How to Combat Career Depression – Life Lessons from a Theatre Junkie – Part Three:
One of the things that first drew me to a profession in the theatre is the fact that it’s all about successful collaboration. Any great show is the result of the combined efforts of people who have committed themselves to making it work. People who have come together from diverse walks of life, with different skill sets and whose perceptions and viewpoints have been shaped by their own unique life experiences, to create and stage work that has a little piece of each of them represented.
I believe that the success of a show is heavily dependent upon the quality of the collaborative process, and I also believe that a successful career is exactly the same – you cannot build one alone! You need a strong network of family, friends, mentors and colleagues to help you forge and stick to the path that you decide to embark on.
A strong network will support and encourage you during the process of self analysis, even shedding light on strengths you may not be aware of and making you conscious of areas that need improving or further development. Your network of people will also challenge you and keep you accountable in the achievement of the goals you set.
Once you’ve established exactly who you are and what you want, you then need to practice being able to articulate your desires and abilities with clarity, precision and confidence. Sharing your career goals with people is essential because once they know what you are looking for, they can either advise you on what specific steps to take to achieve your goals, put you in touch with people who can further connect or enlighten you or they’ll think of you if they see an opening that fits your criteria. I even have friends who work in human resources who have proof read my job applications and given me advice on how to make my applications stand out. Furthermore, people will want to know what you’ve been up to since they last saw you and this can have the effect of motivating you to work hard, so that you’re seen to be moving forward.
I know a lot of people who are hesitant about speaking about themselves, their strengths and what they have to offer. They are afraid to seem arrogant and self centred. However I recently received some sage advice that failing to let people know about your abilities deprives them of discovering skills and knowledge they could make use of in their own endeavours. We all have something that someone needs and it’s your responsibility to make sure that you help others to find the answer to that need in you, if you have the skills to fulfil it.
I have found mentors to be invaluable assets. A mentor is basically someone who is more skilled and experienced in a certain field than you are, and who is willing to take the time to help you develop by imparting invaluable wisdom borne of their experience. Wisdom and experience do not necessarily denote age – a mentor can be younger than you in years but possess in-depth knowledge in certain areas where you are lacking.
Mentors can also be near or far – in fact I don’t think one necessarily needs to meet a mentor for effect to occur. I listen to Ted talks and read the autobiographies of people whom I admire. Sidney Poitier and Janet Collins are two artists for whom I have tremendous respect for what they managed to achieve in their careers, even in an era when racial discrimination was acceptable and rife. Mentors who are closer by can be a great sounding board for your ideas, and use their connections to help you further your career.
I’ve found that it’s important to foster relationships with people from varying walks of life to give diverse and balancing view points. It’s important to have enough people in your life whose personalities and temperaments are different to yours. I’m shy by nature, so my more outgoing mentors and friends challenge me to be more outgoing and to make use of opportunities to meet new people and build connections. Through their wisdom, they advise me on how to spot meaningful relationships and avoid damaging ones.
Lastly, in those moments when you fall into a funk because you’ve lost sight of the plan and feel discouraged by a seeming lack of progress in your career, it’s the people in your life who lift your spirits by reminding you of how far you’ve come. I’ve always loved the analogy of life being like a painting – stand too close to it and all you see are ugly cracks, but if you take a step back, you see the full and beautiful picture. We can often get so hung up on our own insecurities and short comings, which is why it’s imperative that we have an outside eye that has enough distance to see the beauty in our strengths, abilities and the leaps in our professional journeys – even when we can’t.