7 tips for artists considering work in a traditional, 9-5 job.

On my way into work this morning, I stumbled upon this article, which provides great insight into ways employers can retain a highly engaged team working on a common goal for their organization or business.

This type of mindset is important for artists to think about for those who are considering more traditional, 9-5 work.

This got me thinking about the following question: As an employee, what can artists do to help them love their work, stay engaged and play a role in building a highly effective business or organization. Here are some thoughts:

  1. Understand the potential differences between your values and the business where you choose to work — Ideally, your values will be the same as your employer, often times they are not. Figure out where to stretch your values and what values are not up for compromise. This is often the biggest reason I see individuals seek work elsewhere, and also the source of some of the greatest frustration for those stay on the job.
  2. Know before you go — Before you take a role at a business or organization, take some time to really understand the company culture. Ask to shadow someone for a day before you take the job and scour your LinkedIn network to see who else might be associated with the business so you can ask them some questions about company culture and work expectations.
  3. Negotiate time for you — Before you accept the job, ask about flexible hours, the potential for upward mobility, and opportunities for professional development. This is often very telling about the culture of the organization as well as the type of expectations your boss will have for you.
  4. Be relentless in asking for feedback — Devise a plan for regular feedback from your boss. I like weekly check ins and quarterly reviews to gauge progress and set expectations. I also welcome feedback any time in a more casual basis as I believe it helps me become a better employee. It is often tough to get genuine feedback from your boss because they are so busy, however, it’s really important to insist that they help you grow.
  5. Pick up a side hustle — As an artist, you’re probably already striking a balance between your work in a 9-5 job and pursuing your art after hours. For those of you who don’t have an after hours project driving you, seeking this type of work as an artist or something else that drives you may be the thing that keeps you inspired at work.
  6. The grass is always greener — If you’re currently reading this because you have frustrations at work, first of all you are not alone. Secondly, know that there will likely be frustrations in every place of employment so make sure you’re not leaving your current role for different problems that are equally frustrating in your next place of employment.
  7. Know when to go — Give yourself permission to leave a position that simply isn’t working out. I know that the conventional wisdom is that you should stay in a position for at least two years before moving on, however if the job is not the right fit for you, seek employment elsewhere, regardless of how long you’ve been employed.

Thanks so much for reading. For those of you who are in a traditional 9-5 job and an artist, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below. What advice do you have for those seeking more 9-5 work?


(Photo Credit: AV Design)


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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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