Tag Archives: Options

Tips from the Lectern

The number of great, inspiring graduation addresses that hit the web every spring always leave me feeling a little more excited for the future, a little happier with my personal vantage point, and eager for the new graduates to inject some life into our daily workings. (My strange love of a good commencement speech is a little less creepy when you realize that my summer work force is largely composed of these bright young minds.)

Have you seen Neil Gaiman‘s address for the University of the Arts commencement ceremonies?

Because if you haven’t? It’s worth it. Gems of wisdom for the newly-minted creatives among us. Here’s one pearl:

Looking back, I’ve had a remarkable ride. I’m not sure I can call it a career, because a career implies that I had some kind of career plan, and I never did. The nearest thing I had was a list I made when I was 15 of everything I wanted to do: to write an adult novel, a children’s book, a comic, a movie, record an audiobook, write an episode of Doctor Who… and so on. I didn’t have a career. I just did the next thing on the list.

Kim Pensinger Witman‘s post from a few weeks back touches on a similar theme, of thinking of the next exciting step, rather than trying to “do” the whole career at once. And while Mr. Gaiman does talk about having a idea of what he wanted to become, his “mountain,” he also speaks about the flexibility and choices that he made in order to get closer to that less-direct, slightly fuzzy goal. (I’ll tie some of this in with a review of Marci Alboher‘s One Person/Multiple Careers in the next week or so.)

He also has a few valuable snippets for freelancers, points that currently ring quite true in the arts community:

People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today’s world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They’ll forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good, and if they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

Be prepared. Be flexible. Be nice. A good professional mantra, even if you’re not quite sure what exactly you want to be when you grow up.

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Career Scaffolding

Rather than posting a personal profile this week, I’d like to direct you towards a post on Creative Infrastructure by Linda Essig, the director of ASU’s Arts Entrepreneurship Program.

(Side note – Arts Entrepreneurship? How awesome is that? While the 17-year-old-Me might’ve been all about performing, the [mumblemumble]-something Me is totally entranced by this program of study.)

She writes, in reference to a chance meeting with an arts worker in a metropolitan sushi bar:

The story of J is a good example of a person who uses his talents, skill and training in the arts to build a career, albeit not one he would have envisioned as an art student. Students enter study in the arts with many dreams and aspirations. […] If J had kept his head down, looking only toward the world of studios and gallery shows, he might not have seen the opportunities that have led to what became an enjoyable and sustainable career.

I can vouch for the undergraduate nearsightedness, and also for the value in keeping one’s eyes open to opportunities. If we think about our undergraduate (and, in some cases, advanced studies) as the scaffolding upon which we build a career, rather than the than the gun barrel through which we cast our aspirations, it free us up to look in any number of directions. Sometimes the straightest, most direct route is simply the easiest route, and not the best. Maybe we should co-opt Lysander’s words of wisdom for this little corner of the internet:

The course of true love ne’er did run smooth.

Amen…whether in love, or relationships or vocation or avocation…sometimes those crunchy places are trying to catch our attention. Listen. Look around, lean into those bumpy, rocky spaces.

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Dirty Little Secret?

There’s been an interesting and relevant thread on LinkedIn, in the Performing Arts Administrators group.

The question on the table is whether we should downplay our theater experience when interviewing for non-industry jobs.

One of the commenters referred to this article, written by actor and drama professor  Louis E. Catron (1932-2010), pictured at right. It outlines 25 Special Advantages that Theater Majors can bring to a job. And I think that in many ways he’s hit the bullseye, especially when referring to those positions that are less knowledge based (medicine, law, dance, opera) and those which are trait-based (i.e. the employer’s looking for someone with a variety of desirable characteristics).

While the list is obviously geared towards students, I find several good parallels.

My question for you – do you tell people about your arts background, or do you let it emerge? Do you find it an asset or a liability?

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