When I was a kid, if you had asked me about choosing a creative job, I would have told you I would be an Olympic figure skater. (At age 12, I realized that my fear of falling would absolutely preclude that outcome.)
Over the next five years, I had absolute certainty that I would be a musician. Concert pianist and Broadway composer were the most enticing options.
At 17, I began to feel like music was not the most essential way I could contribute positively to the world. Was there something more “important” I could be doing? I shifted my goal to being a human rights lawyer.
As you know, that didn’t pan out for me either!
So how did I end up here? What made me choose this path? And how can you be sure that you’re choosing a creative job that’s right for you?
Sometimes Life Chooses for You
Being in college both clarified and confused my vision.
As a history and Russian Literature major, I reaffirmed my love for the arts and the importance of their role in society. I had transformative experiences taking classes about resistance writers in Nazi Germany and composers in Soviet Russia who fought to maintain their individuality under totalitarianism.
A new question arose: Could an academic path be the right one?
That’s when I decided to go for the long shot and apply for the prestigious Rhodes and Marshall fellowships to study in the UK for a few years. If that panned out, I would go to law school afterwards.
I wasn’t selected.
Slightly bummed but certainly not surprised, I let the academic thing go for the time being. I decided I would go to law school and that would be that.
But, then, someone (a lawyer) advised that I shouldn’t go to law school straight out of undergrad. Better to work for a year or two first.
So, now what?
As all of these decisions about my future came to a head, I found myself back in Los Angeles for Thanksgiving. That’s when Julia Torgovitskaya and I got together for the first time in almost a year.
A Crazy Idea
Julia and I brainstormed our options. Our biggest question was, now that we were finishing school — and all the wonderful artistic outlets that came with it, including choir, opera, and piano lessons — how would we continue to get our music fix?
Over the next few months, we crafted an entirely new vision of a creative job. One that allowed us to stay involved with the music and art that we loved, as well as flex our entrepreneurship muscle.
And once again, life play a major role in our final decision. On a lark, we entered the Tufts Business Plan Competition, highlighted by Forbes as one of the 15 biggest university-sponsored competitions…
…and we won second place!
Getting that recognition helped us cement our business idea and move ahead.
And here’s the funny thing. Although Julia and I actively pursued the idea of running our own company, had we not won that competition, who knows what would have happened?
Like my decision to put academia on the back burner, it’s possible that we both would have taken different paths.
Even though we work for what we want, life pulls (or pushes!) us in the direction that’s best for us.
What I Love About Arts Entrepreneurship
At the time of writing this, we’re six years into iCadenza, and it feels like the perfect creative job for me.
I regularly interact with music and musicians, and I am creatively engaged and challenged — all through the framework of an arts-related business. I feel like I contribute to the world by supporting musicians as they launch their dream projects into the world.
Here’s how I know arts entrepreneurship the right fit for me…
Business requires creativity at every turn
I’ve been drawn to music all my life, in part because I am attracted to creative expression. I view creativity as one of the most prized skills and qualities that a person can have and I’ve always strived to cultivate it in myself.
I knew that the arts were an outlet for creativity, but I didn’t realize how much creativity business demands!
Like great art forms, business requires constraints. You have to make decisions to narrow your focus and decide what you do and for whom. Within those boundaries, the options are endless. There are so many dimensions that invite inventiveness — from product/service, design, delivery, and description. In many ways, the creative challenges often feel new and unfamiliar each time.
It isn’t always easy, and I often feel stuck or exasperated. But I enjoy feeling my creativity being tested every day.
Business is all about people
People are fascinating and you can’t get anywhere without them. My work has opened my eyes to the importance of the people I surround myself with.
I have never-ending gratitude for mentors, advisors, and teachers. Every member of our team is amazing and I can’t imagine what we’d do without them. Our clients inspire us every day with their passion and creativity.
As an introverted, independent person who enjoys being alone and doing her own thing, I never realized that I would get so much satisfaction from learning to understand, encourage, coach, and motivate others.
Nothing feels as gratifying as having a productive, synergistic session with a client, or getting off a phone call with a team member and thinking “Dang! She is brilliant. I can’t believe I get to work with her.”
Of course, not all conversations and personal dynamics are easy. But they are all interesting, without a doubt.
You have to learn to do everything
Over the past few years, I’ve become more comfortable with being a beginner, learning new things, and seeking out smarter, and more experienced people to help and advise me.
Starting a company is like going back to school. Everything is a learning opportunity! You learn about the different ways to learn about things. You make mistakes. You spend way too long doing something the wrong way first.
But something amazing happens, which is that you quickly get over the insecurity of not knowing how to do something, and you get in the habit of figuring out a way. This has been the most empowering part of my experience.
Choosing a Creative Job That’s Right for You
So, how do you find your own way to a creative job you love?
While I feel grateful to have fallen into a dream career, to me it feels like the product of a series of lucky accidents, and certainly not inevitable. The first two years after graduating from college were the most tumultuous when it came to thinking about choosing a career.
In retrospect, I realize that, having been a student my whole life, I didn’t know how to think about professional fields that were different from what I’d already experienced as a day-to-day practice.
This is HUGE, so I’m going to say it again…Stay open to choosing a career that’s outside of your day-to-day experience. Click To Tweet
As a musician, you might assume that a successful career in music means you have to practice a lot, perform, do random other stuff, and repeat.
You might think that as a teacher you have to read, write, and teach.
In other words, you’re only envisioning what you already see.
I had no clue what being a business owner would entail, which was probably why it wasn’t on my radar. (And, why it made for a rather rude awakening at first!)
My point is, there is so much that you might not know. If I had known that this is what business would entail, perhaps I would have opened my eyes to it sooner!
Here are a few tips to help guide you toward finding the right creative job for you — even if your imagination can’t conjure it up yet.
- Separate topics that interest you from job functions. If you don’t have a lot of work experience, try to learn what different job functions are.
- Think about how you relate to people, and how you want to relate to them. Do you like group settings? One-on-one conversations? Do you prefer to work alone?
- What qualities do you value in yourself and others? What are jobs that could let you amplify those qualities?
- How do you relate to doing something that is different from what others around you are doing?
Do You Believe Your Dream Job Is out There?
I would love to hear more about what you envision for your future. And maybe I can help connect you with the right person!
What creative job are you currently pursuing?
Are you open to having a career related to, but perhaps outside of, what you do day to day?
Leave a comment below.