Ten Steps to a Personal Strategy Statement

Yesterday, I wrote about the steps I was compelled to take in my career to develop a better work/life balance for myself. The post contained big picture thoughts on how to make change in your life and career. Today’s post provides 10 steps to help you develop your own personal strategy statement:

  1. Sit with a friend and come up with a list of the top 10 aspects of your career and life that are most important to you. For example, my family is really important to me, as is my work empowering individuals to find success so both would be on my top 10. It’s really important to have another person do this with you as they will often hear different values than you think you’re conveying. Goal: Ten career and life goals. No more, no less.
  2. Identify 5 individuals that are 5 years ahead of you who you admire in your professional field. Document their careers based on your ten goals. Goal: To compare and contrast things that are of value to you. 
  3. Take your ten career and life values and assign each of them a number between 0-10, depending on their importance. You may not assign a number more than 10 to any value and you only have 50 points to assign in total. Goal: To make important decisions about the next steps in your career, knowing that you can’t do everything. 
  4. Determine if your strategy will be intrinsic or extrinsic. Look at your top goals and see if they are more intrinsic (IE personal growth) or extrinsic (IE more performances).
  5. Set a date in the future in which you would like to accomplish these new goals. I like three years in the future for a strategic plan.
  6. Identify your objective which is a defined element of success that can be bench marked, singular and precise. A singular goal. Looking at your established values, which top value will enable you to make the most strides in your strategy over the next several years?
  7. Next determine your scope for the work. My guess is that your scope will fall into one of the following three areas:
    1.  How will you improve upon on a personal level? (IE work/life balance)
    2. How will you improve upon on a career path level? (IE getting better gigs)
    3. How will you improve on a financial level? (IE higher paying gigs)
  8. The final step to setting a personal strategy statement is to determine the individualized path you will take to address your scope and objective. This should be unique and personal to you. 
  9. Combine your the elements of steps 6, 7, and 8 to come up with your personal strategy statement. Here’s a hypothetical statement structure for a person who wants to find more work life balance:
    1. Objective: To find 10 extra hours a week for my family within three years. (notice that this is a singular objective and time bound)
    2. Scope: An intrinsic approach that will help me have a better work/life balance.
    3. Individualized Path: Setting a strict weekly calendar and saying no to the bottom 20% of gigs that pay the least.
  10. Compose your strategy statement. For example:  By 2021 Nate Zeisler will work a maximum of 30 hours a week so he can spend more time with his family by setting a strict weekly calendar and saying no to the bottom 20% of gigs that pay the least and focusing on an intrinsic approach to his career that will help him have a better work/life balance.

Did you find this helpful? Please share your personal strategy statement with us in the comment section below.

Photo Credit: Stephan Erchwender

Career Strategy for Artists

In 2010, I had the dream.  My wife and I owned a house and had recently welcomed our first child into the world. In addition, my work life was great. I had a tenure track position teaching bassoon at Bowling Green State University where I worked with a full studio of lovely students, I was performing regularly in two regional orchestras and my work as an instructor within the entrepreneurship program at the institution allowed me to create new career pathways for students from across the campus.

Everything was perfect.

Except it wasn’t.

I was completely burnt out, tired from being stretched too thin, and not bringing my best to my work or my art. I knew I needed a change but was honestly lost because it was difficult for me to imagine leaving a career that so many people in my field were striving to achieve.

My work/life balance was way out of sync, which meant that I wasn’t able to be present for my family, nor was I able to bring my best at work.  Something needed to change so I worked to transition into a new position at Colburn where I continue to work.

If this resonates with you, here are some suggestions that may help you as you work to transition into something new.

