Before I was the ED of AWT, before I worked part-time here running operations, and before I was a board member, I had a neat little career in marketing, working primarily for early and mid-stage startups. My entire career had been in advertising or marketing, and I enjoyed the work…for a while. As I was about to discover AWT as a participant in 2014, I was finding myself getting bored with my jobs quickly, and my tenure at each position was getting shorter and shorter. Around this time, it was not unusual for me to find myself moving on to another job after only a year and change. In 2015, I made a significant decision about my life and decided to freelance. It wasn’t drastic in that I was still working for clients who were the exact kind of companies I was working for full time, but I got to choose the interesting problems to solve and then walk away when I was done.
There is of course more to my story, but I want to home in on a specific phenomenon I’ve heard so many times among our participants. It usually starts with a post that leads with “big news!” and contains an announcement that someone quit a job or is planning a career change all together, often crediting AWT with giving them the confidence to follow their heart, as well as a new lens through which to view themselves and the world around them.
What exactly happens at rehearsals that leads people to quit their jobs? What should I do if I’m feeling an itch to make a change? If one of my employees participates in AfterWork Theater, should I be worried?
Let’s take these questions one at a time.
What exactly happens at rehearsals that leads people to quit their jobs?
The answer is two-fold. First, we let people be themselves. We do our best to see each person the way they wish to be seen, and purposely try to contradict whatever box the outside world has put them in. And when the light is shined on them, they can shine a light on whatever situation they are in that is making them feel unseen, less than, othered, or simply unfulfilled. And if work or a career path is doing that, then they become aware. That’s step one.
The second part is, they make friends. And I really mean true blue, ride or die ADULT friends who have their back, provide cover when they fumble, and truly listens before reacting. Both on stage and off. Finding your people gives confidence. And confidence is truly needed when you find yourself down the wrong career path, even if it’s the one that’s been enabling a roof over your head, food in your belly and clothes on your back. And especially if it’s not “bad” per se, just not for you.
What should I do if I’m feeling an itch to make a change?
Well, as they say, if you have an itch go scratch it. In my world, that means – talk to some people. With our community comes a vast breadth of knowledge about a lot of different industries and career paths, so it could be a great start to make inquiries among your newfound group of friends. You might eventually decide to stay put but ask for some changes within your current situation. Even a small tweak to your 9 to 5 can result in much greater happiness.
If one of my employees participates in AfterWork Theater, should I be worried?
Well, no, for many reasons. If you provide a great place to work that sees its employees as humans and values transparency, diversity, equity, and personal development, then no, why would you worry? And if someone decides it’s not a great fit to work there even if you do provide all those things, isn’t it a great thing for everyone to go their separate ways?
It’s hard not to have a very personal attachment to work, but hopefully when you find an extra-curricular that you love and people who bring you joy, it’s easier to improve or detach from the things that don’t bring you the kind of personal fulfillment you are looking for.
What about you, did AWT kill your career? Drop us a note and tell us about it. Maybe we’ll feature you in a future blog post!