Baby Boomers are looking ahead and some are saying goodbye to the daily grind and making a career change deciding to pursue a creative career. For some, that may be a job as a writer, others it’s creating art like painting, some boomers want to be on the stage, still others are set on making new things.
Astrid Baumgardner, a Yale professor and the author of the upcoming book Creative Success Now: How Creatives Can Thrive in the 21st Century was one of those people who shifted to a creative role at the age of 48. She said goodbye to the security and prestige of a partnership in an international law firm and embarked on a quest for a creative career. “Music was my passion,” Baumgardner said, “but I never would have predicted that I would be an author, on the faculty of Yale University and coaching and teaching career entrepreneurship to world-class musicians, arts leaders and business executives seeking a more fulfilling, purposeful life.”
Like many boomers with a creative passion, Baumgardner felt compelled to choose the safe career path of the law, letting her creative side languish as she climbed the ladder of success and achievement. “I discovered that you can turn your creative passion into a career. I am blessed to be teaching and coaching others on how to do exactly that,” she said.
David Harms, at 58, left his old career behind. He had studied acting in college but did nothing with it. He returned to his passion for the theater and decided to try writing a play surprised it never felt like real work. He discovered that writing put him in a flow state and was a lot of fun. Today, he is a playwright who has had two plays produced in New York and is working on several more.
Baumgardner offered her top tips to help turn your creative passion into a fulfilling new career:
1. Embrace your creativity
Many boomers are embracing their creativity after achieving success in their “smart” careers: because creativity feels good! Research shows that people who engage in creative activities experience positive emotions. Moreover, creativity correlates with many indicators of happiness, including sense of purpose, flow and resilience. Tapping into your creative passion can inspire you to take that journey towards a creative career. That is particularly important so that you can own your creative side after years of doing the “right” thing.
2. Give yourself permission to explore
Be sure to think broadly as you tap into and explore your creative side. Creativity is at the heart of many fields spanning not just the arts but also design, education, entertainment, science, engineering, technology, and architecture. Moreover, creativity can take many forms, from originating new ideas and inventing new art forms to making new connections and developing innovative solutions to challenging problems.
3. Conduct Life Experiments
Exploring a new side of yourself requires both the right mindset and a commitment to taking action. You need to go out in the world and try out your creative side. Start small and try things out.
Baumgardner noted that while she was practicing law, she volunteered at a number of arts organizations and discovered that she loved working with others to make big dreams come true. After leaving the law firm, she chaired an orchestra board, became a partner in a start-up management consulting firm for the arts, took classes at the Juilliard School Evening Division, got a certification as a life and career coach and then discovered her calling: to teach and coach arts leaders and musicians on career success.
Amy Gewirtz, 63, always loved the theater before embarking on a legal career. However, her passion for the theater never waned. After a successful career in entertainment law, she decided to explore different alternatives in the theatrical world. Intrigued by the idea of becoming a producer, she took a class to test out her interest. It was so appealing that she took a few more classes and enrolled in an advanced program in commercial theatrical production, which reinforced that idea that she was on the right path. Today, Amy is involved in both non-profit and commercial theater as an investor and co-producer, including a musical that is hopefully heading to Broadway next year.
4. Learn from your experiments
Your creative experiments are not only fun and enriching but they are also important learning experiences. Keep an open mind and be honest about what you like and what you do not enjoy. Observe what you are good at. It’s all helpful information to hone in on the areas that you want to develop. Take notes, keep a journal or otherwise keep tabs on your process.
Moreover, be willing to take risks and make mistakes. Research shows that successful people don’t ride on their talent or intelligence alone but use their talent and intelligence as the starting points for their learning curve.
5. Leverage your prior experience
If you are determined to make a career out of your creative passion, be sure to leverage your prior experience. Frederic Rich, a lawyer turned author, discovered that the same skills that made him a successful lawyer— discipline and high standards of excellence— translated into his creative career.
So if you are itching to incorporate creativity into your life at this stage, try out some of these strategies—and enjoy the process of discovering a whole new side of yourself.
Some additional options for your life experiments include:
· Take a class
Develop and explore your creative passion in a writing class, sign up for a class at a local college or find an art studio. Or dip into one of the free on-line classes from Coursera.
· Tap into your Networks
Over the years, you have undoubtedly met a lot of people so tap into your networks and find the people who are doing something that fascinates you.
· Go on an informational interview
Set up meetings with someone working in an area of interest to you. You can learn from an insider about the realities of working in your desired profession and what it takes to build a career path. You will also learn what isn’t for you.
· Do a project in an area that fascinates you
· Start a blog
· Volunteer at a non-profit whose mission appeals to you
· Join a community chorus or orchestra, or find another vehicle for music performance.
· Shadow a friend in the studio
These strategies are a great way to get, and keep, your juices flowing now that you have decided to honor your creative side.