I’ve been out of school for a bunch of days - the exact number does not matter. Unsurprisingly, I’ve fallen into a bit of a funk. A funk you would expect someone standing at the crossroads of infinite potential directions. Even less helpful is a five week trip I leave for in several days, which is delaying any serious efforts of preparing to take my first enormous steps into my own.
I double-majored in Music and Television, because I feel that the impact of the popular arts is massive, and universal. What I didn’t anticipate is the uselessness of becoming an expert in fields dominated by opinion. “Experts do not deserve any special role in declaring what is known. Knowledge is now democratically determined, as it should be.”(1) The result is a man with ambition and knowledge lost in a crowd of prolific amateurs.
I am seeking employment in various fields, all of which are exclusive. A degree might help once you get a foot through the door, but the door itself is elusive. This is, as anyone could have described, the Plight of the Popular Arts Graduate.
This time between exiting college and finding the right occupational door is greatly romanticized as a vacation from responsibility and an opportunity for relaxation. But being in directionless limbo is one of the least pleasant experiences there is. The popular post-graduate options for us baccalaureates all attempt to minimize this pain, whether it’s graduate school, getting a temp job, or snatching up the first career opportunity that appears, whether or not it leads to where you see yourself in five years.
I think the greatest jealousy that B.A. graduates have for B.B.A. graduates is the institutional minimization of this limbo time. Career fairs, corporate sprawls, and that dependable phrase “relevant experience” streamline the process between collegiate life and independent stability, while minimizing the risk of wasting time at a job that won’t help achieve career ambitions (whether or not it’s known at the time).
The arts don’t have this luxury. Part of this is the nature of the industry - the qualities of the individual are far more important to creative works than, say, accounting. The arts also include a much more massive spectrum of work. Instead of meaning practical knowledge regarding business practices, “relevant experience” takes on a whole new meaning - a specific instance of performing tasks similar to the job’s duties. Finally, when you are an expert in what is popular, you have to create at that high level to distance yourself from the prolific amateurs, which can’t be said about business, where a degree generally speaks for itself.
This is my Catch-22. The situation requires creation, but more importantly it requires focus. My present wants to do it all until I have a reason to commit to a single field, and I can’t decide on a direction for myself, because beggars can’t be choosers. But until I create at a high level, nothing is going to fall in my lap.
This is why, when asked, I call myself a writer. You would think that with the majors I graduated with, I would have a large portfolio of music I’ve written and videos I wrote and produced. But due to unfortunate circumstances, I never took those classes (not that I didn’t want to). Instead, my portfolio consists almost entirely of essays I’ve written about music and television. These are my creations, this, my creative direction. Unfortunately, if there is one popular art more popular and accessible than music and television, it’s writing. I managed to graduate with the degree and experience that speaks the least for itself.
Solving this problem is the basis of the website concept that I am kicking around.
As if on cue, today an interesting article was published at Lifehacker that touches on a lot of what I brought up in this post. A video of a slightly nervous, but effective TEDx speaker focuses on “free work,” claiming it is a new, more effective way to get employment than the resume.