----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: Crisis of Confidence

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Crisis of Confidence

What do you call a life crisis that happens in between mid-life (ages 45--50) and quarter-life (ages 24--25)? The third-life crisis? The 30-year panic? Whatever it might be called, I am having one.

The problem is that I am 30 years old (31 next month, if you want to get all depressing about it) and I have no idea what to do about my (non-existent) career. When I got my master's degree in journalism, I was all optimistic about my future. I thought that by the time I was 30, I would have the skills and experience I needed to start my own magazine. Oh, the folly of youth. For my first job, I worked a start-up trade magazine that never quite got started, so I was transferred to another, even more boring title. I then decided that maybe PR was where I wanted to be, so I got a job at a well-known entertainment PR company, where I lasted all of five days. Started on a Monday, quit on a Friday. It had something to do with the $11,000 pay cut I'd taken, as well as being asked to fetch the boss's lunch. I don't make a good underling, which is a real problem when you're trying to launch a career. And that's why, seven years later, I am still spinning my wheels.

I've had a few full-time jobs, but I am much happier when I'm able to set my own schedule and work for myself. Suddenly, however, I am faced with the need to earn a steady income, and my past career choices are coming back to haunt me. My resume shows no stability, and employers question why I would want to work for them full-time. I would question that, too, and the answer is, honestly, that I don't really, aside from my need to earn a paycheck. I am overqualified for administrative assistant jobs, underqualified for the better-paying jobs in my field, and completely lacking in skills for any other career. I had a brief flirtation with a career in real estate, but that ended when I realized I had no sales ability whatsoever. Well, no, actually. I am still making myself insane by trying to sell real estate and rent houses to people, but I work 12 hours a day, and I make no money. So it's probably time to try a different approach.

Here's a list of what I'm good at: writing; copy editing; being organized. It's not a very long list. Ideally, I'd be able to freelance as a copywriter and a copy editor and earn enough money, but I am not good at going after clients. Most of my previous clients all came from word of mouth, and I am unsure how to establish myself in my new hometown. Do I just write to publications and companies in my area and offer my services? That's what the books say to do, but I can't believe that's all there is to it. I have applied to numerous freelance gigs through Craigslist, but all of those people seem to want someone they can pay $6 an hour. I like to write, but I don't like it enough to do it for less than minimum wage.

The real blow came when an assistant job that I had lined up and was supposed to start in a week and a half suddenly fell through. I was supposed to work as a marketing assistant/girl Friday for a local real estate broker, but he called yesterday to say that he hadn't closed an escrow in four months and so could no longer afford to hire me. If that's not a sign that the real estate market is imploding, I don't know what is.

Now what? Do I just take any job? Do I suck it up and ask a temp agency to find me a $12 an hour secretarial position? Do I apply for the assistant editor job that pays $30,000 a year, even though that's far less than I made right after school? Do I train for a new career? Do I chuck it all and head back to the safety of academia, i.e., law school?

I don't know. I wish I were more like Mr. Pink. He had a desire to be a graphic designer, he went back to school and got a BFA, and then he used his design skills and his people skills to create a niche for himself. I have no niche, and I'm starting to believe that I have no people skills, since I've been working with all these potential renters lately, and not one of them wants to rent from me.

I am wallowing a bit, I admit. I need to pull myself up and figure out a solution. But at this point, I am so beaten down, and I feel like such a failure, that I don't even know where to begin. I was good at getting good grades in school, and now I'm afraid that I'll never be very good at anything else. I am tutoring two high-school students for the SAT, and I enjoy that, but the $90 a week I'm currently making from that gig isn't going to pay the bills. So now what? I'm open to suggestions.


  • At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was in a similar situation as you: Good writer, journalism degree, detail oriented, etc. I was tired of working for no-name magazines and making crap money, but I didn't know what else to do other than editorial. Somehow, I wound up on the marketing side of magazines -- using the same exact skills, but making nearly twice the money as a marketing manager. I had no idea it could be so creative! Look into marketing, which marries your abilities and you desire to make a little cash!

  • At 11:37 AM, Anonymous Jen said…

    Wow, your post could've been written by me! I feel the exact same way about my career as you. I've worked in business affairs (high tech, now entertainment) for several years now but feel like I haven't gained a specific "skill set" and am stuck somewhere in the middle. I'm too overqualified to be an assistant in another field (and can't handle the pay cut) but don't have enough transferable writing experience at the moment. I've always been a huge nerd about spelling, grammar & proofing other people's work and only recently it popped into my head that I might enjoy copyediting and copywriting. (I saw your blog link on Mediabistro's forum section by the way). Anyway, just wanted to say how much I relate to your struggle (also I am in LA and live on the Westside myself). I don't usually comment on people's blogs I don't know, but this post really struck a chord with me. Best of luck with the job search- I look forward to reading how it all works out for you.


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