Job Advice, Performing Arts edition
May 5, 2016 7:48 AM   Subscribe

By some turn of fortune's wheel I find myself with not one but two job offers in my highly competitive performing arts field. I can't do both - the timing perfectly overlaps. Both have a number of things going for them. I have to decide on May 6. I feel paralyzed by the choice and on the verge of despair. Hope me?

Job A is with a small production that I have participated in on 2 previous occasions back in 2015. It was a massive success in both instances, both critically and financially. It was also really, really fun. As these kind of jobs go, it is different and special - not your run of the mill routine. I'd have a bigger presence than I'm accustomed to. No sitting back and phoning it in.

The best way for me to represent this job is as an independent endeavor - it's not corporate in any sense. It is the work of a committed group of people. The money people behind it have had some previous success and seem deeply committed to getting it done. The creatives are brand new, first-time-out-of-the-gaters. This concerns me, to be honest - although those concerns are somewhat alleviated by the great success we've had.

The risks are higher with Job A: things being as competitive as they are, anything other than a known quantity faces long odds at success. Even though we've had success in these 2 smaller markets - quite intense success - there's no guarantee that that success will follow us to future productions. Maybe (probably?) it will, but it's not a certainty.

The people are terrific - I've made great friends and we all feel like we are in the midst of something special.

They have us scheduled to be in 2 different cities in the fall, for 2 months each, before returning to NYC. So that's 4 months away from home for me.

(I'll be 46 at the time, and I'm single.)


Job B is the exact opposite - it is with a massive global corporation representing a beloved and hugely visible brand. The overall production will be highly visible (although my participation in it will not be). There will be no concerns whatsoever - none - regarding the financing of the project. My particular role in it will be pretty standard as far as this kind of work goes. And that's pretty good - I enjoy my work.

I've participated in the developmental stages of this project for a few years, not as extensively as with Job A, but enough to get a sense of it. It will be fun, but that's it. It will be glamorous and will put me in the vicinity of some A-list celebrities. The likelihood for job security and compensation is far greater than with Job A. It's the kind of position that people in my field work towards for a long time. I'm lucky that it has come my way. Were the timing different, I'd be over the moon about it.

I know and like many of the people on Job B. I've worked with most of the before, quite a bit in fact. There's less of a discovery there - it's more like known quantities. I don't mean that in a dismissive way. It's just people I've know longer, who have become regular parts of my work-colleagues group.


To be totally clear, if Job A lasts (as much as) a year (a respectable amount in my line of work), it will be an amazing accomplishment. If Job B lasts (only) a year, it will be a massive disappointment.

While both of these jobs are related to my passion, what I want to do, how I identify myself - they are not the be-all and end-all. They are somewhat peripheral, creatively speaking. They are VERY GOOD situations to be sure, but closer to 65%, not 100%. (Which, I acknowledge, is really good - this is a good situation to be in! But I'm still very confused and it feels like the stakes are kind of high.)

I have a difficult time not overthinking and simply listening to my gut, but I think I've come to the point where I understand that I WANT to do Job A. I'm not sure that it's the responsible thing to do. Job B will be really cool and fun and less risky and might help me achieve some long-term planning goals that I could use, financially. It could also help facilitate some terrific things, whether that be my own work, or travel, or simply enjoying life. I don't mean to represent it as the dull, safe option. It's just less risky.

The people with Job A all expect that its previous success will be matched in future iterations, such that it will afford me the kind of opportunities that Job B offers. But that's all in the future, and no one can say with any certainty what can happen. Their conviction that Job A will have continued success makes it all the more difficult for me to have any objectivity.

So that's where I stand. I don't know how to make this decision. I'm posting this anonymously because some of my work colleagues know my mefi user name. I'm comforted by the fact that this will all be settled in 48 hours, but I'm not confident that I'll be able to enjoy my decision - I fear that I'll just kick myself for the opportunities I've had to let go of. So - I come to you. Thanks so much for your time.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Job B will be really cool and fun and less risky and might help me achieve some long-term planning goals that I could use, financially. It could also help facilitate some terrific things, whether that be my own work, or travel, or simply enjoying life. I don't mean to represent it as the dull, safe option. It's just less risky.

Leaving emotions aside (hard to do, I know, or you wouldn't have posted this), reduced risk means higher value. Also, over time Job B can very easily introduce/expose you to people who are in a position to help you move into an even stronger (and potentially less risky) Job A.
posted by John Borrowman at 7:56 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I mean, for me it's a no brainer. Take the stability of Job B now and keep looking for exciting, creatively fulfilling Job-A-type opportunities outside of work that fit into your life/schedule. Taking Job B doesn't mean you won't have a chance to do other "Jobs A" in the future, does it?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:52 AM on May 5, 2016

For me, it depends on where you are in your career. Are you still trying to break through, and having a bigger role would be helpful in establishing yourself? In that case, take Job A. If you're already established enough, or you're not looking for leading roles/solos/etc., then Job B sounds better.

