What we learned: top 10 career lessons from 2022

From elitist internships to flexibility bolstering self-worth, succession planning problems and the good in bad reviews - ArtsHub looks at the lessons from 2022.

While mental health and wellness in the workplace continue to deliver many a new lesson for the arts sector, 2022 also proved to be a year for a holistic reframe that saw many arts professionals rethinking their priorities.

ArtsHub casts a net back over the stories that struck a chord with, and provided a lesson for, our readers.

1. Don’t limit yourself

Screenwriter, cartoonist and illustrator Megan Herbert used to be torn between art forms, but now embraces her portfolio career. She spoke with ScreenHub editor Paul Dalgarno about balancing multidisciplinary workflows and passions.

The lesson: Don’t hesitate; just embrace your interests. ‘We’re living in this fantastic time where you can do anything you actually want to do. The tools are there and they’re affordable.’

Read: How portfolio careers can lead to happiness

2. Flexibility can bolster a sense of worth

The pandemic fuelled a new type of management, but has it diminished team trust, and is the constant virtual contact adding to burnout? Responding to feedback received, ArtsHub checked in with the sector and asked: what are the long-term impacts of pandemic-driven management tactics?

The lesson: The impetus for working from home has shifted, but it is important that we, as managers, continue to provide flexible working arrangements, as much as practicable, and don’t micro-manage staff. Doing so can undermine a staff member’s sense of worth, and limit the creative thinking and autonomy that we all value in the workplace.

Read:  Have we become micro-managers thanks to COVID?

3. Employee well-being is the new workplace imperative

There are two terms circulating social channels and workplaces at the moment: ‘quiet firing’ and ‘quiet quitting’. Both essentially describe when someone is intentionally managed out of their job. Quiet firing is management driven, while quiet quitting is when an employee takes the reins themself, adjusting their work ethic in the hope of being dismissed. So are the arts the perfect breeding ground for this trend, with employees systemically plagued by burnout and job shortages? ArtsHub took a deep dive into the topic.

The lesson: A global report makes that point that ‘employee well-being is the new workplace imperative’, and that the root of both quiet firing and quiet quitting lies in addressing this.

Read: Are ‘quiet firing’ and ‘quiet quitting’ real in the arts?

4. Respect artists voices at a board level

Boards and governance are a bit scary and ‘other worldly’ for practising artists, until you have served on one. While most in the sector recognise the necessity and value of diverse boards, sadly not all are successful in giving agency to diverse voices. ArtsHub took a look at how artists as board members are valued, and whether it should be a paid role.

The lesson: Artists are being valued in these positions, but overwhelmingly more needs to happen. Arts organisations need to consider a mandatory board chair for practitioners.

Read: Do we need more artists on boards?

5. Internships are in peril of being elitist

Internships can be helpful if you’re starting out on your career path, particularly if you are offered genuine workplace experiences or a chance to get a foot in the door of your industry. However, the possibility of exploitation is something to be mindful of when considering interning in your chosen field. ArtsHub took the pulse on internships today.

The lesson: While internships can be revelatory and offer invaluable skills development, the warning is that ‘internships are often elitist – a majority of graduates do not have the means to work for free’. Find funding first, then take on an intern.

Read: Internships: valuable work experience or glorified volunteering? 

6. Poor succession planning costs… dollars

Reeling on the heels of the ‘great resignation’, the sector reflects upon the gap in formalised structures to support succession and development. It has been a recent eye-opening realisation for boards that poor succession planning can also have real monetary impacts.

The lesson: Incumbents will change in an organisation. That shift in the way people think has to be supported with formal structural programs, regardless of the size of an organisation.

Read: More than luck: why succession planning matters

7. Bad reviews are actually good

Giving a negative review can be nerve wracking, especially for early career writers who don’t want a bad rep. But when done well, they can have immense value. ArtsHub heard from the sector how worthwhile negative reviews can be.

The lesson: A company/artist can only improve their work if they can understand or learn from the works that don’t impress or fail to reach accepted standards.

Read: Why ’bad’ reviews are equally valuable and how to do them well

8. Less is necessary

Arts organisations and boards need to move from a ‘less is more’ to a ‘less is necessary’ mindset, wrote Kate Larsen for ArtsHub. She said that we need to push back against the pressure to be bigger/better/faster/more – particularly if those decisions are based on the fear of a lack of competitiveness, rather than what’s best for our organisations.

The lesson: Begin to say ‘enough is enough’ and bring some reality to the situation, otherwise investors will continue to expect more for less.

Read: What does ‘less is necessary’ look like?

9. Yes, you can say that

Proven strategies for managing difficult topics at work including confronting that annoying colleague, and asking for a raise. Lawrence Akers observed, ‘The more you become comfortable with being assertive and engaging in these difficult conversations, the easier they become moving forward.’

The lesson: Be clear about your value proposition, prepare your arguments, rehearse the conversation at home, stand up, speak up… because if you don’t no one else will.

Read: Yes, you can say that: a guide to tricky workplace conversations

10. A performance review is more about the manager

Global trends have changed the way we conduct performance reviews in the workplace. Add another layer to that called the pandemic, and work assessments as we ‘knew’ them have shifted again. ArtsHub built on a Harvard Business Review conversation to take a look at the value proposition and expectations of post-pandemic performance reviews.

The lesson: Regardless of old school/new school thinking around performance reviews, one thing remains: their effectiveness depends on the manager’s tone, their openness and, especially today, their capacity for care. We can be grateful to the pandemic for breaking down some of these barriers between management tiers, and raising the tolerance levels regarding human emotion and capacity.

Read: Are performance reviews still necessary?

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina