My journey from the public service and 9-5 into the film industry started six years ago. I fell into HR in the public service completely by fluke. I was grateful for a well-paying and steady job upon immediately graduating from university, but as the years wore on and I edged out of my 20s, I had to make a life change. When I realized film was where I wanted to be, I was overwhelmed with figuring out how to make the transition. Should I go to school for it? What kind of job would I get? What kind of film jobs are available for people not technically-inclined? How could I make any money doing it?
I think most people in my situation would have gone back to school. On the surface, it is the easier option and a clean break. But for me, financially, it wasn’t an option, given that my husband and I had a mortgage, debts to pay and in the case of film school, there’s no guarantee of employment at the end of it either.
Finances are among the major reasons why so many aspiring creatives feel held back from pursuing their dreams. Especially as an adult, when there is so much more responsibility to carry: mortgages, partners/spouses and dependents relying on that 9-5 paycheque. Here’s the thing with the 9-5, though, it’s a cyclical trap that will keep you encircled the longer you stay in it. You will justify reasons to buy a new car, a bigger house, a new stovetop, because the money is there and that’s just what a 9-5 lifestyle entails. You constantly work to live a prettier and more comfortable life. Frankly it’s an empty and depressing feeling, knowing you should feel more grateful, but still hungering for more out of life. Here’s how to break free from that trap and start moving towards the creative industry you dream about, without any prior experience:
1. Research your desired industry and the types of positions in it. Which ones are you attracted to, what kind of skills are required for them and what steps do you need to take to gain experience? Research through the internet, your local library, as well as by setting up informational interviews with people in the industry that are accessible to you. For example, is there anyone in your community that you could speak to? Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, try connecting with people on LinkedIn.
2. Use your evenings and weekends to gain firsthand experience in your industry of choice by volunteering for that position and/or by trying it out for yourself on a project of your own making. There is nothing more admirable than a person who takes their own initiative, who makes something where there was nothing.
3. Attend any relevant workshops, either online or in-person. Workshops are a far cheaper and more time efficient means of learning new skills, rather than returning to school full-time, especially when you are just testing the waters in a new field.
4. Sign up for an internship. Check to see if it is possible, practically and financially, to take time off from your employment to pursue an internship in your chosen field. Do your research on the hiring company and ensure that even if you are not getting paid, you are not taken advantage of. Internships with reputable companies are likely to open a lot of doors for you down the road and the networking connections are invaluable.
5. Use your vacation days and savings to attend industry-related conferences and events. If you want to get hired and known in creative circles, you need to network. Plus, these are excellent learning opportunities to find out what is trending in your industry of choice.
6. Are there any opportunities to incorporate the new skills you are learning or desire to learn into your day job? Take advantage of that. Ask your manager or volunteer a new initiative at work. If you are able to take courses at work, see if there are any that equally applicable to your day job as they are to your external interests.
7. Find a mentor in your desired industry, or someone to job shadow part-time. This goes back to step 1, as part of the research on your desired position. Once you’ve established a connection and relationship, see if there are opportunities to meet more frequently, or to job shadow them on the evenings and weekends. The worst that can happen is they say no.
8. Find a community of like-minded peers through Facebook groups, Meetup.com, or clubs and associations in your city. This expands your network and also means that you will meet people at varying levels of skill and experience from whom you can continue to learn.
Do all the eights steps listed above and then repeat. This is the best way to get a foot in the industry of your choice and decide if it’s the right move for you without breaking the bank.
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