Help me find myself, all suggestions are greatly appreciated.
June 19, 2012 7:12 PM   Subscribe

I am lost, I am interested in being a positive influence to other people by making them laugh or helping them out with life problems. Need some suggestions.

Hello guys, after doing lots of self-exploring, I've decided to take my question to the green. I need some suggestions!

My personality

The description for an ENFP personality is basically spot on for the kind of person I am. I tend to get easily enticed by the things that I'm interested in, and as soon as something new comes up, I drop the old one.

School / Skills

I am currently in my last year in university, I went from actuarial science to computing science to business to film to linguistics. I tend to plan a lot and the reason for these past shifts have been due to interest and also me having an internal conflict about whether or not I should be doing something for money or fun & etc. I chose linguistics because I found it easy and I seem to have a natural talent to picking out sounds and knowing how to properly articulate and pronounce certain sounds. (like telling my cousin-in-law where she placed her tongue wrong and where it should be placed when producing certain Chinese sounds).

In addition to the previous skill, I have also found that I have a good memory, especially visual memory. I can see a face on TV and say "hey, he/she looks like _____" and a lot of people tend to go "ohh ya!!!!" I also tend to memorize my notes visually much easier than knowing the concepts inside out.
I am also very good at improvising or making things that are completely irrelevant relate. This happens much more often in social gatherings when I make jokes and etc. Basically I can turn anything into a witty dirty joke.

I originally was planning to just settle and do a masters in speech pathology or audiology and get a decent pay and be on with my stable life, but i keep feeling like there's more. (Clearly I am not good with routine and mundane tasks) I want to do more. I get the biggest kind of satisfaction from helping people emotionally. I once started a music blog and stopped, and just one e-mail from a loyal reader who asked me how I was doing made my day. I love to make people laugh and I enjoy giving them advice.

Random: but ever since I was kid I always wanted to be a magician or have magical powers to impress/help people.

Please offer me some guidance/suggestions, I would REALLY appreciate it!

I've been thinking about possible careers such as:

Comedy Writer - Something I've been really thinking about but have no idea where to start. I always thought it'd be so cool to come up with funny commercial sketches for companies or anything that requires some sort of humor or good writing. (For those who are in this field or know about it, what should I do and where should I start?)

Voice Actors - I love doing accents, and impersonating characters, but not too sure of where to start. (for those who are doing this or know about it, what should I do and where should I start?)

Comedian - I enjoy making people laugh, only problem is I think I might have stage fright, more or less fear of failure. I always thought it'd be cool to do some stand up or be a part of a talk show (especially those crazy Asian game shows) < for those who know more about this, where should I start and how do I start??>

Actor? - Not as sure about this, most likely comedy actor?

Radio Host - I love sharing music and I think I would really enjoy being some sort of influential figure or just talking w/ someone or others. (For those who know more about this, where should I start?)

Something to do with Film or Entertainment?
I was a hardcore gamer and realized I want to devote more time to something else now. On my spare time, I tend to think about comedy sketches in my head or melodies I might want to produce. (I play guitar as some sort of spiritual/emotional release)

tl;dr I am lost, I am interested in being a positive influence to other people by making them laugh or helping them out with life problems. I had been concerned a lot about the financial aspects of things but now have been slowly crawling out of that mindset and want to pursue something that's fulfilling like traveling and doing a career related to the entertainment industry or some sort. I need some suggestions and greatly appreciate it.

Thank you so much for reading and I look forward to reading what you guys have to say!
posted by Trinergy to Human Relations (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Being a speech therapist would be having waaaay more positive impact on anyone than doing anything related to entertainment. Why don't you want to do that? Almost all the other things you list can be hobbies.
posted by jacalata at 7:34 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Motivational speaker
Tour Guide
Activities Director at a hospital/nursing home/etc
Travel Agent
Speech Therapist
Refugee Assistance
Event planner
Life Coach

Actually, any job/person could use someone that is happy and makes people laugh.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:36 PM on June 19, 2012

Look into getting a job at Disney World.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:39 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you looked into the degree of happiness, or what their graduates have done?
posted by saucysault at 8:25 PM on June 19, 2012

have magical powers to impress/help people.

