Four simple questions I ask before saying yes to a work opportunity.

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For many years, I had a scarcity mindset.

I worried that each performance opportunity would be the last, so I automatically said yes to everything.

When I transitioned away from making a living as a performer, I carried that scarcity mindset with me.

I continued to say yes to every opportunity and rarely did I think about whether the position would support my long-term goals.

On one particular occasion, I decided I needed to make a change.

I was already working a full-time job and was presented with an opportunity to consult for a local non-profit organization to help them develop an organizational strategic plan. I loved the organization and the proposed work seemed exciting so I said yes.

The problem was that the culmination of the work coincided with my son and daughter’s end-of-year activities. Between concerts, playoffs, lessons, and my full-time job, I was forced to make decisions that negatively impacted my family in order to pull off the consulting project.

In the end, everything worked out, but I probably shouldn’t have said yes to the opportunity in the first place.

In that moment of being overstretched, I developed a series of four simple questions to ensure that I would never find myself in that situation again and I’m happy to share them with you here.

Before you accept work of any kind, make certain that you can check off at least three of the four boxes below. If not, pass on the work, no matter how tempting it may be:

  1. Will the work help you reach your financial goals?
    Too often creatives say yes to a job only to find that they end up working less than minimum wage to get the job done because it takes so many hours to accomplish the work. Make sure you crunch the numbers to get a full picture of how long a job will take before you say yes.
  2. Is the work meaningful to you?
    A lot of time creatives say yes to a job because the money is just too good to turn down but end up being miserable in the process because the position is soul-sucking. Make sure you get a full sense of what you are being asked to do before you take on an opportunity.
  3. If you take on this work, will you continue to have life/work integration?
    As in the case above, sometimes taking on additional creative work can have a negative impact on your ability to spend time with family and friends. Be careful not to take on more than you can handle from a time perspective.
  4. Does this work enable you to move towards accomplishing your career goals?
    This is the question I overlook most often because I spend too much time thinking about how the work will impact my life in the moment rather than how it will benefit my carer in the next couple of years. Always consider how the work will help you reach your life and career goals.

Asking the four questions above has helped me tremendously.

I hope they will help you feel better about saying yes to a job the next time an opportunity comes your way.

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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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