Also, how are you financially? If you're already able to pay your bills and live well, Job A becomes more attractive. If you're living off ramen noodles, Job B looks better.

Picture yourself upon completion of each scenario (e.g. Job A succeeds wildly, Job A fails spectacularly, Job B just does what you expect, etc.). Which makes you feel most satisfied?
posted by kevinbelt at 9:03 AM on May 5, 2016

As a fellow performing arts professional: take Job B. Stay in close touch with Job A. Talk to the people you know there frequently, make it clear to them this was a really hard choice for you, and you want to be involved in future projects with them. Give them long distance help if you can. If you turn it down, will they replace you with one of those starter creatives? Offer to help mentor that person if appropriate. Keep track of how they're doing while they're out of town, and go to their shows when they're back.
But take Job B. Getting in on something that high profile may actually make you more valuable to the Job A crowd in the future- higher visibility for you is a good thing for them if they want to hire you later, and you may make networking connections that will be useful to them.
If the Job A people are friends and professionals, they will understand that this is a great opportunity for you.
posted by Adridne at 9:04 AM on May 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

B, because the financial stability it brings you will give you a wide range of opportunities to choose from in the future.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:05 AM on May 5, 2016

Job B is the kind of thing people in your field work towards for a long time? Do Job B.

Quirky indie jobs are fun, but it sounds like you'll have the opportunity to do Job A again, or other jobs like it. Doing Job B can't really fail to help your career and might even help you get more things like Job A going forward.
posted by Sara C. at 9:28 AM on May 5, 2016

I tend to lean Job B too. I am also 46 and in a creative field. There are a lot of exciting, fun, and risky jobs in our field. However, I feel like the time for those is not midlife. These are good "making hay while the sun shines" years. How's your retirement savings? Rainy day fund? Debt? How's your health, and health prospects? Health of your family members? Do you own a home, or hope to one day? Have a car? A car in good shape? Do you plan/hope to find a partner, expand your family at all? Start your own firm at any point?

In short, it's sort of impossible to say what's the right decision without really knowing your financial situation, but the questions above are the ones I need to ask when considering an employment situation right now. I am trying to create a stable foundation for the 2nd half of my life, one which will allow me to avoid hardship and have the greatest degree of financial and personal freedom possible within the scope of my major relationships. For me that doesn't currently involve high-risk scenarios, even if they are very exciting. However, if I had already spent my 20s and 30s establishing that stable platform and it was performing well and there were no other exigencies, I might well be looking for a fresh adventure at this time.

Job B has a lot to offer. For me, the final tipping point is that you're only assigning your job 65% of your energy and attention. Job A seems really likely to easily consume up to 100%, especially if things start hitting the skids. If you have projects of your own you want to keep up on the side, then the stability and regularity of Job B will allow you so much more flexibility in your off hours - plus, that high profile might give you access to benefactors and stuff like that.

I say JOb B, but ask yourself those questions.
posted by Miko at 10:59 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

The way I understand it it sounds like if Production A is a success and you stay in touch with the people you know there it might be possible to get back on board when it's on more solid financial footing, right? If this is the case I'd take Job B for now, sock away money, make connections, etc. and let someone else take the risk of a Job A until it becomes more of a known quantity. I know there's no guarantee that a job with A will materialize down the road, but it sounds like you have the right connections in place and working Job B wouldn't hurt your chances, so I'd work the job that would give me the ability to prepare for retirement now.
posted by MsMolly at 11:21 AM on May 5, 2016

Performing arts professional here too, and... Well.

I'd do Job A.

This is probably why I have the great peer group I have in my part of the scene, and a strong profile, but no money and no visibility outside the independent sector. But I'd still do it. I'd do it for the freedom you get in independent work, knowing it's really yours. Celebrities and stability are good and all, but when you've had a TV STAR grope your bum after the opening night drinks and scream bloody murder the next day because a cue was late AND IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT, or that time someone used the wrong fly spray... Ramen and the cheap kind of red wine look a lot like home.

And... You mention that you'll be 46. And single. Without any implied judgement there (I'm 37 myself) why do you want stability now?

A tour, adventure, people you really like and a show you believe in. That's living the dream.
posted by prismatic7 at 6:41 AM on May 6, 2016

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