Hmm, I suspect that might be a bit of a giveaway there. I kind of feel like those things you list have more in common to do with getting external recognition from others rather than helping them, necessarily, especially in comparison to something like speech pathology, where your work could have concrete, measurable and significant impacts on many people's lives.

Most people do not get their lives changed by a voice actor or radio host. People with cleft palates, recovering from strokes etc do get their lives changed by a speech pathologist.

Is it possible you might have a lowish self esteem OP, are reasonably bright and have had people tell you your whole life that you "have a lot of potential" - and you find the thought of "locking in" to a career is both scary and feels like a waste to you?

If so, I have some great news, that doesn't involve becoming famous:

1. Most people, in most jobs, are not following their dreams and they are totally okay with it cause having a salary and security stuff is fine and there comes a point in life, even for bright kids like us, where you realise not everyone gets to be the president or whatever so what are you gonna do instead?

2. You can totally do all those things you want, without having to chuck in a day job. Indeed, it will probably be better and easier to have a day job to fall back on, rather than compromising your creativity and yourself cause you need to pay the rent, and you will need to pay the rent.

3. You are not locking in anything by choosing a degree, getting a vocation etc. People change vocations all the time. However, it's important to remember that the jobs you're talking about above are a) very very competitive, b) extremely hard work over many many years, and c) in reality quite different I suspect from the vision of them you have in your head, especially if - as you say - you don't really know the first thing about them.

tl;dr get your speech pathology degree or whatever, get a job that pays the rent, and in the meantime start hosting your own podcast, working in community radio or television, writing and self-publishing some work or joining writer's centres etc. Good luck.
posted by smoke at 8:34 PM on June 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

Write and perform YouTube skits and showlets. Tell friends.
posted by rhizome at 11:23 PM on June 19, 2012

Just my opinion, but... being able to make people laugh is a lovely personality trait, not necessarily a career skill. It's a great thing to bring to bear on whatever field you end up in, rather than something to build your career on.

Most of the tiny number of people who make a living out of entertainment are people who are so dedicated to the thing they do that they will spend years doing it in their free time while they learn their craft, and if they're very lucky, might make some money doing it eventually. The first step to getting into all these careers is trying out stuff in your free time until you find something that you're passionate enough about that you think you can eat, drink and sleep it, regardless of the financial benefits, and continue doing it as a hobby for the rest of your life, even if there turns out to be no money in it. If you already know for yourself that you tend to flit between lots of different things, maybe you already know that you're not one of those people. The people at your college that are have most likely to make a living of doing this stuff when they leave college are the ones that have been doing them as a hobby alongside their studies for the past three years. (That's not to say you'll never do any of these things, just that you'll need to dig into something on an unpaid level first and see if it sticks).

It's great to dream the dream and aspire to grow and expand, but it's also no bad thing to make decisions based on who you know yourself to be, rather than who you wish you were. When I was younger, I half-aspired to acting, but didn't actually act much after leaving school. I had a dreamy feeling that I could have been great at acting if I'd only stuck with it. Then I realised that, actually, though I love the idea of acting, I'm someone who needs structure and stability, and I hadn't just "settled" for a non-acting life, I'd deliberately made decisions that would give me what I needed, and acting wasn't it.

have magical powers to impress/help people.

What could be more magical than teaching people how to speak? Especially if you know you've got a gift for the work. And if you can be the speech therapist that people look forward to seeing because you can put them at ease with you gentle humour and your compassion - brilliant. Same goes for being a teacher, or all the other jobs on the excellent list above.

Most of all - steer clear of the concept "to settle", as being a compromise or an unsatisfactory alternative to what you really want. Thinking like that is a great way to make yourself unhappy. Choosing realistic options that suit what you're good at and make you financially comfortable isn't a compromise, it's a good way to become contented.

Good luck!
posted by penguin pie at 3:25 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh hello, fellow ENFP. I also flirted with these choices. I almost became a special ed teacher because I wanted to help people.

