Moon Shot: Charting Your Path

By    Oct 5, 2015

This post was originally part of a weeklong exploration of career paths on our ArtsJournal blog, Field Notes

A career in the arts. Some (parents) might say that’s an oxymoron. But, if you’re reading this it’s likely the path you are on. There is, however, a way to navigate the path and perhaps even put the skeptics at ease.

Over the course of my career in this field, I’ve had countless conversations with interns, program officers, CEOs… myself… about that next step in our career. What is it and how soon will it get here? For many, the answers to these questions are a regular preoccupation and can be quite fraught. But, as any good teacher (or therapist) will tell you questions are often more powerful than answers. Charting a path simply comes down to four questions:

  1. Where am I now?
  2. Where do I want to go?
  3. What are the obstacles in between?
  4. How do I overcome those obstacles?

They will work to get you around the block or around the moon. They will also work for your career path. But let’s go back to the moon for a moment. It’s a long and arduous journey, one whose individual stages are not obvious. Think of the calculations that must be made to account for weather conditions, the movement of the earth and the moon, a finite supply of fuel… human error. It’s really not unlike one’s career path. Perhaps there’s bit more math involved. But, regardless of where you’re heading, the answers to those four questions will outline the steps you must take to get there.

Houston, we have a problem.

Many of us start out, eyes fixed on that destination, our tanks fueled up with tons of passion. We can see where we’re going and it’s almost within reach. As we lift off, we quickly shift our focus to the task at hand — not crashing and burning — and lose visual contact. We may also find that much of that passion was used up just getting out of our current atmosphere. (You’ve got to be careful to keep some reserves in the tank. It could be a long ride.)

Each stage of the journey requires different skills and different tools. We must make sure we are equipping ourselves along the way. We should also continue to ask those questions. Where are we now? Where do we want to go? That moon never stays in one place and we have to continually recalibrate.

In space no one can hear you scream.

For some it can start to feel a bit like an existential crisis – the constant questioning of how did I get here and where am I going? Without a clear plan, we can easily get stuck… never leaving the launchpad or floating aimlessly in space. It’s a frustration that leads many to leave the field.

Let’s talk about this. All this week we will be looking at career paths in the arts and culture field — the fears and frustrations, the hopes and machinations — using the questions outlined above as a guide. We will be sharing some insights from inside and outside the field and we encourage you to get involved as well. Let us know what you think. Leave a comment. Share these posts. Or, write up your take on these questions and we’ll feature them here.