Designing Your Career Development Practice

Last week we discussed the value of having a career development practice. Today we’ll talk about how to find the right system for you.

When it comes down to working on your career, there are two basic elements – time and substance. How much time do you have and how will you spend it? How can you use your “career” time as effectively and strategically as possible?

Since you’re probably very busy and the thought of taking on more commitment might be panic inducing, I want to break down these two elements – the time and the work – so that you can create defined boundaries and structures for the career work that is most important for your goals. In this post I’ll talk about the substance of a career development practice and next time I’ll discuss more in depth how to build the habit and the time commitment.

There are many ways to categorize the types of work you could do in a career session and here’s our way:

Category 1: Inner Work

This is the foundational work that helps you understand what you want, what your values are, and your uniqueness as an artist. Starting at this ground-floor level is essential for “getting in the zone” and for providing you with the context and information to shape your outward facing efforts. Inner work activities could include:

  • Creating and revisiting your living vision
  • Working on a Mission Statement
  • Brainstorming short or long term projects that inspire you
  • Compiling inspirations from music, literature, art, etc.
  • Connecting with WHY you do what you do

Category 2: Outward facing

The bulk of your career development practice needs to reside in this category. Outward facing activities all come down to promotion of various sorts – in person, over email, on social media, through written applications and proposals, etc. Basically, anytime you interface with the outside world, either with a single person or en masse, is an act of promotion. All outward-facing efforts should be consistently promoting the same brand and values – that is why it is crucial to always center back on the “inner work.” We highly recommend having a working mission statement as a touchstone to use as you work on your outward facing activities.

First of all, start by categorizing the activities that comprise your artistic career. For many people, performing is only one facet. There might also be teaching, composing, arranging, coaching, church gigs, etc. Rank each activity in order of priority and note how you’d like your commitment to it to change over time. For example, are you looking to teach more or less than you teach now? How would you like your teaching practice to change over time?

Then, decide which activity will be your focus for a particular working session – it should be an area that is important to you. As you dive into your work, here are some tasks you could consider:

  • Relationship building
    • Thinking mindfully about your network, developing strategies to maintain and grow your list of contacts. Creating a schedule for reaching out and following up, as well as a system for keeping track of people and notes can be very helpful.
  • Online promotion
    • Working on your website, blogging, newsletters, social media
  • Materials
    • Updating or reworking your biography, resume, and other written materials
    • Making sure you have a headshot and video or audio clips that you feel represent you well
  • Auditions, applications, grants, etc.
    • If your career growth requires auditions or applications of sorts, we recommend coming up with a schedule for submitting applications or calling to schedule auditions. For singers, sites like YAP Tracker and Auditions Plus are invaluable resources. For everyone, getting familiar with the Musical America guide and their other offerings will be very helpful.
  • Project strategy and work
    • Perhaps you have a performance ensemble, run a concert series, or have some other entrepreneurial project underway or in the works. Clarify the categories of work that need to happen for this initiative and never lose sight of how this project fits into the bigger picture of your career. Is it taking you where you want to go? If not, how can you adapt it to your needs?

Regardless of which type of task you choose to work on, we highly suggest that you start by thinking about the bigger picture. What is your overall strategy with relationship building or online promotion? Where would you like to be with that task in 6 months? From that goal, how can you work backwards to determine the most effective use of your time today?

Category 3: Skill Building

What skills, ancillary to the performance or creation of your art, would aid the growth of your career? These could be new skills that you want to add to your tool kit and professional competency, or you could strive to improve existing skills for your enjoyment and to build confidence.

Here are just a few of the skills that might fall into this category:

  • Public speaking
  • Writing
  • Web/graphic design
  • Video editing
  • Grant writing

The Big Picture

As you sit down for your career work session, in the first five minutes we encourage you to set an intention for what you want to accomplish and how you want to experience the time you spend working. Then, we suggest you choose one element to work on from Categories 1 and 2. Each time, evaluate what Category 3 items might make sense for you and decide whether you’d like to add that to your agenda as well.

Obviously, it is not possible to address everything I’ve listed on the 3 categories in an hour once a week. However, if you step back to observe the big picture of what needs to get done, and then filter down to the top 2-3 priority items for an individual working session, then you’ll make steady progress.

We encourage you to take a look at our Career Development Bootcamp and other courses, which can help you build the habit of spending time on career development, while giving you a structured method to follow.

What does your career working session look like?

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest