Corporate Aesthetics: Staying Creative in Work Spaces
Don’t quit your day job.
It is pretty solid advice when it comes to balancing a full-time job with your art career. There are the negatives: inconsistent freelance work, dealing with lots of rejection, sleep deprivation and lack of funds. There are the positives: awards & recognition, entrepreneurship, plethora of fans and financial opportunities. The same can be said for the workplace, although we can all admit that the office life is not as glamorous as a career in the art field. Handling an abundance of emails, feelings of being underwhelmed, overworked and career stagnation can seem like a death sentence. The positives, however job stability, high-paying positions and benefits can work out very well in the long term.
I have been an artist longer than I have been in the traditional business world. I have also felt the (societal and creative) pressures to pick a side and stay on that side. In hindsight, I realized that I was seeing my situation as black and white, when the world is much more colourful than that. To be honest I have not fully understood the spectrum of both worlds together in sync. In fact, I have created this dichotomy in my head that if I continued being an artist, I would be broke and struggling, and if I conceded and went into the corporate world, I would be hitting the “play-it-safe” button to seek comfort and stability. That is just not the reality.
As artists, we can find ourselves seeking out every opportunity that comes our way all in the name of connections, opportunities and public image. We make excuses, compare ourselves to others, and take advice from uninformed people. We even delude our ideas and our perception of who we are for validation. It can be toxic. I realize that it is all process. Accountability, sacrifice and timing were key for me.
When I joined the corporate world, my ambition for music creation waned. It did not feel like I assimilated into the rat race but it felt as if my time and my mind were being utilized differently. I was in a new environment so a new mentality had to be forged. I had to be honest with myself with where and who I wanted to be (accountable), manage my time better (sacrifice) and align myself with other creative channels to get the mojo flowing again. Short-term pain, long-term gain they say. The workplace can be tedious for an artist or anyone who is centered on self-improvement. Most people at the office only care about the approaching weekend, Netflix specials, unhealthy foods and avoiding their significant other. These might be the extremes, but that energy is very real and can be contagious for any creative. What has been key for me is having purpose, autonomy and good ole hard work. Together they work harmoniously. Let us break it down.
- Guides life decisions
- Shapes goals
- Sense of pride
From what we see above for staying creative in workspaces, I find working extra hard no matter the circumstance the most optimal. Even if the work is unfulfilling, overwhelming and boring you have a better chance of bringing change as a high performer than half assing it or complaining. It can be difficult; some companies do not like high performing employees because they disturb the pecking order of the organization. Office politics usually rewards the savviest not the most worthy.
The last company I worked for I stayed for 9 years. In today’s job market, that is a very long time. I was a senior advisor in the financial industry. The job structure and work environment worked well with my artistic schedule. The pay was not great and the work was mundane but I made the most of it. I was too apprehensive to move up in the company because at the time I thought the higher I went up the corporate the ladder the less commitment and focus I’d have with my own creative work. In the end it created compliancy, what I realized now is that, I should have balanced my professional life as much as I was trying to balance and elevate my personal/artistic life. Instead of focusing on both I dragged my professional life along ill prepared for the changes that life brings. Thankfully, I had an epiphany; I quit my job, redirected my creative life and took ownership of my professional life.
Focusing on what we can control and having a game plan places a better focus on our personal goals, it leverages the odds in our favour. Incorporating your creativity in your work and work into your creativity amplifies your strengths, highlights your weakness and keep you rooted to your true purpose.