Career Advice: part 1

About once a month or so I get an email from someone asking for career advice and as time allows I write the best, most honest reply I can…. But having done that now for the tenth time i figured I would write a blog post on the subject so that in future I will just go: “Sure, read this post….” so here goes, but please bear in mind these are all my opinions, question them & find your own conclusions. (I’ll also aim to update this post so feel free to contribute to it) One thing is sure, every person working in the film industry got there via a different means..

Firstly, there is no easy answer, but there are a lot of questions and the first question is, do you want a job or are we talking about a vocation? If you just want a job then I am not the right person to be asking. I personally believe that every sentient person has a vocation hidden in them that is there to be discovered. So what is a vocation? Lets ask dictionary.com

vo·ca·tion [voh-key-shuhn] –noun
1. a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
2. a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
3. a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.
4. a function or station in life to which one is called by God

I’ll leave religion out of this discussion for now, although it isn’t entirely unrelated, but that last word in definition 1 is the key: a vocation is a calling. The few times I have been in hospital I have been so appreciative of the work that doctors, nurses and medical staff in general do and many times I have also thought to myself: wow these are jobs I could not do! Why? Because it is not my calling and I know it, but I so appreciate the fantastic people for whom caring for others is their calling.

So do you really want to do THIS for a living? (regardless of what THIS is, exactly)
If you arent sure, maybe ask yourself the same question in one weeks time. Then ask it of yourself in a months time. Then in six months time. Is THIS calling permanent for you or is it a whim? A momentary “hmmm that looks like fun…”

Another litmus test for a vocation is this: Would you do it regardless of being paid or not? We all need to eat & pay the rent but is the financial reward what drives your wish to do THIS for a living, or is it a passion that transcends financial reward? Someone a long time ago said to me: If you can turn one of your hobbies into a career then you will always be happy. Why? For the same reason, its a test – do you love it so much that you would do it without being paid? ie does the primary reward stem from simply doing IT.

When you are young, and anything is possible, being specific is less of an issue. You have plenty of time to go up a few wrong alleys, and sometimes the only way to know if you will enjoy something or not is to try it, and it can still be valuable to find out that what you thought was the solution isn’t. This happens often with work, discovering what doesnt work provides a valuable clue as to what might work and such knowledge over the years adds up to wisdom & refines your instincts.

Ok so lets get specific, what is IT, that you really want to do? Tell me/yourself in five words or less. Sometimes young people say “But I will do anything!!” Unfortunately what that says to me is that you do not know what IT is. There are only so many hours in the day and when someone says that I think & often end up thinking: “hmmm well perhaps you should go away and do some more research?” See, when someone considers taking on a trainee, an intern or an employee they know it is a two-way road. A business must invest a certain amount of training to get a new member to contribute to the work being done. The last thing anyone wants to hear, after say investing six months training a new dialogue assistant is that the person has changed their mind & now wants to be a composer. It may not be clear to you EXACTLY what it is you want to do, but if that is the case then there is plenty of research you can do to help clarify that situation. In fact THAT should be considered your job, until such time as you work out what your vocation is.

Research? What research?
There has never been a time when research has been so easy and accessible. Read books. Watch documentarys on the subject. Read industry magazines. Ask people. Ask Google. Learn how to use Google Advanced Search. Ask Google more specific questions. Save relevant websites as PDFs for later reference. Learn to use your public (free) library – when I was young I couldn’t afford to buy many books, but I did learn how to interloan any book from anywhere and a month is long enough to read most books & photocopy what you need to retain…. Find out what equipment is relevant to what you want to do and start learning about it ie software and hardware… again most user manuals are available as PDFs..

Ok, so you are starting to narrow IT down. As you learn more about what is involved in the various roles, you become able to ask more intelligent questions when you meet someone who actually does one of those roles for a living. This is good and may well have a direct bearing on you finding yourself in the role you are aiming for. I remember when I was looking for work experience (not job hunting, I’ll get to that) one thing I did was research the work that each person I approached had done. Nowadays, with IMDB, thats a fairly easy task but back then it required me hunting through old issues of trade magazines & reading lots of credit lists. Maybe the slower process made me appreciate its value more but as with any information, its what you do with it that matters. Ok, so now you have a list of the projects the person has worked on, now go watch & listen to a bunch of them. How many? As many as you can. But the point isn’t to say you have seen/heard everything someone has done, the point is to be able to learn from them, to be able to ask intelligent questions as to how they approached that project, or even better specific moments or elements of that project. Make notes you can refer back to. Doing this research works positively in two ways: Firstly you are learning & thinking about what it is that person contributed (& maybe you have it all wrong! best to find out) and secondly, if the person has an ego they may well be flattered you bothered to find out about them & their work. Regardless they will appreciate that you are learning & seriously thinking about what it is you want to do, relative to them. This sends an important message.

Next: Roles & Personality, Training, Work Experience, Job Hunting, a Career and a rant about Art….

9 Responses to Career Advice: part 1

  1. miltlee says:

    Hi Tim,
    just found your site – through the Linkedin thing. Very good to find you and read your stuff. I’ve been a mixer for good long time – I also am a producer, and my stuff is at http://hollowbonefilms.com

    Gotta run today, but I love to read about equipment, and what others are doing. Perhaps we could do an interview at some point.

    later,
    Milt Lee

  2. Jose says:

    Hi tim,

    I am just reading this post, and i am wondering if you continued the subject.

    Best Regards

    Jose Miguel

  3. Nick Dymond says:

    Thanks for a great article. I find myself at exactly this juncture, knowing that I need to be working in sound but trying to figure out where I want to be and just how to get there. There’s so many various applications and seemingly always a surplus of people eager to fill them.

    On the subject of vocations, I was reminded of the book The Craftsmen by Richard Sennett, which studies both the history and cultural standing of craftspeople as well as the practical accumulation of skills. It also talks briefly about finding happiness through application, which is I think essentially what this all comes back to. (sorry for the advert – I’m not affiliated, just thought you might be interested)

    Thanks again for writing this piece – I found it at just the right time :)

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  6. Tim this is great. I’ve being recording for 7 years now and haven’t doubted my choice once after I’ve started. I love doing this and that’s my passion and work. If you’d like to check out some of my little samples, you can do it here.

    http://soundcloud.com/kirill-belousov-recordist

    Cheers and respect.

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