When I was younger, I had dreams of being a famous artist. I knew that making it in the art world was a long shot, but when you’re a kid you really believe you can do anything. So I went to art school, got a degree, and actually landed a job working in graphic design. I’m working for a nonprofit agency and the position just doesn’t pay the bills. I’ve been struggling to make ends meet in this position for about two years now. The only thing that’s kept me there is the potential to move into a higher-paying position that may come open in a few months. But that’s not guaranteed.
Now I’m almost 30, and I’m getting fed up with being poor. I have a friend who works for a large corporation and makes twice my salary. She’s informed me of an open position at her company that pays way more than I make now but would involve me doing menial labor, like answering phones and organizing papers. Not at all what I went to college for.
I’m seriously considering applying for that position, because I want to make enough money to pay off my school and credit card debt. And I’d like to be able to travel and go out to eat with friends. If I give up my art job for a corporate position, does that make me a sell-out? Should I stick with it and see if the better position becomes available at my current job?
— The Starving Artist
When I was in high school, I wanted to a beatnik poet just like Allen Ginsberg. Or at least a novelist like Jack Kerouac. I always said I didn’t care if I was a starving artist so long as I was passionate about my work.
But in college, reality kicked in and I realized that I would need a real job if I wanted to keep the lights on. So I majored in journalism because I figured that was the only career where I could still write fun stuff and receive a paycheck for doing it. I’ve always known that I’d have to pursue that novelist career on the side, and I’m sort of doing that now, although the novel has morphed into a cookbook.
All that is to say you don’t have to give up your dreams of becoming a successful artist if you decide to go for the sell-out corporate job. The possible position at the nonprofit organization doesn’t sound guaranteed, and the corporate position might not be around very long. That being the case, I’d advise you to pursue it while you can.
The plus side to selling out? Working in an environment that has nothing to do with your art will likely prevent burnout. When you arrive home from work each day, you’ll probably be ready to get creative. And maybe you could start making the art that you want to create rather than the art you were required to make in your graphic design position.
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