Don't Put Baby in a Corner: How Personality Should Weigh into Career Choice

It seems there is an assumption in the non-arts community that everyone with any sort of performing arts background is (1) a performer, and (2) a bubbly, outgoing extrovert. But we all know that’s not necessarily true. For starters, the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes is enormous, and the industry is chock full of people who don’t perform. Secondly, not all performers, and we cannot stress this enough, are cut from the same cloth. A bassoonist and a dancer have likely had wildly different experiences in the way of training, education, and career. But what’s more important to remember here is: it doesn’t matter, because personality does not necessarily dictate career. The performing arts industry is full of a diverse population of interesting, creative, collaborative people with infinite combinations of personalities and personal dynamics. So you do what you’re good at and what you love regardless. Right?

Pro Tip: It shouldn’t be any different when you’re looking for jobs outside the industry.

Here at Out of the Arts, we stress the importance of lifestyle first. Figure out how you want your life to look, then fill in the pieces. If you want to learn more, make sure to check out our previous content:

Considering personality isn’t much different. What are the hallmarks of your personality, and how can you combine them with your interests and passions to find the right job and create a happy, healthy life?

This is an important piece of the puzzle, but there are several layers to consider:

“I’m introverted, so I can’t have a job where I work with a lot of people.” BUT WAIT. There are actually potentially three different things at work here: (1) “I’m shy, so I get nervous around new or lots of people.” (2) “I’m antisocial, so I prefer not to spend a lot of time around people.” (3) “I’m introverted, so I’m easily overwhelmed by a lot of socializing and need time to recharge before I head back out into the fray.” It’s important to recognize the difference. All of these things can be at play, or it can just be one or two. And then where does that leave you? If you don’t separate them out, there’s a good chance you could cut yourself off from a whole host of career possibilities. For example, you may be introverted but not antisocial or shy - you may actually need and enjoy social interaction, but in smaller groups and with recovery time. Maybe passions or interests include PR, outreach/relationship building, or something that requires lots of social interaction. Great! Don’t let it stop long as you understand your recovery needs so you don’t become burned out.

Maybe you’ve had assumptions thrust upon you. Are you a bubbly, outgoing extrovert who works behind the scenes? It’s probably assumed you’re a performer when you mention your theater background, even though you may have no interest or experience in performing. Conversely, it can be assumed you have little interest in social interaction, preferring to spend time in a booth or a back room, when you actually live for collaboration and working on teams. It can be difficult to skirt these assumptions, particularly when you have very little opportunity to present yourself during the job search process. But you can present your personality on your resume or in a cover letter, by using terms such as: spirited, enterprising, innovative, dependable, cooperative, personable, able to work independently, authoritative, dependable, flexible...the list goes on.

Still crying over this.

Understanding your needs, reflecting them on your resume, and applying to jobs that can give you as much as you can give them, is the key to success in your new job. Only you decide what you do or don't do. No one else - not even the assumptions placed on you by others or by yourself - can put you in the corner.

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