What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

(Please visit gallery of this week’s work below)

As the semester’s midway point has come and gone, students start thinking about the next step: What do I want to do next? How is my career going to unfold?  Will I have the money to pay my student loans and other obligations?  These questions are normal but become even more intense for us art majors.

Our career path is not neatly laid out for us like other careers.  Most artists are self-employed.  This requires not only stellar artistic skills but organization, passion, drive, and a head for business.  Once we are done with school, there will be no one standing over us, telling us what assignments we have to do and when we have to be finished.  Unlike our teachers, the public isn’t going to outline for us exactly what they want.  We are going to have to find a balance between what we want to create and what gallery owners and patrons want to buy.

For some people, the pressure gets overwhelming and they run away from a career in art, opting for a more ‘”practical” path.  Others have a die-hard passion for art and will not settle for anything else, money or no money.  For me, I have already done a practical, loveless career and am now following my heart.  I have no intention of starving to death, so I will have to create a source of income that is lucrative as well as artistically satisfying.  Granted, I don’t know, exactly, how I am going to do this, but holding the intention is the first step.  Following are some other practical steps any artist can take to figure out how to follow their own unique career path:

1) Be honest with yourself about your true passions and your true gifts and talents.  Sometimes these are one and the same and sometimes they are a little different.  You have the best chance of making money doing something you are passionate about; but if your skills are lacking,  you have to develop a plan to get them up to speed.

2) Spend time alone walking and meditating, with no preconceived expectations about what you are hoping to hear.  Ask yourself “What is the best path for me?  What will make me the happiest?”  Then wait for an answer. Don’t give up until something comes to mind.  This may sound airy-fairy but it totally works.

3) Read artist career books.  There are several good ones on Amazon.com.  The goal is not to just do what someone else tells you to do, but to get a lot of information, then form your own conclusions about what’s best for you.

4) Just do SOMETHING.  Don’t be afraid to just get in there and try something:  enter a contest, take a temp job, sign up for a class in a subject you’ve never tried before.  You can’t always figure things out in your head. Get yourself moving in a particular direction.  This will help you weed out what doesn’t work, and may take you in unexpected directions. This is how I found my career path and my school.

5) Ask for advice but be stealthy about it.  Sometimes people have agendas for us that may not be suitable.  Ask open-ended questions about what the people around you think your strengths and weaknesses are, but don’t tell them you’re looking for career advice.  Listen to what they say and how they say it.  Ask lots of different types of people: family, close friends, acquaintances, teachers, coworkers, etc.  Again, the goal is information, not direction.

My career and life are still unfolding so I don’t have all the answers.  But this is a subject near and dear to my heart and I hope I can help anyone who is on this path with me.  I have recently gone through the above steps and have some solid ideas about what I’m going to do after graduation.  Only by making a plan and trying it out can we then go back and make adjustments.  We can do whatever we set our minds to if we are willing to work for it and help others along the way!

Now, go follow your bliss…

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