Careers in the creative sectors carry their own set of challenges. As many a struggling creative will tell you, there can be a trade-off between pursuing what you are passionate about, and securing a reliable income stream that will grow incrementally. This post is a brief case study of somebody who definitely prioritized ‘passion’ over ‘security’, and how they have made it work for them (so far!).
My friend Irma didn’t know what kind of a career she would have, but she loved theatre and performance, and went to a London drama school because that was the option that she found most exciting. After graduating, regular acting work was few and far between. Irma loved travelling, and soon took off to travel around Europe in a camper van with her boyfriend. After a couple of itinerant years, she heard of volunteering opportunities with Theatre for a Change, a non-profit dedicated to empowering marginalized communities in Africa, and then spent six months in Ghana, facilitating drama workshops and legislative theatre with sex workers in an Accra slum. This experience, and the contacts Irma has accumulated over the years, led to invitations to get involved in projects which often are ad hoc in nature. Currently based in Berlin, Irma is working on a short project in a rural German town. The project involves facilitating refugees and locals to interview and film each other talking about their experiences as either refugees or ‘hosts’. This is to be followed by a workshop in a Dutch university teaching public speaking skills to postdocs.
Irma loves her work. She belongs to that tribe of people who surrender their career decisions almost completely to their interests and values, for which there is often a significant trade-off. From her story I’d like to highlight the following points, which those of you considering a career in the creative sectors may want to consider:
- How much unpredictability are you prepared to accept, in exchange for the thrill of exciting and varied projects?
- Passion wins the day. It is what will sustain you through difficult periods, and what will make others see value in collaborating with you. Do you have it?
- Your network may be the best source of information about new opportunities and collaboration. Put yourself out there, meet people, and find out what they are working on.
If you want to get some volunteering experience in the creative sectors, here are some places you could look:
Disclaimer: the idea of there being a 'passion' vs 'security' trade-off is certainly a gross simplification in the face of the different types of 'creative career' that exist, and the subjectivity of what 'passion', 'security', and 'creative career' actually mean. I am merely using these terms as a reference point that I hope will help readers to start thinking about their own needs, expectations and attributes.