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Don’t Get a Job…Make a Job

Don’t Get a Job…Make a Job

Based and Inspired by the Book Authored by Gem Barton

Written by Ashley Hutchinson

I took the liberty of reading Gem Barton’s book, detailing how to make it as a creative graduate. Though primarily targeted towards design and architecture disciplines, I found the book to be an extremely interesting and comforting read as someone trying to make it as a young professional: anyone can benefit from some advice on mindset, risk taking, and self-branding.


Last night, some friends of mine were discussing our uncertain futures. After the 2008 financial crisis, landing a job immediately after graduating college is far less guaranteed. Especially for those in the Arts. As a Photographer/Designer, a Musician, and a Writer, the three of us concluded that there is more required of this generation of millennial. The uncertainty led me to look to the bookshelves for answers. This book, Don’t Get a Job Make a Job, spoke to me within two pages: Gem’s assertion that ‘gone are the days of graduating and “getting a job,” and welcome is the age of “making a life,”’ was one that halted me.


Woah there. A life? One thing at a time. What about starting with an income?


But he has a point: turning in after a 9-5 job and forgetting about work is a life that I know I will not be able to retain. Few people actually do that anymore. Work is life. Work is not just a way of making money, but a way of feeling a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This brings one’s quality of life up considerably. However, building a career can pose a lot of intimidating challenges: when there is a new rubric, how do you determine success?


There is a freedom to it as well. A flexibility in making an interesting and colorful life that doesn’t rely solely on financial success, but rather the ability to create a sense of “self.” Barton makes it clear that his book is not a self help book, but rather a source of inspiration for young individuals hoping to invent themselves, and to live life with intention; and that can mean so many different things to different people.


For instance, I work in a restaurant. It has nothing to do with Writing. Clearly, it hasn’t inhibited it, but it’s not exactly helping my writing career along…Or is it?


Barton’s book takes a look at various artists who have made a name for themselves by going in their own directions, bravely marching to their own beats, and creating their careers themselves. All of these different entrepreneurs had vastly different things to say about making your own success. Not only demonstrating that there are so many different paths one can take, but also showing that there is not one definition of success. Fabrice Le Nezet, a designer and maker, believes that “the ideal job is one that does not quite suit you 100 percent. Indeed, I would say ideas often come from frustration. I get loads of new project ideas when I’m stuck on some really boring job.”


This statement rang true to me, and even excited me. Though my restaurant job isn’t actively pushing me into the world of writing, my path is my own, and I personally believe that my misadventures and experiences in the “real world” contribute to my inspiration. My daily interactions with different types of people, and the overall mundane qualities of my hostessing gig catapult me into thoughts of my next big project. I even keep a notebook with me at my hostess stand, just to jot down ideas while I’m working.


I decided to start this blog one day while I was working a brunch shift.


Being a young professional isn’t about having an amazing degree or getting the perfect job. It’s about being constantly hungry for more. It’s about vision. Being able to see yourself happy and fulfilled and charging fearlessly in that direction.


Another featured artist in Barton’s book is a creative collective from Australia, the Glue Society. They created a horror sketch comedy show picked up by a network in Australia and eventually bought and released by Sony. The best piece of advice they ever received was to “work out who you are and express that.” However easy this may sound, the group concedes its difficulty, stating; “being yourself sounds easy, but in reality you have to work at it.” Too often today young people are distracted by what is expected of them, and too preoccupied to understand the fundamentals of living a happy existence: learning yourself.


In the end though, my favorite piece of advice gleaned from this book is the idea of “projecting multiple futures,” by Jimenez Lai, a thought exercise in which you revisit your personal past and construct five, six, even seven different futures based on the decisions we have made to get to this moment. Lai believes there to be tremendous comfort in reminding ourselves that alternate timelines exist, and I 100% agree with him. No matter what decision you make, whether it leads to happiness or regret, “a future on the other side of that fork in the road happened.” Your hopes and dreams exist in that other world out there, and with each new decision, a new fork in the road appears. Every choice is an opportunity to make this life the one you want.


I was rather inspired by Barton’s book. Using the examples of other creative individuals’ success and path, ultimately upholds the statement that there is no one way to make a life. That’s what makes it interesting. We’re all different, and our lives and careers should be too. This may seem more challenging, and oh it is, but you’ll be better for it. I believe that I am better for it. Learn yourself, what makes you happy, and build your world and your life around it.