How to start small, maximize your impact, and add one line to your resume

There are three small, tactical things creatives can do right now to build a sustainable career.

  1. They can add one line to their resume
  2. They can collect an email address
  3. They can make a dollar online

Pursuing any combination of the three areas above will help creatives pave a path to a vibrant career.

Today, I want to talk about how launching a new initiative can help you add a line to your resume.

Leading a new initiative can be, and is some of, the most fulfilling and rewarding work you can do.

The problem is that I think a lot of creatives are led to believe that they should only launch their idea if the end goal is a large-scale organization. While this is one path, I often encourage creatives to consider the impact of creating smaller, short-term projects as stepping stones to larger projects down the line.

Leading a small project allows you to be nimble, iterative, and you get to build something completely new.

Small projects also enable you to add the experience of taking something from start to finish on your resume.

Before I begin any project I make a plan for the outcomes I would like to have in my community and on my resume. Here is an example of how a small project with high impact might look on my resume:

  • Held a benefit concert to raise awareness about people experiencing homelessness in Downtown Los Angeles. Partnered with the Downtown Women’s Shelter, secured musicians, and hosted an event that brought an audience of over 200 and successfully raised $5,000 for the shelter.

This (fictional) performance was limited by time and scope, but it is something that created great value to the community I hoped to serve.

It is also something you would be able to speak about deeply in an interview.

Imagine having six or seven small projects on your resume and how that would help open doors for you when you apply to different positions down the road.

I encourage you to pursue a small project today to have a positive impact on the world and add a line to your resume.

Three tips to help you maximize your impact

I have found that the best way to maximize your impact with a short-term project is to partner with a larger, already-established organization doing work in the area you hope to serve. Here are three things to consider as you brainstorm about the type of high-impact project you would like to pursue:

Show Up — In order to successfully launch your idea, you have to be willing to physically and mentally show up in a place and commit to serving a cause that is way bigger than you and your art. There are a multitude of areas in which to get involved, your job is to pick one (only one) cause and dive in.

Tip: Before you commit to launching an idea, take a bit of time to explore the different service organizations that inspire you. There are likely local, regional, national, and international organizations that serve each cause so you want to figure out what feels right. It’s also important to note that many organizations do similar work within each service sector so once you figure out the specific cause in which you’d like to engage for your project (serving individuals experiencing homelessness, serving our veterans, etc). Take a second step and identify five organizations doing similar work and get to know them as well. You may be surprised by the subtle differences each organization has to offer. Doing your homework and learning about how these various organizations work enables you to better prepare for a potential partnership for your project.

Listen — During the exploratory phase of your work, you have one job. Listen. Listen to the various service providers who passionately lead their organizations, listen to those individuals being served by the organization, and read up/research the organizations.

Tip: When you find the right fit for the project you would like to pursue, come up with a plan that is time-bound and achievable, given the resources you have. Remember, starting small is ok!

Commit — The most important thing to remember when it comes to launching a project is that when you make a commitment, you keep it. Organizations often suffer from Volunteer Fatigue. Put simply, they are reticent to having volunteers come with project ideas because they come and go so quickly, which makes it difficult for organizations to rely on individuals wishing to give their time.

Tip: When you make the decision to launch a project, make a personal commitment in writing of how much you intend to serve. I like to say something like “I’d like to work on this project for three hours a week for the next three months until the event I’m planning concludes, and wrap up the entire experience by the end of month four.” Giving a specific timeline and commitment amount allows you and the service provider to think about how to engage in the work.

What short-term project will you launch in the next three months? Share your idea in the comment section below.

Photo Credit: João Ferrão

More Stuff From Me!

→ Enroll in Extending Techniquesa course designed for performing artists who want or need help developing non-performance skills needed for a career in the arts. Note: For a limited time, we are offering half off our beta version of this course. When you register, enter the code ExtendingTechBeta to activate the savings.

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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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