The old saying goes that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. And while I whole-heartedly agree, I think one thing my generation needs to understand is that what you love to do in your spare time, and what you love to do for work can, and often should, be two different things. Apologies if it sounds bleak, but let me explain because I have a lot to offer in this department.
I left a private girls’ school with a UAI of 95 and every opportunity in the world open to me. Being your typical Gen Y, this prospect of being able to do whatever I want terrified me. So I travelled. I deferred the Comms degree I was accepted into and worked my ass off to fund the thinnest of shoestring backpacking adventures and returned home thinking I was ready to settle back into education. But I’d seen the world; I wasn’t just going to be like my friends during regular degrees to get regular jobs. So I enrolled in a Bachelor of Fine Arts, photography major, because I was creative and got into Art Express and that made it a good life choice right?
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. I did love art, and I really was good at taking photos. But one day I was sitting in my class of about thirty students, looked around and thought, “I probably sit somewhere in the middle of this group”. That was of thirty people. In one class. So how the hell was I going to make it in the professional world?
I was in a quarter life crisis, so what did I do? I travelled again. I went and lived for a year in Montreal, which was awesome, but after 11 months of hanging out and working just to work, I knew my brain needed some more stimulation and maybe, just maybe I’d only been putting off what I was really supposed to do.
I went full circle and enrolled in the original Bachelor of Communications at UTS that I had been offered three years’ earlier. Yup, by this time I was 21 and a ‘mature aged student’. In my effort to cram as much as I could into my degree I signed myself up to an internship at a renowned boutique PR agency, which fit in nicely with my Public Communications major. I put my creative skills to good use and designed myself a website to act as my digital resume, complete with welcome video. And, well, it worked to beat out all the other immaculately manicured PR girls lining up at the door. After six months of interning I was offered a paid position working basically every hour I wasn’t on campus, which for a Comms student means you have a lot of free time.
Just before I was to graduate I started to mentally hyperventilate again, thinking that if I wasn’t doing something creative, how was I going to enjoy my career for the next forty years of my working life? I liked PR. But I didn’t love it. My first love has always been, and will always be music. I was never gifted in singing or playing, but I had an ear and a passion for it that had been with me all my life.
Sometimes when you’re at a crossroads in your life, fate intervenes for you. In this case fate came in the form of Pedestrian.tv and an ad for a junior level A&R job at a major record label. Needless to say I applied instantly and almost fainted when I got a call back, three interviews and a job offer for a start in what was literally my dream job – A&R at a major record label.
A&R stands for Artist & Repertoire, and for want of better words, is the creative beginnings of the music production process. It’s responsible for scouting and signing talent, then helping develop and hone that talent into music the label can put out and hopefully make a shitload of money from. Like any junior role, the position came with a lot of admin. But my admin was listening to demos people mailed in, not data entry, so there were worse things in life. After two and half years in the role I realised that I loved music, and I loved discovering it, but I wasn’t cut out to be an A&R guy. The truth of it is working in the music business can be heartbreaking for a music fan. No matter how much you love the music, it’s all reduced to numbers and excel sheets, like any business. In A&R that means predicting sales, tracking all profit & loss and then being the one to drop an artist from the label if they didn’t do quite good enough.
I’ve since transitioned out of A&R and into the label’s promotions department. Once again I’ve gone off on a career tangent and come back to where I started, in a communications field. But here I get the best of both worlds: I do PR, which I’m good at, but I get to do it for music, which I love.
I’ve tried and tested a few different paths now, flitting between the creative and traditional because I couldn’t quite reconcile my creative self spending a life behind a desk. I’m fortunate that I get to work in a relatively creative industry, but am satisfied with the ‘normal’ work that is a large part of my job because it stimulates me, it challenges me. One thing I think people my age and younger need to realise it that you can still work in finance, HR, or IT and love it, or enough of it to have it sustain you, and make you thrive. Just because you love drawing or DJ’ing or writing stories in your own time doesn’t mean you absolutely have to do one of those things nine to five to be happy.
One of my greatest accomplishments so far is that I’ve learned that I feel the most satisfied with my day not when I’ve done something overly exciting or cool, but when I know I worked hard for a purpose, and got shit done.