Redefining Your Career Dreams

If you are pursuing a career in the creative arts, you’ll probably get at least one well-meaning person giving you this advice: “If you like anything else besides (music, art, acting, etc.) do that instead.” There are also those people ( some who may be your parents) who will tell you that if you aren’t “successful” in your chosen career by age 26, you need to go back to school for something else. Before you get discouraged and scrap your career dreams, maybe you need to redefine them instead by asking yourself a few questions:

  1. How are you going to define success? This is a two-parter question because your definition of success depends on what you want out of life. Does success in your career mean that you are famous and live in a mansion? Does it mean you get to use your talent and are able to pay the bills too?
  2. What are you willing to sacrifice? We all initially give up some earning power when we go to school full-time to pursue a degree. But what are you willing to give up short-term and long-term, say, like, forever? I met 40-somethings in LA who happily lived in small studio apartments while occasionally landing bit movies parts. For them, success was being able to have some connection to acting while having a day job and living in an area of the country with a great climate.
  3. What makes you happy? Will you only be happy if you have a career as a musician? Are you willing to put up with family and friends who ask you “when will you get a real job?”
  4. What else does interest you as a career? I also met a nurse in LA who had a solid acting career. She went to nursing school after acting school and then set up her nursing jobs to take the hours that no one else wanted, often earning time-and-a-half and overtime. She built up her savings and reputation so that her employers were willing to let her come and go when she got cast in movies.

There is also the perception that if you do not “make it” in your chosen career, you can always pursue something related. For example, you can always teach or pursue arts administration instead of being a musician. This thinking sometimes leads to career trouble, however, because you need other skills in addition to musicianship. Can you actually teach? Do you have the patience because many of your pupils are apt to be kids who will need your patience as first-time or maybe even reluctant learners. . Do you know how to manage personnel, fund raise and take care of facilities as a budding arts administrator? Do you even WANT to do that?

One of the key things I’ve learned especially in working with creatives is that career dreams aren’t necessarily an end, a finite goal. It is often a long, rewarding process consisting of periodic redefining, tweaking and maybe even scrapping some parts of those goals.

Last question: Are you willing to commit to this process to create a life you can love?

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(Mis)behaving at Work

The news is reporting that the number of new jobs is increasing and the number of unemployment claims, for the most part, are going down. However, there are still five job seekers for every job posted. While you may not be ecstatic with the job you have now, you should consider keeping it until the job outlook improves, if only to build up your career skills. Keeping your job may be more difficult than you think, as layoffs and downsizing are still occurring.  You ultimately do not make the decision as to whether you get downsized, but you can choose how you behave at work to maximize your chances of keeping your job. Here are some misbehaviors that may get you fired. While many of you may roll your eyes, don’t be surprised to find yourself doing some of these when you go back to work next week.

What can brown, green, blue, red, white do for you?

If these are the color of the illegal drugs you are doing while at work, they can totally get you fired and make it difficult to get rehired in your career field of choice. After all, networking isn’t just for job hunters. People network to stay current in their fields, including knowing who is and isn’t a good employee. If you are a recreational drug user who doesn’t have addiction problems, congratulations, you are a super(man) (woman). Leave your recreational pursuits at home.

Web surfing and social media

You may have an interesting job that requires you to surf the Web for research purposes. That’s great, but don’t abuse your Web privileges. Reading/sending personal emails, Skyping, updating Facebook and MySpace pages and booking personal travel reservations while at work may all be seen as stealing your employer’s time. You probably have a computer at home. Save these activities for your leisure time.

Texting, sexting and work dating

Smart phones make it easy for you to be always connected, always reachable. Don’t accept personal calls at work unless it is an emergency. Your cubicle mates do not want to hear the saga of your personal life, and your boss won’t appreciate it if your focus is not on the job. It is the same with flirting and sexting while at the office. Some companies have policies against dating at work, some don’t. Before you hook up with that hottie in the cubical next door, think about this — Are you willing to leave your job or still work with this person if: 1)the relationship doesn’t work out, 2)the ex-hottie turns into a stalker or 3)he/she wants to marry you and love you to his/her dying day — and you don’t? See what I mean? Why cause problems for yourself when you are trying to keep your job?

Whine and moan, whine and moan

Whining and complaining can get you a reputation fast — as in no one will want to work with you. Is there justification for complaining in this economy? You bet. If you’re still employed, you are probably doing the work of the last two people who got canned in addition to your own. This won’t change until the economy improves and companies start to hire again on a larger scale.  Compute this: We will not return to pre-recession hiring models. This means that while you may have a full-time, permanent job, the people hired on to take some of the burden off  you will likely be contractors, which can bring up a whole new set of challenges for you: repeated training, repeated up to speed times, repeated getting used to new employees, repeated everything.

If you are still hatin’ on your job, cheer up. As the economy heats up again, you will have more career wiggle room to change jobs. Who knows? You may even end up as a contractor and loving it.