.

I read stuff and listen to her stuff all the time and it like often really stays with me. Um, so. These people, on the other hand, they, they need to be challenged and given new, different things, um, new opportunities to grow, learn new stuff constantly, a little bit like magpies. So these are the generalists, the ones who I believe end up with squiggly careers, so I really identify with them.

And I don’t get me wrong, I love the rock stars, I have worked with them, they are amazing. I could not have more respect for them, I genuinely don’t know how they do it because it’s literally the opposite of what drives me, but that is what makes a really fabulous workplace is having all the different people, right?

With all the different flavors. Um, but I don’t have really any insight into their experience. So, um, maybe you should do a podcast with one of them as well. Um, and they’ll be able to tell you more. Um, but so. Yeah, so I’m focusing on these people that need this like variety, um, in their, in their lives and kind of, um, like lots of different flavors, like to understand lots of different things and see where they can join the dots and find unlikely collaborations, um, and, and things like that.

I see those people everywhere in the cultural sector. I think there are absolutely loads of them. Um, and I think that sometimes they force themselves into like very conventional roles and patterns. Um, and it’d be great to see more of them not having to be kind of shoehorned into bits and pieces. Um, but yeah.

But you often find that once they get into a leadership role, they’re often able to, like, shape. That is one of the great things about the cultural sector, is that often you, if you’ve got really great, um, leadership team, then you can kind of shape what the role is around the person, uh, rather than being too strict about it.

So you do see that as well. Um, but I guess I’ve got a few, like, key bits and pieces that I think are observations that arts professionals are particularly Uh, well suited to a schooling career or would be very well prepared for it if they wanted to go off and do that. Um, there’s one that’s fitting to see the star mode, but, um, I’m interested.

What do you, what do you think, Lucy, does that, what does that theory sound like to you? It’s the first time I’ve said it to anybody out loud, but in this way, so I’m interested to hear what you think.

Lucy: I love it. I can see, I can already start to see where some of my colleagues, like there’s, there’s Kind of like what I’m thinking of is when I have a particular issue or if there’s something that I can’t quite see past.

There’s one or two people, well, there’s, there’s so many people on my team I could go to, but there, there tends to be one or two that have taken me under their rock star wing, I’m going to call it because they are definitely the rock stars. They’re, you know, they. They see things very clearly in a way that, you know, I get very distracted by and, you know, they allow me to kind of keep focus or they just share maybe a different, it really is an expertise like you, you, you call them specialists and that’s absolutely what they were, they are.

Um, So I, I love the idea. They’re both very positive analogies as well. I mean, I don’t think anyone would be offended either way being called a rockstar or a superstar. Um, and I, I definitely think what you’re describing as people who are in this superstar mode and the idea of being challenged and given new opportunities as well, you know, it, it feels like an exciting time for the sector.

You know, all things aside in terms of budget and kind of the traditional constraints that we feel year to year, if we can possibly kind of for a moment, quickly throw a curtain on that and think about some of the other opportunities that are coming up, um, how things are becoming much more sophisticated in the way that we can kind of, you know, look at our data.

There’s just, you know, arts marketeers are now nearly like Data analysis or, you know, there’s just so many things that you could jump in on within your career. So I, I can definitely see that. And I know there’s lots of, lots of organizations and people within those organizations already that I have now looking at it, I’m like, they’re in superstar mode.

That’s, you know, that’s pretty cool.

Anna: Yeah, I absolutely agree. The idea that of a bunch of arts professionals are now being, becoming data analysts, and I think if you were to have said that 10 years ago, people would have been like, Oh no, Oh no. There would have been a handful. They’d be like, yes, that’s me.

Definitely. That’s me. But a lot of others would have been like, no, no, no. That’s why we work in the arts is so we don’t have to do that kind of thing. And to be honest, I would have been one of those too. Like I’ve never been a numbers person, but I am absolutely a data and technology person. And like, I think the.

access that we now have as consumers, but also therefore in the cultural sector to like really high power technology is changing the game. And that is kind of why I work with the organizations that I work with is because I think that we’re in an interesting moment where there’s probably not quite enough digital natives working in, um, cultural organizations, certainly not in decision making roles or leadership roles yet.

It’s probably going to change in the next 10 years. Um, that. And the leadership models, like, you know, technology has changed the world so fast that our leadership models aren’t really reflective of that. I mean, look at what happened to the British Library, and everyone should go and read their report.

It’s super interesting, um, about their, um, cyber security breach. Um, so the models don’t really reflect that. support organizations to take best advantage of the technology that is available to them. So organizations like Ticketsell and others who really want to support the sector have to do so much more legwork.

Like, none of you are doing it because you want to make the big bucks. This is not the sector to make the big bucks if you’re a technology provider. Absolutely not. You’re doing it because you have a love and a care and really want to see, see those. the cultural sector thrive. And for me, like, being able to make that connection between leaders, organizations who don’t really, they kind of know they’ve got a flavor that there’s stuff out there that could really help them, but they don’t really know how to get hold of it.

