I have been working in the theater for years. The work isn’t steady, but it’s deeply satisfying. To supplement my theater passion, I work as a bank teller. Recently, my boss told me I was up for a promotion, which would be awesome. But within weeks of getting this news, I was offered a full-time, lucrative job at a theater out-of-state. The problem is, it only lasts three months and I’d have to quit my job at the bank. The theater job could be a real steppingstone for me, leading me to other good paying gigs. Then again, it might not.
I just don’t know what to do! Take a risk, leave the bank and pursue my passion? I’m pretty sure I could sublet my house. I live in a desirable area. Or should I stick with the bank? They’ve been good to me.
Theater Girl or Bank Teller
Dear Theater Girl/Bank Teller,
Reading your note, it sounds as if you’ve already made the decision to take the theater job. The proof is in the adjectives: “deeply satisfying, passion, steppingstone, good paying gigs…” all words that we hold sacred when it comes to working in a career we love.
Being passionate about a career is wonderful. At the same time, sounds like you’ve got a pragmatic side too. Fabulous. That’s a balance I urge you to maintain. Here’s why.
There are thousands of self-help blogs, books, and advice columns that tell you to follow your bliss, and voila, you will find joy and riches. On the surface, this strategy is encouraging. But underneath, there’s something slightly suspicious about suggesting that following your passion will be easy. In my experience, going for your passion is anything but easy in 2017.
Here are a few things to consider:
- How hard are you willing to work for a career in an industry with constant ups and downs? Going for your passion can mean battling self-doubt, fear, and anxiety. Do you have the chutzpah to keep going in the face of risky circumstances?
- Will your passion for theater ebb as you watch your bank account wither and slide to dangerously low levels? Sometimes when we place the pressure of all our earning on our “passion”, we can become resentful and uninterested in our work. I call this the money threshold…that place where you become depressed and self-deprecating if you aren’t earning at a certain level.
- Do you have the skills? Your chosen career is vastly competitive. Just because you want to be the next stage icon doesn’t mean you have the raw material to do so. Perhaps you do. Be honest: if you need more training to attain mastery, make sure you can afford it. Ask yourself the uncomfortable questions.
I’m not telling you whether or not to quit your bank job, or to play it safe and pass on a wonderful theater opportunity. I’m suggesting you consider whether your financial and personal assets, your innate theater skills, and your core beliefs support you taking the risk and feeling good about it.
And while you’re thinking about it, realize there may be a third path to consider. Given that your bank supervisor flagged you for a promotion, he may also be willing to entertain a leave of absence while you take advantage of the theater opportunity, and possibly, to secure another position at the bank if you return. Get creative and advocate for yourself.
Striking out on a dream, and making the necessary changes to go for it, is a complicated and unfolding process. You’ll have days, Theater Girl, when you dislike your boss, have conflicts with actors, and think about pitching the whole thing. Life is messy; sometimes work is messy too.
Is it worth taking the risk? Only you can answer that question.
My best wishes for success—either way!