  1. MOST IMPORTANT: You are the only person who can dictate the path you will take–One of the things that made my decision to change jobs so difficult is that I was comparing my career to others in the field and using their successes to determine my path. Tip: ONLY YOU can determine your path. If you are not happy in your current position, search for the answer internally. 
  2. Establish what is driving your desire for a change—As I mentioned above, the intensity of a tenure track position, combined with my creative work made it impossible for me to find the right work/life balance. I remember performing in a chamber music concert that was scheduled six months prior the performance and feeling miserable because the performance happened to take place two days after I ran a major conference. Most people probably didn’t notice that my level of artistry wasn’t at its best, but I did. Right then and there, I knew that I needed to make a change. Tip: Work/Life Balance, the necessity to make more money, and the need to have more artistically satisfying work are the top three reasons individuals come to me seeking advice for their career. Prioritize which of these three areas are driving you to make a change and focus your attention on what steps you will take carve out a new path.
  3. Know your desired work load mix—At the time, my goal was to have an even 50/50 split between my work as an artist and my work as an arts administrator. In some ways, that worked but my family suffered deeply because I was working all hours of the night to keep up. Tip: Consider 100% of your time in a week and divide your current work/life load up across the areas below. When you finish, do the same exercise but divide up you load according to what you would like your time to look like. Here are the cagegories: 
    1. Artistic Work
    2. Teaching
    3. Work beyond your direct art (IE, desk job, running a festival, designing a product, etc.)
    4. Life (IE, family, friends, hobbies, time for you)
  4. Know your desired income level—How much would you like to be making at the other end of the process? Tip: Come up with a number and write it down so you have a goal to shoot for. 

How does this resonate with you and what challenges have you faced when making a major change in your career? Let me know in the comment section below.


(Photo Credit: GotCredit.com)

Thoughts on how to serve your community.

As I mentioned in my previous post, serving your community can be some of the most rewarding work we can do as artists. Here are some thoughts about ways you can roll up your sleeves and serve your community.

What to do……..

  • If you want to serve but don’t have the time — This is the biggest reason people don’t serve a cause they care about. Here are three quick suggestions to help you carve out time to get involved:
    1. Incorporate work that you’re already doing into an initiative. For example, if you perform in a chamber music series, consider donating all proceeds for a specific performance to a local charity.
    2. Block off time in your calendar to serve — Instead of thinking about your service as an ongoing thing, commit to two weeks a year of intensive work for an organization, let them know your intent to serve, and show up. The trick is to schedule it ahead of time and keep the time sacred.
    3. Consider other types of service to an organization — The clearest substitution to giving of your time is giving of your money. Donating to an organization can create a huge impact on the cause because, in doing so, you raise awareness about the organization. A donation at ANY level helps and is money most causes/non-profits don’t expect. Don’t be shy about giving.
  • If you want to launch a service based program in your community — For those of you seeking to launch your own service based program/organization for a cause in your community, thank you! You are about to, and in may cases already are, providing an incredible service to your community. Three bits of advice:
    1. Start Small — Whatever cause you endeavor to serve, make certain you start small. Many service organizations start out of one person’s passion to make the world a better place. That same person often ends up doing the work of 3-5 people in the early years. If you over stretch yourself by developing programs that are too big for you to run, you will burn out and not be able to achieve the change that drove you to do the work in the first place.
    2. Be Flexible — Because you are engaging with a community that is likely not your own, your original idea to help will likely need to change over the first months and years of your program. If you are open to that change, you’ll have a much bigger shot at success in the long run.
    3. Look for partners — One of the biggest things I see overlooked when someone launches a new initiative is that they fail to identify partners that are doing similar work.  Don’t feel like you need to do this work on your own and take the time to see if you can possibly connect with another service provider before you launch your own initiative. When answering the call to serve, it’s about the cause, not about the individual.

I hope these suggestions help and please share your thoughts about how to launch a successful arts service organization below.


Using Your Art To Answer The Call To Serve Your Community

As artists, we often feel a calling to serve the community in which we live. Showing up to serve can be, and is some of, the most fulfilling and rewarding work we can do. This can be incredibly difficult as we balance family/friends, work, and the constant pursuit of perfection in our art.

For the past fifteen years, I have been passionately working with individuals and organizations to help them identify a strategy to serve their community. Here are three rules of engagement to help you as you consider how to serve your community:

  1. Show Up — In order to serve, 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. 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 helping an organization or a cause, take several months 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 (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 in the subtle differences each organization has to offer. 
  2. 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: This is not about you, this is about how you fit on a personal/philosophical level with a specific cause. 
  3. Stay — The most important thing to remember when it comes to serving a community/cause is that when you make a commitment, you keep it. Organizations often suffer from Volunteer Fatigue. Put simply, they are reticent to having volunteers 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 serve, make an additional commitment in writing of how much you intend to serve. I like to say something like “I’d like to serve this cause for three hours a week for the next three months and reevaluate the relationship.” Giving a specific timeline and commitment amount allows you and the service provider to think about how to engage in the work. 

What are you doing in your community today that might help my audience think about ways to engage with their own community? Let me know in the comment section below. Tomorrow I’ll discuss ways you can engage when you are limited by time.


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)