What's the best way into arts administration? And how can I use my people-helping skills?

Strike the right note

Q. I am 33 years old and recently completed a PhD in musicology. I am finding it difficult to get a job in academia, so I am considering my options. Before I became a student I was a PA/administrator. I would be interested in arts administration, specifically related to classical music. Would I have to start at the very bottom?

A. Your music-related qualifications and experience in administration should stand you in very good stead here. Commercial awareness, good communication, time management and the ability to work independently and meet deadlines are all attributes you will need, and you should think about how you can demonstrate these on your CV. You are right in that the key to a career in this field is relevant experience, and one way to get this is to start with assistant-level positions.

The other way, of course, is to do some voluntary or temporary work. This gets your foot in the door and is a chance to network, and temporary jobs can lead to permanent ones.

Organisers of arts festivals often need temporary staff to help with administration or publicity, and it is worth getting in touch with local community arts workers to find out where help is needed. Posts are advertised in national papers and periodicals such as Classical Music ( www.rhinegold.co.uk/general/online-jobs.cfm). Other contacts for temporary and permanent vacancies include www.artsjobsonline.com; www.artsprofessional.co.uk; and www.artsmarketingassociation.co.uk.

You could also take a look at the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) website ( www.ism.org). The ISM provides a journal for members with job vacancies, and also offers careers advice through its network of contacts in the music business. The website has downloadable information on music-related careers, including arts administration. The recruitment page of the Arts Council website is found at http://artscouncil. applyeasily.co.uk/pages/ vacancies.asp.

Get on the coach

Q. Can you help to identify a career that would suit the following combination of skills and interests: problem-solving (analysis of data leading to short-term solutions); communication (speaking and listening); and helping people? I've tried counselling (but the solutions were too vague and drawn out) and teaching - but I hate crowd control at school!

A. If you think a one-on-one approach suits you, think about coaching. Life coaching in particular is expanding rapidly. Life coaches share your desire to help people, most specifically in realising their full potential.

It's an unregulated industry, so you don't need to have qualifications, but training will help you to be more effective. Choose a course which has a university accreditation - that means it has been properly assessed. After training, you might be able to specialise, perhaps in helping those who teach.

Executive coaches also aid clients in developing new skills and applying change in the short term, but most are from a business background and work in the sector they come from, or offer specialist help, such as psychological. A book giving an overview of coaching from the perspective of a practitioner, rather than a client, is Life Coaching; A Cognitive Behavioural Approach, by Windy Dryden and Michael Neenan. Their website, which lists courses, is www.centreforcoaching.com.

Visit the Association for Coaching website - www.associationforcoaching.com - for information on coaching activities. If you are a qualified counsellor to diploma level, trained in "time limited" work across a short number of sessions, you might also look at work in Employee Assistance Professional Associations (EAPs), which employ people in private practice (see www.eapa.org.uk). If coaching doesn't appeal, the next best things to research would probably be careers consultancy, recruitment consultancy or the voluntary sector.

Careers advisers: Maria Charalambous, consultant psychologist, Career Psychology; the learndirect advice service at www.learndirect-advice.co.uk.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk