How to Embrace Your Unusual Career Path

Hello to all y’all creative professionals—former art-schoolers turned makers with less exciting 9-5s, freelancers and side-hustlers with MFAs, working teacher/artists, virtual assistants, travelers & nomads, or maybe ya just do some photography on the side? I never thought I would start a blog that could potentially be useful for anyone but I always have dreamed of it, alongside my 99 other potential ideas for photography projects, fictional podcast scripts, creative assistant businesses, DIY furniture ideas, and new career steps. I know there’s a lot of you out there like me—verging on jack of all trades/master of none, criticizing yourself for being unfocused and unable to follow through with a lot of your ideas, and constantly planning for new ones. I’m here to tell you (and remind myself) that, contrary to popular belief, you are not unfocused or lacking discipline.  

A jack of all trades and master of none is oftentimes better than a master of one. 

(Yes, this was an ending to the phrase some Millenial like myself added to make us feel better) 

Regardless, you are a visionary. You’re a learning junkie. Your desire to take on 8 relatively complex projects at once and work on all of them in the same hour, sure, it might be a bit ADD. But let us not forget that ADD is an overly-prescribed “disorder” pushed by uppity east coast moms and doctors who were upset that their children wanted to play games or use the internet (an exciting new technology that is intentionally addictive and distracting) instead of schoolwork. Disclaimer: I’m obviously not a doctor and I’m sure Adderall was actually beneficial to a lot of kids? 

One more disclaimer: I will digress. A lot. Appropriately, these digressions actually are quite fitting, my point being to embrace your tangents. Your tangents are aspects of yourself that drive you and form together in a large, chaotic, yet interconnected structure of something formerly known (mostly to the Boomers under a stable economy) as a career path. 

As creative professionals, our career paths are so winding that they resemble something more like the roots of an onion plant or the small grooves ants form into fallen logs.

A bit about mine—after luckily graduating from my MFA program only a year before the pandemic hit, I was on such a high from success in my program and in the new city I moved to for it, Boston. We had an incredible show at a major museum, and the last two years were filled with travel opportunities, working a job in academia that I thought had great potential, and making lasting connections in a community of amazing artists. I even managed to fit in time for my side projects, playing in orchestra and helping my friends out with their short films. What a great way to spend my time and actually make a livable wage, I thought. Sure, maybe this story is pretty typical: young person thrives, young person faces challenges and becomes disillusioned. 

In my defense, COVID-19 definitely changed a lot of my plans. Of course, it changed a lot of everyone’s plans. I’m incredibly grateful that it wasn’t worse for me, my friends or family. But I’m not going to lie and say that it hasn’t been difficult. It has made me reconsider a lot of my choices, or consider some changes more than I had previously. I had already been concerned about the job market in the creative industry and what my next step would be. I didn’t have any shortage of options, which almost made it harder to make a decision.  I had the right foundations for a few different paths. With my MFA, I had the fine art background and some experience in art education, but I didn’t absolutely love teaching, and my job at a wealthy academic institution in Boston made me want to get out of academia. Another option was moving to an upcoming film city (my idea was Albuquerque) and starting from the lowest rung in the film industry. I could start freelancing in photography and video, or try to get a job at a company photo editing. I was already working a part-time job QAing and editing photos for a cool tech company, but they soon went under. I was most drawn to the tech industry route, and my need to constantly learn new things made me want to pursue a UX/UI Design Certificate, but I held off on more schooling to apply for more relevant jobs with what I had. 

At a time of transition in considering which of these steps I wanted to make moves toward, COVID eliminated not only my existing forms of income but severely hurt my chances of finding a new job. Unsurprisingly, I have been job hunting since March. The rejection after rejection reminded me of my “jack of all trades, master of none” skillset and made me consider that maybe it was actually hurting me. 

In September, I picked up a part-time contracted role as a Virtual Marketing Assistant for a small company, which has been a great job but without enough hours to make a living wage, so it hasn’t necessarily aided my ongoing worries about the sustainability of my career mixed with how will I ever pay off my credit card debt?  This job does have its benefits, and that is flexibility, being remote, and giving me more marketing experience to have the potential to apply for more marketing-related jobs. 

In the meantime, I was getting sick of living with my parents and working from home out of my childhood bedroom. In a desperate attempt to be able to prove my income for potential apartments, I started a remote telemarketer job selling newspapers. This felt like a particular low (no shame on telemarketers, these people actually seemed to like their jobs and were really good at it, though, I still wonder how it’s possible to enjoy such work) After a month of being told to rebuttal more enthusiastically to the endless amount of people who definitely don’t want to be delivered newspapers, I quit. 

Luckily, I had already picked up a second client through virtual assisting, and as of today have joined an agency for virtual assistants. While it’s not where I started out, and while this may be a tangent, I’m embracing it fully. Virtual assisting, especially for creative-minded businesses, is varied, exciting, flexible, and remote work. As a position, it supports my need to constantly learn new things, take on multiple projects at once, and utilizes both artistic and technical sides of my brain—through graphic design projects, video editing, and copywriting, to scheduling, marketing, and project management. With a few more clients, this actually might give me a living wage. But even better, virtual assisting has given me the freedom to pursue an online 9-month long, UX/UI Design Certification program, so, maybe in 9 months when I turn 26 and have to get off my parent’s health insurance, I can find a sustainable, fulfilling job with benefits! We’ll see. 

And in more good news, there’s only 15 more days of 2020. I’m sensing good vibes for us creative professionals, but I want to know—What weird paths and tangents you’ve gone down this year? Or in life?  Reach out to me on Instagram or connect with me on LinkedIn! I look forward to hearing from you. 

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