Sara Aldridge gives good advice. Her social media feeds read like a self help column—one we actually care to read. She’s the person who’s somehow always at the bar giving a broken down friend advice. Or the person who the heavens send to fix a problem. Like the bar will run out of lemons and Sara will interrupt her therapy session to make a quick trip for the bartenders even though she doesn’t work at the bar.
She’s that person and the person with five projects—at all times. You might know her as half of the DJ duo, Nothing Elegant or as an Emerging Voices fellow for Detour Detroit—which is to say she finds time to play journalist after her fulltime job and between DJ sets.
She’s worked at 1xRUn as their business manager and the event coordinator for Detroit’s infamous Murals in the Market. Before that, she co-owned a distillery. Add to the resume: teaching poetry in a prison to building school gardens.
Currently she’s the Department Administrator for the Interior Design and Fashion Accessories Design departments at CCS. It’s a position she’s new to, but has taken on with her trademark ambition.
We caught up with Sara for good advice on taking on a new career and the inside scoop into working at one of the country’s foremost design schools.
CV Henriette: In one sentence, summarize your job history prior to coming to CCS.
Sara Aldridge: Diverse
CVh: Tell us about your current position.
SA: Currently, I am employed by The College for Creative Studies as the Department Administrator for both the Interior Design and Fashion Accessories Design departments. Essentially, I’m the compass of the department, making sure students, staff, faculty and the chair have the resources they need to be successful and making sure our metaphorical ship is moving forward in the best way possible.
This could be anything from working on the department budget with the chair, arranging for visiting artists, ordering supplies, requesting machine repairs, helping coordinate department events, managing calendars, arranging field trips locally and across the map or advising students. My job requires me to work with almost every office at CCS, from the business department to academic affairs and career services to the wellness center.
CVh: Before applying, did you have experience in this field?
SA: I have had numerous years in an academic setting as well as the world of art and culture which has definitely been useful. In addition, at my previous jobs I’ve had the ability to strengthen my administrative skills which I use every day at CCS.
My diverse employment experience has been helpful in my current position in all realms. There are so many different working parts to my job, and my past jobs have definitely prepared me for where I am now—whether it’s my ability to grasp the department budget or help students write artist statements.
CVh: How have you prepared yourself for the specifics of your position?
SA: Research. I am constantly researching information relevant to Interior Design and Fashion and how I can translate this back to the work we are doing in our departments. In addition, when I first started I made a point to meet with the heads of most of the departments, so I had a clear overview of what they do and how it may relate to my department.
CVh: Tell us about the interview process? Did you think you’d get the job?
SA: For my position I had two interviews. The first was to introduce myself and see if I would be a good fit, reviewing my previous job experience and so forth. This was with the Academic Affairs coordinator and the HR department.
My second interview was with the Dean of undergraduate students, HR, as well as the chairs of both of my departments. The second interview dug much deeper than the first interview and really got into my working style, and how I would handle certain situations that may arise in my position, my ability to work with non native English speakers—CCS has a lot of international students and artists.
I was pretty confident I was a good fit for the job, but there were over 70 candidates that applied, so I was also trying to be realistic.
CVh: Best part about working at CCS?
SA: I love interacting with the students and working in such a creative environment. I am continually inspired on the regular when I step into our studies and see what magic the students are making. It feels great knowing that in part I’m helping them achieve their goal of being a successful artist/maker. It’s also great to work with other individuals that are so engaged in their creative community not only locally, but globally.
CVh: When hiring for your department, what do you look for in a candidate?
SA: For both Interior Design and Fashion Accessories Design, having a strong background in these two fields is pertinent. Because CCS is such a highly regarded creative and design college were always looking for people that are well educated, innovative, and can bring something unique to our department whether it’s your teaching style, ideas on art and culture or the people in your network because there are so many opportunities to use your network in the classroom. For my job specifically, I have to manage A lot of working parts at once for two departments so being organized and able to multi-task is a must.
CVh: What has being a boss taught you about being an employee?
SA: Think big! We are always trying to be innovative and make our programs the best of the best. So it’s always about what are other colleges offering in these fields that we’re not? How can we provide unique teachable moments for our students? How can we connect our students with the best opportunities for success?
CVh: Advice to someone who’s interested in working at CCS?
SA: Do your homework! I read as much info on the chairs of my departments as much as I could before my interviews. I tried to get as much information on the previous work the departments did, so I had a sense of the work I might be doing if I got the job. Be yourself. CCS has so many amazing personalities from so many incredible backgrounds.
Ask questions—if you know someone that went here or works here use them as a resource to discuss their experiences here.
CVh: What departments are currently hiring?
SA: CCS is currently hiring for a number of jobs: Fine Arts Adjunct Faculty, International Student Services Office Coordinator, Metal Shop Technician, and Environmental Services staff, and more.
People often forget that CCS doesn’t just hire art teachers. There are a wide range of employment opportunities here. For a full list check out the CCS website.