Career Advice for the Semi-Arts-Inclined?
October 28, 2012 12:53 PM   Subscribe

Artsy/music-y/indecisive-y person seeking career advice. Help me help myself.

So here's my story: graduated from a Tier 1 university in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in music, had some successes as a performer, but wasn't very committed to that path. Since I was pretty directionless (other personal factors played into this), it took until I was about 3/4ths done with a master's degree program in music performance to admit to myself that this wasn't the right path for me. I was pretty depressed and burned out, and ended up leaving the program prior to completion. At the time, I felt I needed serious work experience in order to get some clarity as to an appropriate career path. During college and graduate school, I worked a variety of jobs (mostly part- and 3/4-time positions) primarily at higher ed. institutions, so after dropping out of grad school, I figured that my best bet would be to look for administrative jobs at colleges and universities. Half a year later, I ended up working as an executive assistant at another university, but realized that the work environment was very toxic. I stayed a little more than a year before transferring jobs over to a library at the same university, where I've now been working part-time. I'm enjoying my new work environment much more than my last, but I still need more information as to where to go from here.

With some extra time on my hands, I'm beginning to investigate courses/other part-time job-portunities, but I thought I'd ask you all for some perspective.


*INFP (yeah, I'm not an ardent Myers-Briggs fan, but it makes sense in my case, Forer effect notwithstanding)

*creative (music, visual art, textiles, working with my hands generally)--but more of a bit project person who works in spurts, not as good with long-ranging creative projects (requiring intensive planning, etc.) though I really wish that I could improve this.

*values autonomy and independent work, but has experience working in teams and in managerial roles.

*Can be counted on, responsible, reliable--I want to do my best work and I hate feeling like I'm slacking off.

*enjoys writing, humor, absurdity, and whimsy (these are...some things. Not sure how they play into jobs, but eh whatev).

Not me:

*Not wired for a 24/7 creative career. Tried that with music but accepted that I need a different kind of balance.

*I'm not "left-brained": so, not so great with numbers, not so great with "systems". Generally not very technical. This is also something I wish wasn't true.

*dislike research

*bad at self-promotion (part of the reason I left music)

*very uncomfortable telling other people how to live their lives, but am content to provide advice when requested

*uncomfortable with emotionally draining roles (i.e. I considered becoming a therapist/counselor, but decided it wasn't right for me for that reason)

Potential endeavors I've considered in the past, for better or worse:
-therapist/counselor (career counselor)
-librarian (possibly too detail-oriented/technical/research-oriented)
-stylist/cosmetologist (ruled it out b/c schooling and all things considered not great fit)
-design (clothing) --cannot pour money into school for this, but am considering self-training; maybe this could be a good side gig someday?
-administrator (arts?)-truly, my most recent admin job was a little traumatic.

The options above considered, let's just say if I could do it all over again/had a different brain to begin with, I'd have gone into sound engineering, graphic/web design, or luthiering. Maybe there's hope for me yet?

What do you think?

Sorry if I sound confused. I am. I might be thinking about this the wrong way. I'm all for cognitive reframing.

I can provide additional details on some other personal stuff that's kept me from exploring the things I'd like, but would rather do so through memail.
posted by socky mcsockerson to Work & Money (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You've written a lot about your personal inclinations, but I think what's missing is a sense of what you value, outside of your own comfort and ease. No job or career is going to be a perfect fit in terms of creative demands, autonomy, responsibility, technicality, etc., etc. So what you need is to figure out what you'd be willing to work at despite having to compromise on these things. What's more important than a little discomfort? What's worth pushing yourself for?
posted by jon1270 at 1:20 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do you know a lot about music? Music supervisor for film, tv, games.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:35 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The thing about "Admin" is that it can encompass a lot of different things depending on where you work. This is good. Also, toxic work environments happen in every field. The fact that this particular admin job happened to be your primary experience of an unhealthy work environment is a total fluke. I've found that as long as I'm not in sales/marketing, I almost don't care what I'm doing at work as long as I have a good manager, and the environment is healthy and supportive. This is what I look for in a job. (Lots of good advice about this at AskAManager blog.)

