Producing Your Own Opportunity in a Creative World
Healthy competition exists in every industry. However, some fields are much more competitive than others. This is especially true for the entertainment industry and most, if not all, creative fields.
If you don’t want the stress of not knowing how or when you will break into the industry, then entertainment is certainly not for you. There are many people who choose a career in medicine, law, engineering, technology, and computer science because these are fields that, while not without stiff competition, tend to be more stable. That is a healthy goal to have, especially when you start building a family.
For those of us who have a desire to not simply work but to thrive in a particular creative field, then we have to be prepared to think outside of the box. Creativity after all is a prerequisite for us to get work in the first place, and it should also be used for how we make our career plans.
Take a musician for example. Anyone inspired to become the next big thing also needs to realize that, in the meantime, the rent still needs to get paid. And one needs to eat, preferably more than just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Top Ramen. For some musicians, playing cover songs at various local venues is not what they had in mind when they decided to pursue a career in the performing arts. But, if it helps pay the bills while they pursue something more grandiose, then that flexibility is necessary. Still, everyone knows someone who refuses to bend to “the man” and insists that they only play their own music. Friends often have a name for this type of person: couch surfer. And that wears thin fast.
When I first graduated from film school, I knew plenty of peers who insisted that they were going to be the next Steven Spielberg. But in reality, we, myself included, lacked that certain something to help us realize our dreams. In other words, it takes more than talent and even the right contacts. For the entertainment industry especially, there are hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people just like you with more talent, more drive, even better contacts and perhaps even a concept similar to yours. Never underestimate the virtue of luck.
When and if you do get your foot in the door, you need to be prepared to make next to nothing in terms of money. It’s not until many 20-hour days later at little or no pay that you might begin to rise the ranks. This, of course, is true for most professions. Recent medical and law school graduates don’t immediately start making big money. If they do land a job that pays six figures, there are student loans that need to be paid off. When an individual opens up their own practice, there is high overhead cost in addition to paying for employees. If you’ve decided to go into business for yourself, you will also likely work much more then a typical 40-hour week.
While you can’t be too picky when trying to break into an industry, your overall happiness still ought to take priority. This includes work-life balance. One needs to be able to consistently blow off healthy steam.
Some of us also aren’t cut out for the typical desk job. A requirement for obtaining my project management certification was to take the Myers Briggs personality test. The results confirmed for me what I knew. It showed that I am a communicative, extroverted type of individual who can multi-task. Therefore, I require a job that isn’t dull or isolating.
Traditional desk jobs bore me to death. I have never enjoyed being a secretary or an executive assistant who files papers and answers phones all day. I found that out quickly because these jobs are typical of the entry positions you’re qualified for after graduating from film school. Knowing your preferences is so vital, especially when solidifying the path you’d like to take regarding your career. And sometimes, you don’t even realize you dislike something until you try it. On the flip side, you might try something you think you’ll hate and learn you love it.
Regardless of your career path, you have to know what will ultimately make you happy. And thinking outside of the box is often key when it comes to the creative field. You might not be able to initially do exactly what you’d always dreamed of doing, but you still might be able to do a version of it. For example, you always fancied yourself an investigative documentarian but now you find yourself photographing and videoing weddings. Your current gig isn’t what you imagined, but you are still working with camera and lighting technology, perhaps honing your skills with Photoshop. From there, you could eventually get into the type of art you’ve always been interested in. There could also be good money in it, and it sure beats a 9 to 5.
If you are an aspiring musician, you might not land a record deal right away – or ever. But maybe you can get a job working at a recording studio as a sound engineer. You might never be in the famous band, but you could assist in the production of their next album. Along the way you might make some great new contacts and even friends that could change your life.
So pick a career that makes use of the skills you do have and also one that will not make you totally miserable. Instead of adhering to adage of working at your passion, try being passionate about the work.
I find satisfaction in creating videos for clients regardless if the end product will be used as a video marketing tool for a small company or my own documentary, reality TV show, commercial or scripted film. While I prefer the latter, I can still find satisfaction in a job well done even though it’s not well known. I have found that it is most beneficial to be open minded to a variety of work because ultimately, the same skill set is being used. And the more you do something, the better you become. Your seemingly mundane work could just make you the contacts you need to make it big.
Above all else, be patient and don’t compare yourself to others. Not everyone accomplishes their bucket list and becomes a sensation early in life. Many well-known and successful individuals didn’t catch their break or make their fortune until much later in life. Too often our society places emphasis on who finishes the race first rather than focusing on the journey.
The Bottom Line:
You might wait a long time if you’re waiting for someone to give you an opportunity, cut you a break and open the door for you. You need to create the opportunity yourself. Don’t limit yourself to being just one thing. Be open minded and willing to use your skills in a variety of ways.