My wife made me read a funny article she saw in Real Simple magazine because I’ve been blogging about education and audio school. The article, ‘5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Recent College Graduate’ can be found here.
Have you been on the receiving end of one of those comments or ones like these?
“The economy’s pretty bad, maybe you should get a part-time job in the meantime.”
“I have a friend who works at / owns a ________ , I could get you in” (but it’s a crappy job)
Or, they don’t use words, but their body language says “I disapprove”, “I have reservations”, “I’m clearly superior”, or “I told you so”.
Then just slap them!
OK, that probably wouldn’t help. The problem is people don’t understand the nature of work in an arts industry. The last thing you need is to feel worse about yourself after enduring one of these conversations with someone who clearly hasn’t been reading Real Simple. So let me give you three tips to help you keep your chin high and put you in the driver’s seat of the conversation.
1) Stay Positive - Don’t resent the cost and time you’ve spent on your education. This is by far the most important state of mind to be in, even if you took out a loan for your education. It can be extremely hard on your self-esteem and confidence when you keep getting the door slammed in your face as you look for work. Think of it this way, you belong to a small percentage of people in the whole world that have had the privilege of attending post-secondary education and graduating. There’s a lot to be thankful for.
Staying positive and being grateful opens avenues for further growth. Your mind is always open to new things and is in learning mode, instead of stewing with resentments. It also opens up opportunities. Rather than looking, sounding and feeling sour, people around you can see, hear, and feel your positive outlook. When you’re networking you become attractive to people as opposed to repelling them.
2) BYOB - No, it’s not Bring Your Own Beer to your pity party, it’s Be Your Own Boss. No one owes you a job even if you have a diploma or degree. It’s up to you to go out and create work:
a) Artist as Entrepreneur:
- Create a website, business cards, etc.
- Network and join associations like AES
- What can you offer that is unique or better than what’s out there?
- What can you bring that’s of value to the marketplace?
- Can you partner up with a fellow grad and start a company
- How about finding and bringing clients to an already established studio?
- What about other areas of the audio industry: post-production or video game sound?
b) Art for Profit:
- Think about how you can start making a return on your investment.
- What about multiple revenue streams: a mix of wages and profit?
c) Artist in Balance:
- Life is not just your career
- Make time equally for family & friends, hobbies, community involvement, volunteer work, etc.
3) Keep Learning - “Wait, you mean I have to learn more? I thought I was done.” No, you get to learn more. Once you’re done school, you don’t stop learning. In fact many say your real learning happens on-the-job. And even beyond your tech skills, learning is an on-going process of improving yourself. It’s not your knowledge of all things audio that’s going to get you hired, as important as that is, but it’s also who you are. This kind of education can have a tremendous ROI in all areas of life. You don’t have to change the economy, taxes, the cost of things, the number of studios closing or the people downloading music or software; you just need to continually improve yourself. This is the best way to improve your value to the marketplace.
For instance, it always amazes me that universities don’t teach basic business. You learn how to be an exceptional musician, photographer, dancer, etc., but you graduate without any business skills and knowledge. The schools that fail to teach entrepreneurship are doing a great disservice to their students. That was my situation after graduating with my music performance degree. Thankfully the audio school I attended took the business side of the music industry seriously, so it really added to what I had already learned by experience.
If you’ve graduated and have no business knowledge or skills, go out and get started. Buy or borrow some books or audio books about entrepreneurship, take someone out for lunch who has been successful and can teach you some things, and watch some Youtube videos or listen to podcasts on artists as business people.
Going to school was just the beginning of an interesting life. Don’t kill it by feeling depressed about the economy, lack of jobs, high taxes, or whatever. You can’t change that, but you can change yourself. If it means taking a stop-gap job to see you through the next little while, that’s OK. Keep focused on your goals knowing that each step along the way takes you one step closer.