I started out in Admin temping - if you're in a big city where this works, I highly recommend temping for a while. You can test out some different environments, different sub-specialties, and see how different offices operate (both practically and culturally). If the office is toxic you can leave, if it's great then you can keep an eye out for permanent openings. I've worked for electronic manufacturers, a private airline, and in Australia worked for a broker (became full time), the state government (offered me a job), and the ABC (like PBS). I also waited tables in between (I am NOT a good waitress! LOL), worked at a B&B, an art gallery, and misc small farms in New England. One of my worst job experiences and one of my best ever were each at small farms in New York state. Same job, one was toxic and the other was not.

My other piece of advice is to keep your eye out for a "specialty" skill. I've lucked into being trained in some new legislative/policy stuff, and I'm the only one that does it where I work. I really enjoy the autonomy and independence. It's taken me eight years of random jobs, one feeding into the next, to get here. Be patient. I've also enjoyed working for small, family-run businesses and start-ups - easier to have autonomy, and also do lots of different things. I reckon there's a great deal of music related admin... someone's out there at TV/radio/film/recording studios etc. making sure all the paperwork is done, the music licensed, the musicians paid etc... I know at the ABC they have 2+ people coordinating the licenses of shows they air from the BBC. I imagine it'd be similar for music...

FWIW - I'm an INTP, have a BFA, was burned out, and TOTALLY sympathize. When I'm in the headspace to make good art, I feel psychotic... scary. I am quite happy to have a "day job" I find fulfilling, and have free time to relax. I graduated eight years ago, and only recently have really begun to feel ready to start making stuff again... little stuff, like an Etsy shop that makes enough to fund plane tickets every few years. I'd be pretty happy with that! =)

This may also be a good chance to take a GAP year... go teach English overseas or something for a year. Go have fun, and give yourself some time. I enjoyed teaching much more than I expected to (and sung in the Nagoya City Opera on my days off).
posted by jrobin276 at 1:57 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fellow INFP (borderline INFJ) here. I had a search like yours, deciding between about 6 different career paths. I worked decent but not best-fit jobs for years, all the while lusting after the perfect career.

The thing is, you can't figure any of this out in your head. You have to take it into the world. The best advice I got, this year, was to look on LinkedIn job directory. Look at the jobs that actually exist and are being advertised, that you think you would like. Make a big list.

Pick your top job and read everything you can about it online. The more specific, the better. If it doesn't seem like a fit, cross it off and start on the next one. Think about things like demand, salary, quality of life, atmosphere and other factors too. When you find a job that sounds good, ask your friends if they know someone who works in that, and ask to be introduced (or find a blogger and make a connection with them). Ask to do short phone interviews with those people and find out what it takes to be a great one, what their day is like, insider tips. If you make good connections with them, they can advise you later when you're job-hunting too.

When you find a job that really excites you, learn all you can about it, find organizations you'd like to work for, and tailor your resume and skillset towards that position. You can also do volunteering or other types of training to see what it feels like to do it.

I did this (it takes awhile, sometimes months to a year or more, but really worth it) and I have narrowed to an exact job that I'm excited about and actively pursuing.

I think INFPs sometimes worry about closing doors on possibilities... but the best way to move ahead is to focus on one possibility at a time, and either eliminate it or continue on with it. It's worth it.

Good luck!!
posted by iadacanavon at 3:54 PM on October 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

All I want to suggest is not cutting out possibilities that involve self-promotion. IMO, any job worth doing will call on it one way or another, especially these days.

Your skill in that can be improved. I think it's also a question of confidence in the quality of whatever service you find yourself offering, and (again) your belief in its value.
posted by nelljie at 8:55 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey folks. Thanks so much for your advice so far. Without going into too much detail, I'm actively working on my self-esteem these days, but rereading my original post, I can definitely see some depression-clouded thoughts in terms of my abilities (or lack thereof). I think as I continue moving towards self-acceptance as a general thing, certain things (like self-promotion as nelljie mentioned) won't seem so difficult.

Getting back to my values, as jon1270 wrote...well, that's a whole 'nother can of worms. Suffice it to say that I've been living up to external expectations for quite some time, and in the past year have struggled to really hone in on what I want and, frankly, who I am.

As hard as it is, I'm going to try and remember to be patient.
posted by socky mcsockerson at 9:33 PM on October 28, 2012

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