Interview with Liz Lin, Director of Donor Communications for Center Theatre Group
Rachel speaks with Director of Donor Communications for Center Theatre Group Liz Lin, who discusses the steps in her career that got her the position she holds today.
Rachel Shapiro, TMU contributor and senior at Northwestern University
Since 2002, Liz Lin has served as the Director of Donor Communications for Center Theatre Group, the non-profit theater company that oversees the Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre, and Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Her many responsibilities include overseeing corporate sponsorships, managing the organization's institutional communications needs, and helping to increase the organization's revenue through utilizing various marketing strategies. Prior to accepting her current position, Lin was Vice President of Marketing for the American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate, and was responsible for handling regional and national corporate sponsorships. In this capacity, she helped grow regional and national sponsorships through cause-related marketing partnerships with regional businesses as well as Fortune 500 companies. Lin has a BA in Communications from Chapman University. Read on to see what valuable advice Lin had to give to future theater professionals.
1. What advice would you give to graduating students? I think the best advice is to learn how to communicate well, and by communicate well I mean know how to write to your audience and to the format that you're writing in. Too often we see people who write an email the way that they are texting. So it really is making sure that you are clear and concise for whatever medium you're writing in.
2. If you could go back in time and speak to your "college self" what would you say? Enjoy. Just enjoy. Don't worry. It'll all work out. Yeah, I'm always worried about everything. I wish I could just sit back and enjoy my college experience, but it's hard to do that. Yeah, I remember my senior year I was freaking out thinking, "What am I going to do? Where am I going to go? I don't want to be selling encyclopedias door to door, or doing something else that wasn't in my major." I remember really taking a lot of time to worry about that. In hindsight, yeah I had to worry, but it would have all worked itself out. I think I would also tell my college self my motto, which is Work Hard, Play Hard. Work for what you want and the opportunities will present themselves, even though you never believe they will. I can tell myself a million times to calm down and focus on other things, but I am pretty much always freaking out. But it does work out, trust me.
3. Thanks! I hope so. So, what was your biggest mistake in your career? I don't think I've really had a mistake to be honest. Maybe staying longer at a job than I should have stayed, but if I hadn't stayed longer at that job, I wouldn't have gotten this job. I think it all works out in its own way. Things I have really hounded myself about are, for instance, reading a contract and not being that detail-oriented on it when I have needed to be. Those are the kinds of things I have gotten better at over the years. I don't think I've ever made a big mistake in my career. Everything I've done has been a learning experience and has helped me get where I am now. The only mistake I think you can make in your career is if you decide to choose the wrong career based on pressure or based on something else. If you get fired or if you get laid off, I think all that stuff happens to build you up to the next job or the next opportunity that comes your way.
4. Where did you get your first job in the theater, and what was your big break? My first job in theater was with Center Theatre Group, although I had volunteered at some local regional theaters and helped backstage. So this is the first paying job I've had in the theater. My first big break was the first time I had pride in a job, which was when I had moved back from Washington DC to California and had applied for a job that I really wanted as the Director of Communications. Until that point, I had always been in junior positions, struggling to get into the manager slot or get into a slot that wasn't just administrative only, that really was "you make it what you will." And so that job ended up being with the American Heart Association as their Director of Communications, and then I grew in that position to become the Vice President and then to work at a National level with them.
5. What are three habits that contributed to your success? Quality of work, ability to adapt, and commitment. That sounds kind of sappy, but I think luck is when you work hard and the opportunities come up at the right time. So when you hit all those pieces, that's when you get the job offers.
6. How did you get your first job? My first job was a corporate job in PR. My undergrad was in Communications and I really wanted to stay in PR or advertising. My commitment to myself was that I wasn't going to say yes to a job unless it fell within my major. So the first job I landed was as a marketing coordinator for a national appliance company. I was writing press releases for ceiling fans and appliances, which was not remotely interesting and I realized very quickly that if I was going to have a long career it would not be with retail or with a product. That's when I started looking at nonprofits because doing things I think I can make a difference with really excites me.
7. What are you working on now? Right now I am starting to work on an annual report, renewing some sponsorships, working on some Cirque du Soleil stuff, and also working on marketing strategies for our website for our development side.