Ask Yourself These 3 Questions Before Making Your Next Career Decision

As artists, we have a lot on our plates. We’re often pursuing multiple projects while trying to maintain healthy family relationships and self-care practices. Sometimes those obligations overlap, and we’re faced with some difficult decisions. Like do we audition for our dream role or take a stable gig? Do we attend a close friend’s wedding or perform for millions of people? In my experience, big moments like these always seem to happen all at once. Like they say, when it rains, it pours, right?  When those challenging choices come flooding in, ask yourself these three questions to help you make a decision.


Will this push my career forward?

This is the first question I ask myself when offered a gig or opportunity. Note that “pushing my career forward” doesn’t always mean putting something cool on my resume. It might mean experience. Maybe you’ve never been on set before, and you have the opportunity to be an extra. The pay isn’t great, and you probably don’t want to be an extra for the rest of your life, but it gives you hands-on experience in being on camera, taking direction, and understanding how film crews work. Or it might look like a new connection. You could do a gig for next to nothing, but you prove your worth, and the choreographer (or even another dancer!) hires you for something bigger in the future.

How will this affect me financially?

We all  dance because we love it, but at the end of the day, we still need to pay rent and put food on the table.    Sometimes we feel like we have to take those $100 gigs because the fridge is empty, the gas bill is almost due, and some money is better than no money. In a perfect world, we would all turn down those insulting rates. If you are somewhat stable, I urge you to know your worth, and demand rates equitable to that worth.

But no matter the rate, all gigs have financial repercussions because time is money. For every hour in rehearsal, you could be working a day job, creating content, enhancing your brand, or training. Consider whether or not the project’s rate is worth that time. If it’s worth it, consider how you can use the surplus money to advance your career. Could you put it toward training, getting the perfect headshot, or starting a travel fund for experiences that will inform your movement?  Remember that having a fancy new car is not going to get you the next job, but hours of training and one good audition outfit might.

Will this bring me health and happiness?

Dance can give us unimaginable joy, but it can also bring with it a lot of physical and emotional stress. Dancers have to be prepared for little sleep, sore muscles, mental fatigue, possible injuries, and a constant juggling of obligations. If a gig is so stressful that it causes harm to your mental health, it’s not worth it. If one is so physically stressful that it could induce a career hindering injury, that’s not worth it either. Period. And never let the “starving artist” thing actually become a thing. Malnutrition and emotional stress can end a career as fast as anything else.

Thankfully, most projects are great.  Even my toughest jobs have brought me many happy moments! You get to meet to new people and overcome new challenges all while doing what you love!

Putting it into action:

These three questions can lead different people in different direction. I have a friend who had to choose between performing once with a legendary icon or going on tour for months with a pop star. Each opportunity would push his career forward in a different way. The tour would make him more money, but the icon would bring him more happiness. Many of his friends advised him to perform with the icon because it would be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream as well as the focal point of his resume. But for him, the money won out. No matter the artist or the duration, he needed to be able to come home to a paid-for apartment with working lights. He picked stability. In the same situation, many others would have chosen differently, but neither choice is wrong.

Over time, your answers to these questions may change, and one question may become more important to you than another. In any case, they will always guide you toward the decision that is best for you.

Note: This post was contributed by ATL dancer, Kalyn Hardman.  Click here to learn more about her.

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