That isn’t, that is like a, it’s a unique moment that we’re living in, because like I say, by the time that digital natives are running those organizations, like, it’s just, It will just become a second nature to them to stay up to date with everything that’s coming in, and to kind of know how to pass the overwhelm of information that comes in about technology.

And so I think that is, as you say, it’s such an interesting time. And as you said, setting aside all of the pain, but I think those opportunities. will help with some of that pain, you know, funding models are drastically having to change and technology is one of the things that will support organizations to figure out new ways to to find sustainability basically and be secure and stable.

Lucy: Absolutely. And I think one thing that I’d love to to touch upon as well then Anna is something that you said, which I am so aware of, but I hadn’t really considered in a while. And I think it’s because how, um, everything has changed and we’re kind of, you know, a little bit open to, um, you know, The way that we’re maneuvering our careers, this idea of, you know, like a strict line on your CV.

I remember I was sitting in on a seminar, um, a few years ago, and someone was explaining how they landed in their current position, and they were an art curator for a children’s hospital. So really quite like, You know, still, yes, a curator, but you know, not for a museum or for a gallery. So really interesting to listen and they had spent some time actually traveling abroad.

So, you know, very on brand for, for where you are at the moment, but they had gone and they had done, um, TEFL. So teaching English as a foreign language for about two or three years and had come back. And how it was updating their CV and asked someone, um, you know, quite senior to take a look at it. And the advice that they got back was, we can all take just one dip on our CV.

You can call your traveling that dip for you. Now it’s back on, back on the track that you want to get back on. And that would be their advice. And I’ll never forget. Thinking, Oh my goodness, you have to be so careful about how long you stay, where you go, what you do, but actually your positioning of, um, how you grow and, you know, superstar mode is, is actually saying anything but that.

Anna: Yeah, it’s such an interesting story and I think probably not uncommon, um, which is a real shame because I mean, the lessons that person has learned through two years of traveling and teaching and teaching foreign language, like, there are so many transferable amazing skills in there. Um, and. Like, for me, again, I hope that this is a unique moment where in a few years that kind of comment is just going to die a death because no one’s going to believe that nonsense anymore.

Um, I’m not holding, not holding back. Um, so, but for me, like, What I’ve had to try and relearn and one of the things that organizations like Generalist World, like Amazing If, like my career coach has really helped me to think about is like, do you know what? If I have an experience like that, actually that’s saving me because I don’t want to work with that person because all that’s going to happen is that experience is going to, like us having misaligned values is going to make us both frustrated over and over and over again.

Um, you know, that’s unlikely to be something that we solve. Like if they really couldn’t, even at, you know, Even if someone was to talk through it, see it, see the value of that person doing two years of TEFL, like. they’re unlikely to see the value that they’re going to bring more generally, um, even if they’re demonstrating it right in front of their eyes.

So it’s, um, yeah, get advice from somebody else who’s more aligned with what you actually want to do and, um, can understand it. And, you know, there are every, there are loads of different people out there. And so that’s essentially what I’m trying to do is, is work with organizations where I’ve got alignment, because That means that it is easier for me to bring value and for them to get value out of me.

So that’s going to be better for everyone, right? Um, but yeah, I think those stories are not uncommon sadly at the moment.

Lucy: No, definitely not. And, and something that you’ve, a word you’ve used quite a lot actually, Anna, throughout this, this podcast, and I just, I just kind of want to touch on it really quickly because I think it probably leads quite nicely into, um, where we’re headed now, uh, kind of wrapping up the podcast, but you speak a lot about value and values as well.

And I think that’s something I really admire listening to you talk about within your career and, um, you know, what you bring, I imagine you now on, you know, on, on that squiggly line that, that we’ve, Kind of planted for our listeners, but you carry, um, like a bag with you or a suitcase and within your suitcase is definitely a clear understanding of your values.

I absolutely adore that. Um, can you touch on that just a little bit as well about like, you know, how do you get into the perfect position then to have this squiggly career?

Anna: Sure, I mean, I, um, was given lots and lots of support and guidance to do this, and I think doing it for me was one of the hardest things, because I am not usually very good at introspection, um, my friends and family will tell you I do not talk about my feelings, um, it is not something that comes naturally to me, and therefore, you I do.

Um, and that is really what values are about, you know, you can, I can feel what I, what I know works when I see it, but I found it quite difficult to articulate them, but I was given lots of great support and exercise to do it, and it was like really, really hard. But that was one of the key things I was told to do basically was identify your.

core values, and there’s a whole load of free resources out there to do it. Like I say, AmazingIf, which I’m sure we’ll share the link to, is one of the places that you can do that. And the other thing was, um, finding your key strength. Um, and strength is different from skills. Um, and There again, there’s a bunch of like analytical tools that will help you do that if you don’t, um, if you’re like me and you find that thing quite difficult to like articulate on your own.

But once I had done that, I now basically take that into any, like I refresh myself on it before I’m going into any meeting with a new client, potential client, thinking about doing anything. So, like, When you suggested that we might do this podcast together, um, it’s the kind of thing I’m like, yep, it definitely ticks all of my value boxes, of course.