I'm a person with a career--not just a day job--who does improv, acting, radio acting, and writing as a hobby. My friends and acquaintances who are making a living acting and writing comedy know that it's a serious business, including:

- Blatant self-promotion, including constant cold solicitations for people to hire them/use their stuff or even appearing on America's Got Talent doing something completely unrelated to your actual talent because it's a chance to be seen by Howard Stern.
- Producing their own blogs, podcasts, videos, and posting them EVERYWHERE.
- Bugging their friends and family on Twitter, Facebook, and email about every upcoming appearance.
- Begging friends and family to contribute to their Kickstarter/Indiegogo projects.
- Knowing when to offer to discounts on classes/shows to improve attendance.
- Collaborating with as many other people as possible on-camera and off-camera because they might know someone who can help get them noticed.
- Booking and performing live shows in their own town.
- Booking and performing live shows anywhere they can find a free bed.
- Calling up morning DJs in hopes of being put on the air.
- Teaching acting & improv classes to pay bills.
- Running theaters or improv education programs to pay bills.
- Waiting tables/working meaningless, soulless retail/customer service jobs well beyond the age of 35 to pay bills.
- Living perpetually like a college student in less-safe neighborhoods with fewer and crappier belongings and multiple roommates for much longer than they'd otherwise choose.

It's great that you have skills to make people laugh. Do you also have business skills? Marketing skills? Do you know how to talk to the media once you finally get them interested in your work? Do you know how to find writing collaborators? Do you know anyone in radio who can help you produce a piece for air?

What I suggest is that you take some improv and sketch classes. You'll meet a breadth of people there. Some of them will be doing what you aspire to. Collaborate with the best ones on writing. Form an improv troupe. Get some shows under your belt. Make some videos and put them on YouTube. See what happens.

All of that ^^^ is going to take about a year if you get started right now. By then you'll be finished with your bachelor's and headed into your master's.

Your first year in grad school, keep doing shows and writing sketches. If time permits, and if your submissions are accepted, perform in improv festivals in other cities, particularly Chicago and New York. Introduce yourself around, network like crazy. You're going to learn that the people on the scene that you admire have had inconsistent success themselves. Ask them for advice. But please, pay to see their shows first, because they are still trying to make it themselves.

By then you will have completed the first year of grad school. You're only one year away from having a marketable skill for which you'll be paid more than a living wage.

Use that eventual wage from your career to fund all your interests and hobbies. Instead of begging other people to be in their shows, rent a theater and produce your own show. You can now pay for the printing and promotional materials. Produce your own festival/invited show, and be the person who invited visiting performers to bunk with you--now that you have a big enough apartment or house.

If you have a career with a steady income, you will have the luxury of doing only the things you want. Not the things you don't want to do.

This is not a plea to not follow your dreams. It's just that you don't sound that passionate about performing or art, so it seems like you should incorporate it as a hobby into your working life.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:13 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm a comedy writer--I was on the staff of a TV show for a while, and since then I've written a few humor books and had stuff published in The New Yorker, The Onion, and McSweeneys. Although I've never done standup, I know a number of current and former standups. I'll give you the same advice I give anybody who is interested in any creative field:

If you can't imagine yourself being happy doing anything else, then, by all means, pursue it! Life is short and you might as well do what makes you happy. And there's never going to be a better time in your life to take big risks; the older you get, and the more responsibilities you have, the harder it will be to chuck everything and take a change on a highly risky career.

But... you do need to realize that it is a really tough and risky career. Everything Penguin Pie said is 100% right. You will be competing against people who are absolutely obsessed with the field; you will deal with rejection daily; you might put in years or even decades of work for little or no money before you succeed; and you might never succeed. And after all that, if you are lucky and get a great staff job on a TV show, it could get canceled the next day, and you might never work again.

I would also warn you that the transition from making your friends to being professional comedy writer is harder than you might imagine. It's kind of like being a good home cook, and trying to become a professional chef-- you have to take something you once did in a relaxed environment whenever the mood struck you, and learn to do it day in and day out to a professional standard in a high-pressure situation.

So, for all those reasons, I only advise trying it if you don't think you'd be happy doing anything else.

But assuming you want to give it a try, how do you get started? "Comedy" is a very broad field. What you do depends on what part of it you're interested in.

