Thursday, November 10, 2016

Day Jobs: Finding What Works for You

Current day job assistant
No job is all sunshine and pancakes. Being an artist full-time may make you feel artistically free until your rent is due. Time to sell some of your tools or take a gig you didn't really want so you can make rent.

But, that's not the glamorous life that you envision when you say you just want to pursue your art.

He who pays the piper calls the tune. Remember that Michelangelo had patrons who paid to support his artistic pursuits but instructed him on the art they wanted to see.

Nothing in life is all sunshine and pancakes.

You have to work out your priorities. What works for you?

I have three personal day job stories.
  1. I worked at job A for eight years. It was supposed to be a great company. I generally liked what we did for people but I don't deal well with angry people in the workplace. I grew up with angry people and didn't want to voluntarily subject myself to an environment like that. I also started doing burlesque near the end of my time there. There were lots of other factors behind my decision to leave but the largest one at that time was the environment. Leaving was worth it.
  2. I worked at job B for almost six years. I had to learn specialized programming as part of the job. I liked my boss. There was no yelling in the workplace. I was worth more than I was being paid. I got one raise in all the years and wasn't on company health insurance. I also had the opportunity to work on costumes and choreography during down time at the office. We had cupcake day and went out to expensive lunches on birthdays. I had to deal with customer complaints when I had no helpful resolutions. I liked my co-workers. Everyone knew I did burlesque and didn't care. I knew the job wouldn't last. The company was sold. I spent some of my down time trying to make my job more efficient. I took classes outside of work so I'd be a better employee.
  3. I've worked at job C for most of this year. I had to learn a few things. I worked longer hours than anticipated in the beginning so I could get into the groove. I've had to work nights and weekends when things came up. I work when I'm sick. I've handled emergencies from my bed while I still had sleep in my eyes. I don't get health benefits. I also get to work from home. I spend my days with my dogs. I can get ready for gigs throughout the day instead of rushing when I get home at 7pm. I like my co-workers. I believe in our product. I'm always learning new applicable skills. The boss doesn't provide free cupcakes but also doesn't insist I stay in the office when I don't have work to do.
Every job has its positives and negatives. You have to examine what you're willing to endure and what you can't handle.
  • Do you want to be engaged or do you want to save challenging tasks just for your art?
  • Do you want to move up the corporate ladder or do you just want to be a cog in the machine?
  • Do you want a set schedule or do you want flexibility?
  • What are you willing to do for health insurance?
  • Do you care about your privacy as an artist?
  • Do you want to be paid hourly or salary? Salaried workers can't always leave when the office hours end because they're getting paid more.
Your day job can go bye bye at a moment's notice. That's what we learned with the last economic downturn. You have to be able to apply your creativity to the day job market.

Sort out your priorities. Keep your eye on the end game, whatever that end game is for you. You'll find it much easier to endure the day job lifestyle that way.


  1. Your Job A reminds me of one of my previous labs. I loved what we studied and was good friends with my colleagues, but we were all so stressed out that I wound up quitting to preserve my sanity. It wasn't something I had considered when job hunting, but the environment is important. Now I'm in lab that isn't as good as previous ones in terms of free time or co-workers, but overall it feels less toxic, which is a biggie.

    1. The environment is a huge factor. It's harder to leave a job where you're happy and like the people around you than it is to leave the job that you typically dread each day. I'm so much happier at my day job now, which makes my burlesque time much more productive.