Um, so it’s just now something that kind of is there in my background as a check, checkbox scenario, basically. Um, because one of the things that, um, The people at MAZF often talk about is it’s very easy to get distracted by something shiny because we’ve been brought up with this idea of, um, the kind of ladder shaped career.

Somebody offers you a big title or a lot of money or some other thing that feels like you should, you should want it. And so you feel like you do want it. But actually, if you can validate it against your values and your strengths, for me, will make, makes me feel a lot more confident that it’s going to be a good fit.

Um, so yeah, so I use them all the time now, but I definitely needed help in figuring that out. And also they will change, like you’re supposed to assess them fairly regularly.

Lucy: Wow, I love that. I, just some of the things that you’ve spoken about there as well, I’m like, I, I must write that down on the back of like my, my week to week diary, just so I can always go back in because.

You are, you are right. Um, you know, we’re not in this sector to take all the annual leave in the world and go off and buy a summer house or anything like that. And everyone knows that, that, and I think that list of values is the reasons why, um, we are doing what we’re doing. So I think that’s, that’s, um, yeah, it’s, it’s really, it’s really, I think something so important for us and definitely something as well to consider within leadership.

Anna: Oh, yeah, 100%. I mean, For me, that is one of the things that makes. cultural sector workers, cultural professionals, um, really well positioned to do this kind of have this kind of squiggly query. When you talk about leaders, like traditionally in our sector, you know, the people who run arts organizations are a real mix.

Some are business leaders, but some are artists who have found their way into running what is essentially a business or a charity or a little bit of both. And That is a really unusual model, and a very, very varied model, and the people who work with and for them are having to deal with constantly shifting, um, kind of priorities and, you know, whims sometimes of what are, or can be, untrained.

certainly undervalued and sometimes ego led leadership. Um, so they are already kind of dealing with a massively shifting landscape, even if it looks like on paper, they’re in this very kind of conventional box. Um, you know, most people who are reliant, if they’re reliant on NPO funding or local authority funding, they go through basically a political cycle, don’t they?

So they’re constantly having to deal with change all the time. Um, there is, Forever mission creep. I don’t know if anyone could tell me. I would love to hear anyone who’s has worked or is working in an arts organization who can tell me, no, no, I only ever do exactly what is on my job description and we only ever do things that our organization’s actually in our mission.

Um, I would love to hear that. It’d be fascinating. Um, yeah. They work with artists, I don’t know that I need to say any more on that, um, but also with funders, with local authority staff, uh, politicians, donors, audiences, so they’re really able to shape shift and talk to anyone, um, and do what I call cross functional collaboration, but it’s basically that, it’s shape shifting, right, it’s figuring out how to make something work with a bunch of different voices in the room, like most arts professionals are already doing.

Um, the other thing they do is get stuff done. Um, they don’t let the bureaucracy or those other barriers get in their way. Um, very much the shame must go on and it absolutely does. And that is obviously a massive support in anything that you do, but particularly if you want a squiggly career because As you described, if you’re going up a ladder, you can see where you’re going, right?

When it’s squiggly, you have to draw that path for yourself. Um, so being able to get things done is really important. Um, yeah, in my experience, they’re incredibly focused on the importance of good relationships and really keen to collaborate. Uh, and finally, they are able to do a million different things, which is obviously the key, um, to, um, Finding different career opportunities on your squiggly career.

They’re always finding the new free tool that might help them accelerate something, right? We’ve all seen them doing it. Um, but they’re still able to use terrible legacy systems that they’ve got in place at their organization. These are people who, you know, have one foot in the past and are very much looking to the future.

So, um, I think, you know, those qualities obviously can position them to do anything that they want. Um, um, for me, a squiggly career is. A kind of way to take your destiny in your own hands a little bit. So, I hope that more arts professionals will consider that and think about how they can kind of shape their own career.

Lucy: Anna, thank you so much. That was so, so interesting and such a creative way to describe, you know, a squiggly career between Rockstar Mode and Superstar Mode. Thank you so much for sharing your insight as well into Superstar Mode. The list of resources as well. We’ll make sure to collaborate those and pop them at the end of the show notes for our listeners.

Um, so Anna, I’d just love to take this opportunity to say thank you for sharing your passion, um, for, for sharing your story as well. Um, it’s, it’s, you’ve, you’ve Such a fantastic career. Um, and you know, it’s, it’s just amazing everything that you’ve really shaped for yourself, wishing you the very best of luck with wise collaborations.

And I hope that that deadline just keep shifting and shifting and shifting further and further. So thank you so much today for joining us on the arts and everything in between.

Anna: Oh, thanks so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you as always.

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April 11, 2024 | Duration: 47 mins

Creative Resilience, Entrepreneurship and Data-Driven Marketing

In this episode of The Arts and Everything in Between, Lucy speaks to Lynn Aitchison, founder of marketing agency Evolare, as part of our series celebrating International Women's Day, featuring women sharing stories of creative resilience.

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