* BOOKS: Write a funny book, start to finish. Revise it until every joke shines. Get an agent for it. (I think there must be other AskMe threads on how to do that.) Use the agent to get a publisher. But be prepared to have your manuscript judged not merely on its own merits but on your "platform"-- IE, your ability to market the book on your own. A book with only ten good laughs, written by an author with a half million Twitter followers, has a much better shot at being published than a book with hundreds of laughs by an author with no Twitter followers.

• STANDUP: Start off doing open-mic nights. Build your craft and your stage persona and confidence. By the time you are good enough to get paid, you will have made contacts and gotten noticed by club bookers, and you can start moving into paid gigs. Realize this will take a long time, and lots of hard work.

• SKETCH COMEDY: Get other like-minded writer/performers together. Write and rehearse sketches. Put them on YouTube, and try to get stage time at any place with a stage. If you are amazingly lucky (like, winning-the-lottery-twice-in-a-row lucky) your YouTube sketches will blow up and producers will come calling. But here on earth, you will probably end up spending years building up an audience (online or in person.) Alternatively (or concurrently)-- move to LA and pay for classes at the Groundlings, and hope you move up the ranks high enough to get noticed; or move to Chicago and pay for classes with Second City, and hope you move up the ranks high enough there to get noticed.

• TV: Move to Los Angeles. Network like crazy. Take any job that gets you anywhere near a TV show writing staff, no matter how unpleasant the job is or how little it pays. Be prepared to spend years answering phones, xeroxing scripts, getting coffee for the writers, etc. Meanwhile, keep working on "spec scripts"-- sample scripts that you write to show how funny a writer you are. Eventually you will make contacts that can get your spec scripts into the hands of a producer or agent.

I realize I'm being fairly discouraging about all this. Again, if this is your dream, then by all means pursue it! You just need to know in advance that it won't be easy, and that there's no concrete, guaranteed path to making it work.
posted by yankeefog at 4:45 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, and one more tip: proofread everything you write!

In paragraph 4, "Making your friends" was supposed to be "making your friends laugh."
posted by yankeefog at 4:47 AM on June 20, 2012

Sounds like you are exhuberent and frankly all over the map. Some of what you've got on your list is kind of laughable.

The one with being a radio host who selects the music. You do realize that most radio stations today are programmed by faceless individuals in gray buildings, right? The hosts are just personalities and are rather interchangeable at that.

Do some podcasts, if you're any good, people with download them and you'll know.

Voice Actors: Notice how all cartoons sound the same? It's because there are about 10 people doing voices for all of the cartoons all over the place. It's not a coincidence that the Cheerios Honey Bee sounds like Fry from Futurama.

My cousin tried to break into this, and after years and years and getting no where, she hung it up. She was good. She studied it in school. She had connections.

Actor: Comedy Actor? There's no such thing as a specific type of actor. If you're an actor, you do comedy and drama with the same amount of aplomb.

I'm the funniest person my friends know, but I'm an analyst for my day job. That's how it is in the real world. You have gifts and talents, but at the end of the day, there are thousands of people out there who are funnier, more talented and more driven than you are.

Do you know how much work it is to be successful at any of these creative-type jobs? And I'm not talking about honing your craft, I'm talking about the amount of ass-kissing involved. You have to know everyone who can do something for you, you have to know who they're married to, who their sleeping with on the side, who their kids are, what they do as hobbies, etc. You work every waking moment to claw your way to the top.

I'll paraphrase what Whoopi Goldberg once said in an Actor's Studio interview. "Success in acting is like winning the lottery, it's random. There are thousands of incredibly talented people working in commercials, regional theater and other smaller venues who will never be rich or famous."

If you think you want to do comedy, go to open mike night. See how that works for you. Expect to be terrible. If you want to write, start a blog, see how many followers you get. If you want to do sketch comedy, join a troupe.

You can do all of this in your off time, but if you want to live in a place with a roof, eat regularly and not freeze to death, you'll need a day job.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:04 AM on June 20, 2012

Okay, I was thinking teacher when I got to ENFP in your description.

