"Career" or no "career"?

Imogen Lewis, 26 January 2013

This session dealt with the inevitable questions that are always asked to each and every one of us. Examples of which being, “what do you do?” “what is your career?”

Within this session, we discussed first all that this is a general problem of dealing with the outside world and what it expects of us and learning to react from the inside out. It could be that one's career path is not linear, does not adhere to the prescribed rules of society, and that's ok. We discussed the frustration of having to answer further questions from people who have not been exposed to the world of performance arts and whose knowledge of it is mostly through blockbuster films, articles in newspapers or a very successful westend shows. In these cases, the question: “What is your career?” or “what do you do?” is followed by a similarly infuriating question, such as “oh...but that's not your career, is it? Do you get money like that?” and having to further justify your position.

The second frustration/disgruntlement is actually in the world of theatre itself where on the one hand, this idea of having a career that is ever fluctuating is widely understood, and on the other, the still constant force to brand yourself very specifically and explain what you do is ever present.

In response to the first issue, it was recognised that being asked what you do is a very common practise and something that will never change throughout time. At times, people simply ask because they feel they need to ‘small talk’. Others ask, and ask

further, because they are genuinely interested, not necessarily because they disagree, but are naturally intrigued by this style of life. That doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong.

In response to the second issue, people mentioned how useful it is to know exactly what work others do creatively and therefore ‘branding’ is key and being able to assert: this is what I like doing is important.

Overall, a suggested answer to the daunting ‘career question’ was: “I'm passionate about...” “I'm interested in...” which would perhaps reflect more fully what you stand for and the things you enjoy doing. It was also said that we should assert ourselves within the chosen artistic route: if you're an actor, call yourself an actor even though you're not presently doing work, similarly for writers, producers, directors...

The reflection on creative ‘career’ went as such: do the things that make you happy, learn that things you're good at and it's ok if that changes over time. Our career is a mirror image of our personality and our passions, which will inevitably change. Some people have not caught onto this, because they are still on the ‘Old model’ of thought regarding careers, whereby they believe that there is only one career and one career only to have in a lifetime.

This prompted a question of money: it's all well and fine to do the things you like but where does the money come from? And it seems, unless you have that very rich relative/no student debts/a working spouse, you will have to balance a part-time sort of work with working in the arts. Or you can also simply work full-time in the arts sector, if you've been lucky enough to find a job, or as two people in the session have done, be a freelance producer/ many many many more options.

There actually is no fixed way of “career”, your “career” will be tailor-made to your own way of life.