When it comes to the ranks of America’s unemployed, all you hear in the news is the negative stuff. Our numbers are growing, we’re all gonna be out of work for 6 months or more, and it’s looking like you essentially need a doctorate from Harvard to be hired as an administrative assistant these days. Or, the flipside: “I’m sorry to burst your bubble, Miss, but you’re scaring us with all this talk about growth potential. Overqualified. NEXT!!!”
Most of my friends know that I’m a marketing professional when I’m not playing with fire and rockin’ the rhinestone bras. I was working my way up that figurative ladder until this past April, when I lost my high-pressure job in advertising sales with Connecticut’s powerhouse classic rock radio station.
Until that point, my goal was to ease my foot off the pedal, dance only when I wanted to, and ultimately leave this wacky double life behind to pursue something bearing more resemblance to a “normal” adult life. I wanted to find myself in the creative department of an ad agency someday – and I know I’ll end up there sooner or later. ‘Til then, it seems the Universe has alternate plans.
Being out of work brought me back to the dance. Immediately after getting my walking papers, it was as if a black cloud of emotional and spiritual burnout had lifted. As I regained clarity, strength and focus, my interest in dancing piqued like never before. Those first couple of long, intense practice sessions were like having coffee with a very old friend: comforting, happy and good for the soul.
With a little encouragement from my boyfriend Stacy, I finally gave myself the green light to do what I always secretly wanted: to take those first steps toward formalizing and marketing my dance business. I had been dancing professionally for 3 years, but always felt too preoccupied and burned out to buckle down and implement a marketing plan. I had lots of time on my hands, some money saved up (and borrowed the rest) – and hired some amazing talent to help me get the word out with a beautiful new website.
Business has been great and I’m not doing so bad for a rookie ;) Funny thing is, I’m finding myself more in demand for my ability to generate joy, beauty and culture than for my entry-level marketing skills.
At the end of the day, even though the conventional job search still remains fruitless and frustrating, I’m getting the last laugh because I know I’ve done more in my state of unemployment than many of today’s most conventionally qualified job seekers might have done in their 9-5 lives. I’ve secured TV and print appearances. I execute multi-platform Web 2.0 marketing campaigns on a daily basis. I’ve branded myself from the bottom up, through images, strategic content, PR and social media, with next to zero outside assistance. I’ve been sought out by a national trade publication. I hone my practice and my training to ensure a top-notch product for my customers. And I’m building my own base of very, very satisfied customers. I’ve done this all with minimal coaching. Does this not make me the multi-talented self-starter most companies are searching for? Maybe someday, it will finally be acceptable to mention the “B-D” word in job interviews. ‘Til then, nothing could be more empowering than knowing that your talents matter somewhere – even if you, your friends and your dance clients might be your only cheering squad until the job market greens up again.
America is a great country because it was founded on an eclectic melding of entepreneurial ideals. Small business start-up rates are at an all-time high. Perhaps, our priorities have shifted. Many of us feel a greater reward in executing against our own talents than in waiting for some higher authority to grant us permission to do so. I do think that the upside to this ginormous economic mess is that America’s original grit, talent and charisma will shine through again. After all, some of the greatest enterprises were born during recessions: Hyatt, Burger King, HP, Microsoft, Trader Joe’s, CNN, Sports Illustrated, the Muppets, the iPod.
Though I have no ambition to ever become a full-time dancer (I don’t envy my friends who have made this decision!), I do believe that my “involuntary sabbatical” happened at just the right time. I will be a stronger dancer and a better marketing professional for the experience I’ve gained during my absence from the 9-5 realm. Someday, I’ll find just the right day job and keep dancing for extra cash and for fun. ‘Til then, and forever, I believe in great ideas, the entepreneurial spirit, crazy dreams, and that healthy dose of insanity to make it all happen.