It's constant relationship building, new things all the time, and lots of chances to perform to a (mostly captive) audience.

Think about it - teaching HS English or History give you so many chances to do what you're describing. Memail me if you want more info on the "how to" side.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:47 AM on June 20, 2012

I would really agree with everyone saying that if you really want to help people, speech therapy is a great choice and wouldn't be 'settling' for anything. Of course it has plenty of dull moments, stressful moments and moments where you wish you could sit in a nice safe office away from all the pain and suffering, but it's very satisfying at the same time.

I make my clients laugh all the time, and it's not only when I mess things up. Often people are so grateful to meet someone who has time to have a conversation with them using whatever modifications they need that they're dying to have a joke around.

The other thing you might enjoy about it is the level of performing - you are playing a role all the time. You have a therapy persona to try to get the best from all your clients and you vary that according to what the client needs. It's a skill in itself.

If you do voice therapy, you may get to work with the actors and singers and professional voice users, and understanding what they do is a huge advantage.

I think it's worth you investigating speech therapy as an option because it might suit you. On the other hand, I don't think it's the kind of job you'd enjoy if you felt you were 'settling' by going into it, I think you have to want to do it.
posted by kadia_a at 1:03 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll respond to the bits I know about!

Voice Actor:
You need to get actual voice over training. It's very easy for people to say "I could do that," but hitting your marks, providing compelling reads and knowing what to do when a client says "make it sound slower, but I need it 2 seconds shorter" can be tricky. Look for a short course near where you live - I found one at a reputable drama school in my nearest major city. Then you need to build up a demo (or your course might do this for you) and get self-promoting. I started with Elance, but you may have some luck calling up local radio stations and seeing if they need voice talent. Find a film school and offer to do free voice overs for their animation projects. The key is experience - people won't pay you to do stuff unless (a) you're lucky and/or (b) you have a bunch of experience behind you.

Put together five minutes of material. Find a good open mic night that also features 'proper' local comedians and see if they'll give you a spot. Do your stuff. Use it as a learning experience. Which bits worked and which bits need to be tweaked or thrown out? If you make friends with the other comedians, they can give you advice and point you in the right direction. Doing standup can be brutal but it'll help you in other arenas, especially your comedy writing - think of it as a free opportunity to test your material!

It sounds like you're more interested in the 'entertaining people' part of acting than the 'inhabiting a character' part. Just be aware that the best comedy actors are truthful to their characters - I'm sure you've seen comedy fall flat when the actor is too presentational. If you want to test the waters, I can't recommend community theatre enough. It's fun, you get to choose what show you want to do, you can see if you're any good, and you meet awesome, like-minded people.

Overall, the way you're looking at it is: 'how do I get professional work in these areas?' when you should be thinking 'how can I do these things that I love?' There are so many people doing comedy or acting or impro for the love of it. Join their ranks and you'll meet people in a similar situation to you. And really, the rest tends to work itself out. The cream rises to the top, and if you're good enough, you might start getting actual work through the connections you've made. But it's a long process and you have to be willing to do it for love over and over and over again until you have the luck, skill and experience to start getting pro work. And if it doesn't work out, you might just be happy with your awesome speech therapist job during the day and rehearsals for your show a couple of evenings a week and your fortnightly spot at XYZ Local Comedy Joint to keep you on the ball!
posted by lovedbymarylane at 8:07 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the great suggestions,

@smoke : you are quite spot on in terms of my upbringing, but I don't find that uncommon either. I actually never put myself down so I don't consider myself as an individual with low self-esteem. I do admit that I care a lot about external opinions but only in the sense that I want to please them, not because I think I am not worthy.

@everyone else: Thank you so much for the input, it's really nice to hear from people with experience or knowledge about the particular fields. I do not deny that Speech pathology is interesting and has it perks, I guess my mind tends to wander and I do get greedy. Having the mindset of "how can I do these things that I love?" will be a much better approach than thinking about how I can try to turn everything I want to do into something lucrative.

You guys have all been quite helpful and if you have anymore comments, do share! It's time for me to think less and just do what I want to do!

posted by Trinergy at 11:03 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

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