(Career insights from a 19-year-old)
At nineteen years old, your future career goals can be clouded with dorm life, Greek life, and finals that leave us measuring our days by the number of caffeine runs we make. All too often, we may also assume that we are too young and unprepared to dive into the professional field we are studying. But there are plenty of opportunities for us to network, learn, and practice outside of our campus, before we graduate!
You may not think you’re ready, but your art career has already begun!
In the past few months, I spent some time looking for different theater and film festivals, screenings, and seminars around the city; the options I found were countless. But when I showed up to some of these events, I noticed that I was usually the youngest one in the room. After these experiences, I wondered why aren’t more nineteen-year-olds diving into the deep side of the work pool headfirst rather than wading in the kiddy pool? Here are five reasons to jump-start your career ambitions today – even if you a still in school.
1. Getting a Head Start
The average college senior has these thoughts in their head, especially near their final semester: Where should I apply/audition? Will they accept me? What if I don’t get any job? Should I move back in with mom and dad? I am at that point in my last academic year and that is why I am trying to be proactive NOW – before I graduate, and it is working. As a college freshmen/sophomore these worries seem distant, but ask any senior and they’ll tell you how it seems like just yesterday they were shopping at Ikea for dorm décor. This means that getting a head start, especially in the arts industry is not only helpful but also very valuable. Checking out events like arts festivals, conferences and panels will help you get to know more about your industry a couple of years before graduation!
2. Networking Skills
Your speech class might help you get over your fear of public speaking, but what about speaking face-to-face with one of your industry idols? During a drama festival at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, I was able to sit in the front row across from a panel of prolific female playwrights. The highlight of my night was being able to ask and listen to responses by the six successful women to my simple question:
What advice do you have for a nineteen year old breaking into the business?
I was pleased to hear them all agree that just being in the audience and having the courage to stand up and talk and be heard was a tremendous first step. After all, you are already an expert at being 19 and most arts organizations are dying to get young people through their doors to attend their events. You are their new audience!
3. People Will Remember You
This one is definitely a result of number two. If you attend a free business workshop for artists, a Meet-up or a conference, but you keep to yourself the whole time, chances are you will go unnoticed. However, raising your hand or chatting with your neighbors and instructor during a break, taking the initiative to pass out a business card (yes, you should have a business card) will make them notice you. When they do, they’ll notice that you are young, eager, and self-disciplined. (*hint – employers love these traits.) And, if that contact says “Keep in touch.” Do it! Build your contact list now so when you do enter the work force you will have some connections.
4. Not a Theory 101 Class
Regardless of your educational choices in your art form, there is no experience like hands-on experience. Whether you are a dancer, photographer, graphic designer, or anything in between, your talent and technique will have little value if you aren’t familiar and comfortable with the in’s and out’s of your career. On another occasion, I went to the screening and discussion of the series’ ‘The Flash’ with show-runner Greg Berlanti. While I am studying film and television writing, this particular event gave me personal insight from a successful role model on inspiration, the obstacles of his journey, and the business ‘work a little everyday’.
5. Greater Pool of Opportunities
Ultimately, even if you attend a networking event and you didn’t make a break through; chances are you didn’t lose anything. By volunteering, networking, learning and participating, you are actively creating new opportunities to be seen and taken seriously in your artistic career. Don’t be afraid, because we all start somewhere. Hey, look at me – I’m 19 and writing an article for Artzray!