Career Advice For the Aging Creative
October 23, 2018 8:21 AM   Subscribe

I’ve got the enviable problem of having a great job in a creative field in an industry/sport that I love for the last 15 years. I need to find something else, but, I’m having trouble leaving. Can it be my turn for some career advice?

I work in the outdoor/recreation/travel industry as a video producer for a company that I’ve been with for 15 years. My focus has been filmmaking for the last 5 or 6 years. Before this, I did digital marketing for the same company. During the season I usually spend 2-3 days a week working in the field, participating in a sport that I’m passionate about and the rest of the time doing editing and production work at my desk. During the off-season, I work on content from the season before to get people excited for the next season. I basically created this position for myself and am mostly self-taught. So, I lack many credentials that others in the video world might have. I work with great people, my office is 10 minutes from my house. I get paid okay. But, I feel stuck and like I’m not living up to my full potential. I feel like I do the same sort of projects year after year. I feel like my employers want more out of me every year but don’t give me additional resources to take my current work to the next level. Also, my job is highly dependant on my being able to do this sport at a high level and I’m getting older. I can’t do this forever.

I am a 43 year old man, married with two kids, 8 and 12. My wife has a good professional job. I graduated 20 years ago with a B.A. in English. As I see it, I have a few choices to move forward.

1) Go freelance/start my own business. I do a fair amount of freelance work, but, it’s periodic and hit or miss. I’ve done freelance work in video production and digital marketing. I think moving forward I would want to focus on video production and editing. I’ve built out a new website and created a new demo reel of my body of work. I’ve shown it around to a few people, and have good feedback. Lately, I’ve been having a crisis of confidence that is making it hard for me to reach out and market myself and take the next steps. I have a deep aversion to self-promotion.

2) Find a new job in a new field or industry. This has proven to be difficult and is a major factor in the above-mentioned confidence crisis. Over the last few years, I’ve come very close to a few jobs in digital marketing and video. Recently I've been passed over for a couple positions I thought I was a good fit with companies that know me and I thought liked me. When I do get an interview, they usually want to talk about how great my current job is. The kinds of video jobs in the wider world that I’m qualified for don’t pay enough. My skills in the digital world look pretty rusty on paper. I guess I always thought that I’d transition into another role in this industry with more responsibility and better pay, and that’s been happening for my colleagues, but, not for me. I feel like I’m well liked by people in the industry but not super well known. I mostly keep to myself and only recently started really putting my name on a lot of my work. I’ve considered going back to school for either a coding boot camp, to get myself back up to speed, or to get an MBA. But, the thought of going into debt to do it makes it hard for me to pull the trigger.

Mefites, what would you do in this situation? How did you get out of your career rut and continue to find fulfillment? Was going back to school in your 40’s worth it? If you’re a creative, how do you market yourself and build networks? Unstuck me Metafilter.
posted by trbrts to Work & Money (3 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
What about rebranding yourself as a content strategist with deep expertise in video? Because the first time I read your question (as a former Digital Marketing Director who's now on her own as a freelancer/consultant), I was thinking "this guy has the specialist problem" where you get so deep into a specialized area that it's hard to move up unless you go work for an employer that also specializes in that area. ie, there's only so much video expertise Generic Employer X needs. So at first I was going to suggest looking for a job with a company that really specializes in video, either a video production company or a marketing firm with a large video team that you could run. And that might be a good option for you.

But, when i re-read the question, it became clear that you're not just making videos other people ask for. You're developing video strategy. What about promotion? Do you also develop the strategy for getting your work out on whatever channels your company uses? Do you feel like you know what works for promoting video on the various channels (social media, web, etc.)? And on the other end, are you working with other people in your company to develop the strategies for what videos you'll make for what purposes? And how video will be integrated with copy and visual assets, and the overall brand identity?

If yes, then you are a content strategist! And that opens up a lot more doors. If you're fuzzy on any of this, or if you're really strong in video but don't know much about copywriting or managing social media channels beyond video, then I think those are gaps in your resume that would be good to fill - but doing so is a lot easier and cheaper than getting an MBA. You could ask the marketing people you work with if you could work with them more on the copywriting or the promotion plan that goes along with your videos (make sure you let them know you're trying to learn, not horning in on their turf). You could take a night class or certificate course at the local university, or online.

But! Don't worry about your lack of credentials. I do think it's good to learn the lingo, and understand the basic concepts, but you can get that from reading blogs/books or taking a night/online class. IME in digital/creative marketing fields, most people don't really care about credentials - they care about what you can do, if you can create good, engaging content and strategies.
posted by lunasol at 11:29 AM on October 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you're interested in exploring the training and development niche for video... (local chapter events), (great small group that connects virtually) would be two avenues to learn more.
posted by typecloud at 2:05 PM on October 24, 2018

To me this sounds less like a skill issue than an interviewing and job hunting issue, with a side of low confidence. Plenty of people with BAs in unrelated fields are successfully working in video and content, I don’t think you need more credentials. Most of the people I know are self taught and it’s not unusual in film. If you like filmmaking I think you should keep doing it, but the question is how to generate business or a higher paying job. It can be challenging to pivot out of action sports because it’s a niche, but your skills could be transferable to other kinds of sports production, which could have more and higher paying jobs.

I think the best way to spend your money is on a career counselor or someone who can help with interview skills and help you figure out how to position your experience. In a vacuum freelance is the answer, but if you hate selling yourself and struggle in interviews that will be tough. Could you partner with someone who is better at the selling? You might also look into sites like upwork for freelancers as it’s all virtual - the challenge is the low pay as a result (you’re competing against people outside the US with low rates).

I’m a little unclear about the opportunities where you live though. The people I know who work(ed) in action sports have different opportunities depending on location (CA is a bit easier to expand from, CO can be hard). I might have more specific advice or leads if you send me a memail with location.
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:03 AM on October 29, 2018

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