Between meeting wonderful and inspiring people at Live Your Legend LOCAL events and Desire Map Book Club sessions, between organizing my violin lessons and committing to end the PhD in 9 months, my thoughts keep returning to Amanda Palmer’s commencement address “Fraud Police”. There, she says that because the world outside the college has no structure, many of us creatives are haunted by the feelings that we don’t know what we are doing, and many of us fear that one day someone will discover that we are faking it, and the Fraud Police will knock on our door… Which also reminds me of the saying, “fake it until you make it”… Am I faking it, and will I ever make it? And what do I actually mean by “making it”, regarding this creative side of mine?
Last week, I decided to clarify what is it that I really want for the post-PhD phase of my life. What am I exactly searching for? I requested the help with it at the Career Services Center on campus, and a couple of days ago I had my appointment there.
The counselor asked me to bring a CV for the appointment, and I decided – why not? – to use the knowledge I got in September from a soft skill training “Career and Leadership” and put in all the things I has been deeply engaged in and could be interested in doing “as a job”, provide the evidence of my experiences and accomplishments. It felt a bit weird to write the creative activites in the formal CV style, but I did it. I thought, it will help him to get overview on what I’ve done so far, and assist in making an informed decision about how to help me.
[If you would like to see what I’ve done in the creative field in the past couple of years, take a look at the focused one-page shortened version based on the draft I brought with me to the session]
But then… Basically, he ignored it. He looked through the first-level titles (which were: Music, Photography, Writing, Leadership, Software Development), and told me that one does not need a CV for creative things. That these sections take way too much space, and the CV is too long (well, that was not an application-ready CV, that was a draft for the overview!!!). He said there is no place you can apply to be, for example, a writer: you either write a book or not…
I don’t think that is completely true for all the creative professions. I mean, sure, you either do what you said you can or you don’t, you either deliver or you don’t. The format of recruitment might differ from the standard corporate one, but it will still be there in some form, e.g. as a casting for a role. And, I think, even that for most of the positions the physical evidence will be of the most importance, there still could be some paper which would say what the person did before, how they did it, and why the hiring side thinks that they would do the job now. (To be honest, I actually have absolutely no idea about how that all functions)
Following with “no need of a CV for a creative type”, he advised me to put the focus of the CV on the education and work experience in software engineering and shorten my passions to one sentence each in the “Interests and hobbies” section. Additionally, he expressed the opinion that if I apply to a corporate software development job, I should forget two names and must be [insert my passport name], because presenting alter-egos in a CV would be too weird even for such weirdos as Google… My core said NO, I DON’T WANT THAT! I AM Lik. I am a CREATIVE. I AM a musician, a photographer and a writer. Telling anyone – even if “just in the CV” – that my main thing is software engineering and all these things are my “hobbies on the side” will be straightaway lie!!!
Am I faking it?
Altogether, the session left me an overall impression that the counselor was answering the question “I would like to work at Google, how can you help me?” (which I never asked), while completely missing my actual request, “I would like to ask for your help with clarifying my career objectives”, only dropping one or two relevant phrases in the course of the discussion.
When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin. It works not because it settles the question for you. But because in that brief moment when the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you are hoping for.
I went on laughing, because that had been what my disappointment about the session was all about: the session simply confirmed to me that I don’t want a full-time corporate software development job. My growth in the area has been so slow in the last 3.5 years, much slower than it could be if I did not hate the conditions so much… And, honestly, I am not willing to catch up by diving back in and putting a lot of extra time now to learn everything new that appeared there, plus everything I “should” have learned and be able to do by now but for some reason haven’t.
I want to go into creativity full-time. So I need to learn to deliver. In the full blossom.
At the same time, I am not sure that I will be able to do it full-time straight from the PhD and still be able to support myself. I will work on it throughout the year (intention: record a music album and put it out there!), but I still keep thinking about the backup plan with software engineering. However, after several bad experiences in the area I am pretty sure about the characteristics of the job that I don’t want to have anymore, so I would focus on finding the conditions in which I have a possibility to thrive, to contribute with my skills and talents (and not only struggle with my weaknesses over and over again). Approximately, my list of preferences looks the following way:
- A software developer job/paid internship closely related to the practical application.
- Start date: November 2014 – January 2015.
- Country: Germany or other country where the main language is English, German or French.
- Company type – no “must”, but probably preferring a smaller company with the less formal environment.
- Industry area: preferably, connected to road/rail transport (both operations and manufacturing of vehicles), music, photography or multimedia.
- A team-developed project (several developers, close collaboration between team members).
- Formal software development process with important attention to the software architecture and the object-oriented design.
- An opportunity for learning software quality assurance hands-on (maybe even test-driven development).
- Presenting and supporting learning and development of other software engineering skills.
- Preferably, a part-time position with the flexible working schedule (even with fixed number of working hours per week).
And that decribes well enough a direction I might be interested in exploring after the PhD. In the perfect case, it would also have a hugely resonating WHY, i.e. the work will be done for a cause I believe in. Which starts, for example, from simply providing support systems for punctual operation of the public transport, and goes somewhere in the direction of helping people to come alive, regain control to live their lives and be happy :)
Have you ever faced a fork in the career path? What have you done about it? What was your biggest takeaway from the experience of being on the crossroads? Please share your voice in the comments!