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We’ve all heard the aphorism, find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. It sounds particularly appealing from the desk of a stifling office job. But is it really as simple as just doing what you love? Or does following your passion mean chasing rainbows?
Dr Misha Myers, Senior Lecturer and Course Director of Creative Arts at Deakin University has seen a number of people take the leap and start from scratch in a new career. ‘I’ve had students who have made completely radical life changes or discipline changes,’ she says. ‘They have gone from pursuing very successful careers in a particular area to pursuing a passion in the arts.’
Sometimes it’s a case of following up on a dream that has been pushed to the side. ‘I do see that quite often in the arts,’ Dr Myers says. ‘People who really wanted to be an artist, but they had a young family or they pursued a different path because they felt they had to. Sometimes they felt pressure from family or they were afraid because it is a challenging path. But also a rewarding one.’
Alternatively, the dream can be a new one. ‘Some people are late bloomers and might discover their strengths later in life or through finding themselves in positions that they thought they were interested in and yet they find it’s not actually what they are good at,’ Dr Myers says.
There can be a certain amount of magic that comes into play when someone follows their passion. ‘When you’re in a position where you’re playing to your strengths, things start to just open up,’ Dr Myers says. ‘Opportunities happen because people are seeing you achieve your best.’
Dr Myers says these ‘career change’ students bring a special something to their art. ‘There is a lifetime of learning and such an interesting set of skills in another area that they bring to the work they start to make: there is something original in their interdisciplinarity and breadth of knowledge and life experience,’ she says. ‘Also just the level of motivation and engagement and the maturity of that self-knowledge really helps. They are usually exceptional students and they do really great work.’
‘When you are doing the thing you are most curious about and interested in you are using all of your faculties, your creativity and your strengths,’ Dr Myers explains. ‘There is a hunger to learn more about it, an excitement to get up in the morning and it does become less like work, even with the most mundane of tasks that any work involves.’
While there is much potential joy on the creative path there can also be challenges with this type of career change. ‘It takes time to develop networks and gain experiences,’ Dr Myers explains. ‘Initially, you have to be entrepreneurial and create your own opportunities, such as setting up a studio, gallery or performance space of your own, start your own business, invent new roles or take up a range of work that gives you time or responsibilities that support your dream and draw upon your strengths. You might have to volunteer or find ways into that career that may not initially provide you with the biggest salary.’
'When you are doing the thing you are most curious about and interested in you are using all of your faculties, your creativity and your strengths.'
Dr Misha Myers,
School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University
And it’s is not as simple as just choosing a job you love. ‘You might choose a job that you love and find yourself in the wrong place with it, the wrong team or the wrong company — so there are nuances to that choice,’ Dr Myer says. ‘There is a lot more to it than just doing the thing that you’re interested in.’
If you’re reliant on a day job for financial security it can be hard to create enough time for your passion. ‘Sometimes when you’re in that work there is no time or no space for the thing that you are passionate about and then you are really stuck,’ Dr Myers says. ‘Especially as you get older and there are other people that you have to think about, family [and so on]. It’s a big challenge.’
Many people find themselves wondering if they are passionate enough to pursue their dream career. ‘Listening to yourself is really important,’ Dr Myers explains. ‘Does it get you up in the morning? Do you feel creatively inspired to do it? Be really honest with yourself about what your strengths are.’
Dr Myers says you have to take risks and be courageous: ‘Be clear about where you are compromising and where you are making decisions that are driven by what you think you should do in order to survive.’
An integral aspect of any creative growth is finding community. ‘We do collaborative work in creative arts and I try and encourage students to understand that it’s all about that from day one,’ Dr Myers explains. ‘Building creative dialogue, building a community of critical friends to get feedback for your work, camaraderie and support for one another. This is the community that will grow and expand into your professional network.’
Networking is really important. ‘You need to take every opportunity that leads towards your passion,’ Dr Myers says. ‘Nobody is going to do it for you. You can’t wait around for someone to call you up and offer you that dream job. You have to understand that it is something that you build step-by-step. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a lifetime development and search, and something you have to create.’
Being around others who share your passion may be what helps you turn your dream into a career. ‘The sense of collegiality and community that you get in university is so valuable, Dr Myers says. ‘It’s the thing that I remember most about my education and that is what I love about working in academia, a sense of community with people who are sharing your passion, knowledge and skills.’
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