What's Next? How to Move in a New Direction

What even is a career, tbh?

There was a time when "job" and "career" were synonymous. But the 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics Employee Tenure Summary tells us that time is long gone, with people ages 25-34 averaging 2.8 years per job and people ages 35-44 averaging 4.9 years per job. So what does this mean for a career now? Simply, it means that a career is whatever you make of it.

Let's say that again, in a different way: No matter the jobs, YOU make YOUR career. What YOU need and want should weigh in to help you make decisions for moving forward - download this tool to get started.

Performers already know this; performance careers are unique. You can remain a performer and hone your craft in new and different ways, you can branch out into creation, direction or education, or you can do it all - plus some. You are constantly going from project to project. There is no straight line, no right way. Your career is making art and entertainment, despite how you choose to practice.

Through relationship building and collaboration, dipping your toe in different pools along the way is a natural part of performance career growth. But no matter how "natural" it may be, it is not by chance. No matter how seamless it may look from the outside, moving successfully in a new direction is always the product of deliberate decision, dedication, and hard work.

When you're leaving the performing arts altogether, though, it no longer feels like dipping a toe in...it feels like diving head first into a chasm. There are a lot of questions one asks during this time, but we've boiled it down to three main questions that will help you narrow in on that job bullseye.

What do I love? Forging a career in the performing arts is not easy, it takes an incredible amount of tenacity and determination. So take a moment to step back and ask yourself what it is about the performing arts that keeps you fighting for more.

There are a lot of possible answers here: Maybe you enjoy telling stories and sharing ideas, or you appreciate being part of a community. It's possible you prefer discipline and craft, or you revel in being the center of attention and power broking. Frankly, it doesn't matter what the answer(s) may be, as long as you're honest with yourself. Finding the core of what you love about performing arts and incorporating that into your new job search will lead you toward fulfillment and joy.

What am I good at? For a moment, set aside your artistic talents and focus on the role you take when you're collaborating. You may have strong organizational or interpersonal skills, or maybe you have practical strengths such as a mind for finance, data analysis, or writing and editing. Do you tend to lead, or take on a more supportive role? Do you think big picture, or are you detail-oriented? Perhaps you have a tendency toward teaching and guidance.

Again, there is no wrong answer here, and you should find at least four skills and tendencies that make up who you are and how you work best. Knowing what you're good at will help point you in the direction of a job you can excel at.

What is sustainable? Okay, admittedly this one is a doozy. There are several different things to think about when considering job sustainability. To start, we'll focus on finance, lifestyle and mental health, and long-term vs. short-term.

  • Finance: If you're taking a job with a pay cut, do you need to make up the difference? If so, how do you plan to supplement your income and how long before you no longer need to supplement your income?

  • Lifestyle & Mental Health: Can you see yourself feasibly overextending for that period of time while still allowing yourself the grace to focus on self and family? If you are supplementing, does it play well with your primary job so you're not consistently stressed or at odds? Do you want to have some semblance of regularity in your work schedule (maybe nights and weekends free), or are you okay with irregularity? Do you need benefits, or can you do without? Do you prefer the freedom and uncertainty of freelancing, or do you need something more consistent to help you feel stable?

  • Long-term vs. Short-term: Is this something you plan to do long-term and build over time, or something just for now? Maybe you're unsure, so you prefer to keep options open.

All these pieces weigh in equally as you begin to make choices for moving forward. Do you want to jump into a position with little engagement and growth opportunity so you can pay bills for now and then make a clean break when you can get back to performing arts? Or is this change permanent and you intend to advance within it?

For example, that is the difference between becoming a bank teller or bookkeeping clerk, and going back to school to become an actuary and CFO. Sustainability and lifestyle considerations are important for feasibility, as well as your safety and comfort.

Once you're able to answer all these questions openly and honestly, you can come to terms with the new path that you intend to follow. And what can be better for honest introspection but a journaling worksheet that will help you organize your thoughts? We just happen to have one right here!

Answering these questions will not be an overnight process. On the contrary, you should take time to figure things out, and talk to friends, family and mentors. But we sincerely hope we can help you get the ball rolling. Feel free to leave a comment or reach out to blog@outofthearts.com with questions or suggestions, follow us on social media @outofthearts, and subscribe to our blog and podcast for more!