Book Review: Career Solutions for Creative People

Career Solutions for Creative People: How To Balance Artistic Goals with Career Security” is authored by Dr. Ronda Ormont. I read this book because the tension of creativity vs. security is one of the most common dilemmas in career decision-making. While the book is older (2001), I still found it valuable because this topic is timeless. Dr. Ormont offers some terrific perspective and suggestions.

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Dr. Ormont says that the single most common reason creative people fail to flourish or succeed is that they cannot figure out how to find the time and freedom necessary to pursue their art while also making a sufficiently stable and rewarding living. Dr. Ormont describes the frequent situation of imbalance between the creative imperative and the need for career security in everyday living. She gives as examples two types of imbalance: (1) Honoring the creative commitment but in a way that endangers practical necessities such as food, shelter, and sufficient money for health insurance and retirement savings, and (2) A career path that is so tipped on the scale toward financial security and responsibility that creative gifts wither and die.

Dr. Ormont acknowledges the reality that creative careers involve fierce competition, low compensation for the hours invested, subjective evaluation of competence, and exhausting challenges regarding sustainability. Her recommendation for balance involves both a creative commitment and a lifeline career. Lifeline careers empower creativity, which is in contrast to “survival jobs” that merely pay the bills or “driven careers” that require so much of you, there is nothing left for the creative life.

Lifeline work most often looks like one of these options:

(1) A salaried position unrelated to the creative path but with sufficient flexibility to allow time and energy for the creative path;

(2) A teaching position related to the creative path;

(3) Self-employment that is related or unrelated to the creative path but with flexility to allow the creative path.

The first part of the book offers worksheets and exercises to help readers identify stuck points and to overcome them, to evaluate values / skills / motivation / decision-making style, and to decide whether self-employment is a viable option. I really like the tables comparing an “employment mentality” with a “self-employment mentality” because choosing the best fit for yourself gives you a big boost toward work happiness. Some of the comparisons include need for predictability vs. tolerance for ambiguity, family need for a steady salary and benefits vs. life circumstances that allow risk, desire for frequent and varied interaction with colleagues / supervisors / mentors vs. tolerance of working alone a lot of the time, developmental point where skills need to be honed vs. strong existing skills in a field, preference for getting directives from others vs. ability to be internally motivated, and distaste for the business side of things vs. willingness to sell oneself and manage business details. Note that these are generalizations because not every salaried job is predictable and secure, but the checklist is worth using to identify one’s general preferences.

The second part of the book is dedicated to the practical process of pursuing employment or starting a business. There are chapters on resume writing, job search, and interviewing. There is also a section on restructuring a current job to better meet your overall needs in the context of work/life balance.

If you are worried that you have to choose between creativity and security, this reassuring book is for you. Check it out.

NOTE: After writing this review, I discovered that the author, Dr. Ronda Ormont, died unexpectedly at the age of 52, shortly before her book was published. She was a career counselor for 20+ years and a fabulous advocate for creative professionals. I am sad to discover that the world has lost her.

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