For the past year and a half I’ve had the pleasure of working at HireArt, as the company’s senior Customer Service representative. It’s an ideal situation for me, because in addition to my part-time work at HireArt, I’m also pursuing a music career.
I’m often asked how I juggle a “day job” and my passion, and I thought I’d take some time to address my thoughts on the matter in case I can provide useful insight to anybody considering a similar path.
As a kid, my ideas about what I wanted to be when I grew up were constantly evolving. My first love was Paleontology (Jurassic Park changed my life). My mother heard this and informed me that Paleontology doesn’t pay well, which was surprisingly important to me as an eight year old who didn’t exactly see the value in money. From there, I considered careers as a doctor and fireman, but moved on fairly quickly from those.
As I got a little older, and the idea of a career began to feel more real, I gave serious thought to pursuing art or learning programming, but I’d already fallen in love with music, and knew I wanted to be involved with it more than anything else (sorry, Mom).
Eventually, I decided to leave California, move to New York, and get a degree in Jazz Performance. Since graduating, I’ve been pursuing a musical career in New York, one of the most expensive cities in the country, and one of the toughest places to “make it” in music. And so, like many artists in New York City and elsewhere in the world, I’ve had to work jobs in other fields in order to support myself and my art.
Find a Fit
In my seven years in New York, I’ve done a number of things. I’ve worked at a grocery store, waited tables, handled customer service and sales at a company that sold tickets for off-Broadway shows and, most recently, I’ve worked at HireArt. My wide variety of experience has taught me a lot about what artists might want to look for in a job:
- It’s important to me that it be part-time, and come with a flexible schedule. This can vary depending on the individual, but knowing my time management skills, and my need to unwind before I can dive into my music, it’s important for me to have the balance that a part-time job creates between my day job and my craft.
- If you can’t find a part-time job in your field, it’s always good to find something that challenges you to grow and learn.
- Finding a job you enjoy is a worthwhile priority, as you’re going to spend a lot of time there (hating your life might give you some artistic inspiration, but it’s probably better to be happy). In my case, I enjoy helping people, so Customer Service is a natural fit.
- Just as important is ensuring that you work with awesome people; you’re going to spend a lot of time with your co-workers–part-time or not–so you’ll be a lot happier every day if you find a job with people you get along with.
Staying the Course
The hardest part is staying happy with your choices by managing your own psychology.
Let’s say you got the job you wanted, and you’ve been working it for a few months now. You’re feeling good about the security, and then it hits you like a cold New York City wind in the middle of the winter: is my job an indication that I’m failing at, or not giving enough time to my passion? Am I beginning to give too much time and attention to my day job?
There’s a temptation to think about your passion as Plan A, and your day-job as Plan B. But thinking of the two as diverting paths misses the point. My day job isn’t Plan B, it’s part of the only plan I have: to pursue my passion. Too often I hear other artists speaking about their day jobs as if they create a conflict of interest, but I believe that’s the wrong way to look at it. Your day job exists to enable you to pursue your passion; it’s an instrument to your happiness, and thinking about things in these terms has made a huge difference for me in how I approach my work–both at HireArt, and with my band(s).
It’s natural to have nagging concerns that you’re not giving your passion the time you wish you could. Such concerns are perfectly normal. The important thing is to respond with self-assessment: remind yourself that there are good reasons for doing what you’re doing, and ask if there are any concrete steps you’d take to alleviate your worries. In my experience, the biggest part of the journey has been getting into the right frame of mind. Accomplish that, and the rest will follow.
Derek Nelson is a HireArt Customer Service Associate. When he’s not in our office answering your questions, he can be found on stages throughout New York City playing with his band, Rexford. Check them out on Twitter @FromRexford.