Careers in Motion: Olivia Sisson ’17 Humanities in New York
“The trip showed me that there are so many talented and interesting alumni who are working in fantastic companies and industries that might have nothing to do with what they studied at W&L.”
When you heard the words “humanities career trip,” what did you think?
I heard about the career trip through a Career Services email that had information about the trip. I ultimately decided to go because I knew it would be a great chance to meet some cool alumni and learn about different career paths that I hadn’t considered before. Career Services is incredibly helpful and a fantastic resource so I was very confident that the trip would be well worth my time.
Have you always been interested in art?
When I was little, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I still want to be an artist, but also to work in the design world or just find a way to use my creativity in a business setting.
So you knew you wanted to pursue an artist’s life when you entered college?
When I started college, I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do for a career, but I was fairly certain that things like math and business didn’t fit my skill set very well. I knew I loved art and started taking classes, but wasn’t really sure what careers I could make out of an undergraduate studio art degree.
I would say my goal to keep developing my creative skill set is one I’m still achieving and is something I hope that I will be working on for a very long time.
Now I have a much better idea of how many different industries and jobs utilize the kind of creative thinking and analytical problem solving that I really enjoy using in my academic studies.
Is that because of your professors?
My advisors, Leigh Ann Beavers in the art department and Lisa Greer in the geology department, have both really encouraged me to work hard and challenge myself in both departments. Both professors have encouraged me to be more curious and ask more questions.
Did the career trip help with that also? Have you learned new things about careers in arts?
The trip showed me that there are so many talented and interesting alumni who are working in fantastic companies and industries that might have nothing to do with what they studied at W&L.
This really encouraged me to start reaching out to as many alumni as possible in order to just learn more about these different industries. It showed me that I can use my majors in so many more ways than I thought possible.
Now my goal is to learn as much as I can about some of these areas and figure out how I can apply my skill set to them.
Where did you go on this trip? Was it mostly museums and galleries?
We visited nine different companies while on the trip. We visited the Michael J. Fox Foundation, One Kings Lane, American Red Cross, Blackrock, Hearst Publishing, Fusion Media, Marcus and Millichap, Grey Advertising, and AT Kearney. We really got a great sampling of different industries, from publishing to home decor, wealth management to corporate real estate, non-profits to media companies, and advertising as well.
Wow! I didn’t realize there were so many businesses on the trip. Which one was your favorite?
I really enjoyed visiting One Kings Lane. They have a huge creative team that creates 90 percent of their website content — like photography work — in-house. It was really interesting to see their studio space, where all of this content production takes place.
When meeting with these companies, did you receive any advice that you think was particularly helpful for someone pursuing art as a career?
Jeff Hamill, a W&L alumni at Hearst Corporations, highly recommended starting to create our own content now if we are considering getting into the media/publishing world. I think this is a really great piece of advice for anyone in college who is considering getting into any type of media-related industry.
So many companies need social media marketing campaigns and young people with experience to write them. I started my own website this summer and, after getting this advice, I started putting more work into my site and realized continuing to create my own content is really great practice for a lot of entry-level positions.
What about other advice that keeps you going? Do you have any kind of mantra?
I love Napoleon Dynamite. I think he has a great outlook: “Out to prove he’s got nothing to prove.”
You’re a senior now. If you could go back in time and give some advice to little freshman Olivia, what would you tell her?
I was nervous when I declared my art and geology major as most of my friends were declaring business or economics. I appreciate these majors, but just didn’t find that I was very interested in them. I had no idea what kind of jobs (or if I’d be able to get a job) with geology and art but in retrospect I’m very happy that I followed what I was truly interested in. This made all of my coursework engaging and rewarding, and I know now that I can use these skills in a myriad of ways that I didn’t think possible before.
It sounds like you got a lot out of this trip. Would you recommend it to other art students, or students in general?
I would definitely recommend the career trip to other students, especially if they are not sure what they want to do after graduation or even if they are just interested in checking out New York City and getting a better feel for what it’s like to work and live there.
I didn’t realize how valuable it would be to actually visit companies and be able to see what their working environments are like. I feel like I learned so much about industries that I wasn’t very familiar with before and got to meet some incredible alumni. It was an overall fantastic experience.
So here’s the big question: What’s next for you?
I just accepted a fellowship with Venture for America (VFA). I’m really excited to be joining the VFA community. Venture For America is all about helping recent graduates become entrepreneurs and get involved with venture capitalism in emerging American cities. The VFA fellowship allows participants to become immersed in the start-up world and figure out firsthand how to make a difference in their communities through entrepreneurship. I was able to learn a lot about the VFA experience from recent W&L alumni who are a part of VFA. All of them were so helpful in the application process. Training camp starts in June, and I’m excited to start exploring the different VFA partner companies and cities.