For this week’s Frank Talk we speak with Jillian Choi, an individual we admire for her passion to art and design and for her diverse work history that makes her a power player. Based in New York, Jillian Choi is a private consultant, specializing in cultural programming, brand strategy, strategic partnerships and creative production. Most recently, she served as Fair Director at Collective Design, a 20th century and contemporary international design fair, where she oversaw four editions of the fair, growing its year-round programming and expanding its audience. Previously, she worked at Cristina Grajales Gallery as well as at FITZ & CO, managing media relations and events for their various arts clients including museums, galleries, art fairs and private collections. She is the co-founder of MAKER Magazine, a contemporary arts content platform and served as Editor at Large for its annual publication. Here we ask her some of her tips for working in the art world.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Work for people you respect and admire. Be bold, introduce yourself. Be open-minded. See as much as you can. Read as much as you can. Form your own opinions, but respect those of others. Work hard – when you go that extra mile, people take notice.
What is something you encounter often with employees that tests your patience?
In a high pressure, fast-paced environment some people crack under pressure. It happens, but I think it often can be avoided. Slow down and put on your problem-solving hat. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. And take a deep breath, we’re lucky to work in the arts and though at times things feel urgent, nothing is life and death. That being said, developing that instinct to think on your feet quickly is incredibly helpful. (Or if that’s not you, know who to go to and ask them quickly!)
What has an employee done that happily surprised you?
I’m always the most pleasantly surprised when employees are proactive and truly anticipate the needs of the task at hand. Even sometimes anticipating before I do. Whether you work in a big company or a small company, if you see the bigger picture, you’ll be better able to anticipate what is needed.
What makes a person hirable?
I’ve read a lot of resumes in my day. Of course, the relevant or interesting experience in a resume gets you the interview, but really the “hirable” moment happens when I meet a candidate. Are you comfortable and confident? Do you speak passionately and succinctly about the work you’ve done and the work you wish to do? Are you driven? Are you curious? Have you done your homework? In addition, I really appreciate someone who is detail-oriented on the micro level while also being a big picture thinking on a macro level. I like people with a “no task too big, no task too small” attitude. Especially in a small company, every player is crucial and everyone must be both back of house AND front of house. A lot is conveyed in that first meeting. Be professional, but be yourself.
What is the most frowned upon trait for an employee?
Laziness and not being proactive.
What does professional mean to you?
Asking the right questions, getting the job done, being kind, carrying yourself with grace under pressure, admitting your mistakes (we all make them) and learning from them.
Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?
Listen and watch. Absorb everything you can. You learn a tremendous amount just from being around people who are more experienced than you and keeping your eyes and ears open.