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From Volunteer to Career

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From Volunteer to Career

From Volunteer to Career

A graduate’s offer to help leads to satisfying work in the arts


Charis Bastian’s experience landing a job that suited her talents and tastes suggests that big things do indeed come in little packages. The 2010 Greenville College graduate traces her current work as project manager withSoli Deo Gloria (SDG) back to a “little” phone call in which she asked a simple question.

“I called on a whim to see if I could volunteer with general office support in mailings and such,” she explains. SDG, located near Charis’ home in the western Chicago suburbs, promotes the creation and performance of sacred classical music. A week after the call, SDG hired her to assist with producing its live performances. Charis was later promoted to assistant project manager and then assumed full responsibilities as project manager earlier this year.

She describes SDG as a relatively small group that produces large events including the Chicago Bach Project, this spring. “It gave me a wonderful opportunity to see the fruit of several months of hard work,” she says. “Because this is a large-scale concert for a small organization, I was able to be involved in all aspects of the production process.”

Charis first approached SDG because its mission and work appealed to her parallel interests in marketing and the arts. She studied marketing in college, but also satisfied her appetite for the arts by singing in the college choir and participating in the Arts of St. Louis Honors Seminar. “The trips to arts and culture events in St. Louis were inspiring,” she said. “They built on my existing appreciation for the arts.” Once graduated, she recalled the pleasure of those experiences and sought volunteer opportunities with organizations that engaged in subjects that made her heart sing.

“I volunteered at the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust and entered training to become a tour guide at their Oak Park Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio,” she explains, “but I also wanted experience in the performance arts.” That is when she called SDG.

SDG has proven a good fit for Charis, who will complete her master’s degree in arts administration from Drexel University this fall. Most importantly, the subject matter inspires her. The work also presents opportunities for her to exercise her talents for managing details and communicating effectively with many different collaborators.

Though Charis helps manage new commission projects for events in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and the United Kingdom, the Chicago Bach Project becomes her central focus in the spring. The annual event showcases one of Bach’s masterpieces – the St. Matthew Passion, the St. John Passion, and the Mass in B Minor – on a rotating cycle. Charis oversees the many details associated with production like work with a production team, rehearsals, contracts, visas and artist hospitality, vendor services, and bids.

She champions volunteering as a means by which students and new graduates can gain valuable exposure to people and organizations that interest them. She has also discovered that volunteering can serve as the proving ground for “good fit” when it comes to career choices. “In college, I idealized a lot about what I thought I wanted to do,” she confesses, “but didn’t really know whether I would be successful in this area until I had the opportunity to volunteer.”

Charis recommends that young job-seekers stay open to the Lord’s leading and pursue any and all opportunities, even those that may seem as inconsequential as a phone conversation about stuffing envelopes. New graduates and college students planning summer activities may do well to heed the tip. Big things, after all, often come in little packages. Volunteering may be the key that unlocks surprising career opportunities for them, too.

This story was published on July 30, 2013




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