Today, I watched a Ms. Carol Cohen speak on “relaunchers” at a Ted Talks Conference. (see link). “Relaunchers” are people joining the workforce, after years of being away – for various reasons that she enumerated in her talk. Similarly, I am acquainted with friends or applicants to our studio who are considering photography as a career, perhaps after years of working as something else; as well as photographers who are reinventing themselves by moving from one genre to another.
Let me see if I can echo her points or add some tips to help those who find themselves at such career crossroads, and especially those who are in -or moving into – photography.
1. Do a self-analysis. Take an inventory of your knowledge and skills, and check where you may have fallen behind. You may need to re-invest in yourself by doing self-study or attending seminars, workshops, or even going back to school to make yourself more up-to-date and better qualified in the field that you are entering or re-entering. Do also a matching of what you’ve got with what you want to get into.
2. Announce your plans and dreams. You have a whole network of friends, who may be able to connect you with someone who might consider taking you in. You may want to keep announcing your intentions on Facebook and other social media, or blog about it. I remember that when my daughter, Sacha, was graduating with a Masters in Computer Science (Human-Computer Interaction) from the University of Toronto, she blogged about her ideal job and her qualifications for such a job on her personal blog site, as well as on other sites, including IBM’s, where she was working as a research assistant. That blog led her to being hired by IBM Toronto.
3. Aim your arrows at your targets. Do a little (or a lot) of homework and identify the companies that you feel or think you would like to join. Do your research on these companies. Do their culture, thrust and policies match what you are looking for? Find someone who knows them and get a referral or recommendation. Even if you didn’t know anyone who knew someone from the companies that you are targeting, do send your resume with an application letter that enumerates your strengths and possible contributions to those particular companies. Do not just follow a template to mass-produce your application letters. Make an effort to connect with the people you are writing to by giving them information about yourself sure that they would find useful and relevant. Indicate your intentions in a cover letter. I’ve received resumes without accompanying cover or application letters, and those go straight to the wastebasket. Some application letters (or the part of resumes that indicate an applicant’s objectives) are so badly cut- or copied-and-pasted that obviously, they were not written with us in mind. They also go straight to the trash bin.
4. Be humble. If you have been away from the workforce for many years, or if you are entering a new field after years in another, you may need to start at the bottom again, or at least, to slide down a few, or quite a few, notches from where you left off. Ms. Cohen spoke of internship programs for “relaunchers,” and of many success stories involving those who didn’t mind re-starting as interns. If that is the only way for you to get in or get back into your new career path, then be humble enough to accept an internship or apprenticeship position. This may include accepting a job at a much lower salary or fewer perks. Don’t worry – if you are really good, your new bosses will recognize your contributions to the company, and move you up by promoting you. You will certainly need to work much harder to climb up, than those who have been there and never left. Be nice and helpful to those whom you may be overtaking, as there is no need to antagonize anyone. If you are truly deserving, your officemates – as well as your boss – will know and acknowledge that.
5. Persevere. Be prepared for disappointments, but keep going. There may be a lot of reservations in the job market place about taking in someone who is older for an entry-level or junior position, but rewards await those who don’t give up easily. Just make sure when you do get your foot in, that you can make yourself valuable to your new company. If being an intern or apprentice is the only way to break into your new career in photography, then just do it!