I have a "dream job" here in Indiana as a photographer for a nonprofit group. I get to do all kinds of photography, from portraits to events to working on collections of photographs and historical documents. My coworkers are great, the facilities are excellent, and the pay's not bad.
Here is the problem: my partner, an artist, is having trouble finding a job after working in state government for 20 years. The local city council recently voted down a ban on anti-LGBT discrimination. The state legislature endorsed an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. Should we be thinking about other places, such as the East Coast or Canada?
Leaving my job may be one of the hardest things I ever do, but I have to think about the rest of our lives. I'm 40, he's 51. What do you think?
Many thanks,Frustrated Hoosier
Let's begin by being realistic about living and working anywhere, including the East Coast and Canada. Everywhere has its pluses and minuses. Unfortunately, despite many advances, homophobia and anti-LGBT discrimination are alive and well in the world. I could tell you to hold on to your "dream job" and put up with the problems of calling Indiana home--but I won't. You see, it's a matter of toxicity. Toxic people, whether they are bosses, coworkers, or politicians, and toxic environments, whether they are workplaces, neighborhoods, or states, are counterproductive to our mental health, well-being, and ultimate creative career self-expression. Toxicity eventually permeates our being and often affects our existence, leading to stress, anxiety, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness.
It sounds like both you and your partner had a good run careerwise up to this point in the Heartland. However, I want you to recognize that the basis of your career frustration is that both of you have grown and are no longer in an Indiana state of mind. This is a positive and healthy thing, and therefore I would suggest the next steps in your career progression be a change of scenery. What would have become of Columbus if he had hung around Madrid during the time of the Spanish inquisition? He would not have discovered the New World. Become a discoverer, extend yourself, venture out, and find your own brave new world.
You (the photographer) and your partner (the artist) both need to discover and live in a place that will nurture you, inclusive of your creative and artistic talents. Go inside yourselves for a moment and try that feeling on for size--doesn't it feel good? Now, I don't say you won't find homophobes and anti-LGBT discrimination on both U.S. coasts and up in Canada. However, we're trying to work with what we have, and I know for myself that the free will to create my unhindered creative space is paramount to my ability for clarity of mind.
Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Where do you want to do it? These are the questions to focus on and consider. Don't focus on the toxic politics of Indiana--it's bigger than you and your partner. Focus on your optimum career success and happiness. At the same time, surround yourself as best you can with those people and things that better your life and enhance your career.
According to my dear friend Blandon Belushin, a well-known and highly accomplished New York City-based photographer, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are the top three U.S. hotbeds for photographers. He does say that the right connections are needed to obtain the best-paying work in commercial photography, which is where the really big money is to be found. There is a relatively high percentage of professional photographers in the LGBT community in these major cities, and with a little bit of strategic networking one could crack the safe and enter the vault.
Three practical suggestions if you and your partner decide to make the transition:
- Feel the fear, and do it anyway. Read the book of the same title by Susan Jeffers. She explains dynamic techniques for turning fear, indecision, and anger into power, action, and love. It is one of my favorite books of all time, and I highly recommend it to all my clients.
- Don't hesitate to investigate alternative places to live and work. Start using your vacation time to visit places that intrigue you (i.e., New York, Chicago, Los Angeles). While visiting these places put yourself in the bigger picture of living and working there, and see what shows up for you. Rely on your gut feelings--they should lead you in the right direction.
- Begin networking now. Start reaching out to those loving and nurturing individuals in your life, especially those professional connections, for helpful leads and beneficial inroads. We are all joined--not separated--by six degrees of connection.
- Pack up the Brownie camera, find your way to Interstate 80, and blow a kiss bye-bye!
While attending college my dorm roommate (also a computer science major) and I made a lot of money hiring ourselves out as helpful computer geeks. We focused on small information technology jobs that the average person finds frustrating and that is difficult to find assistance for. We primarily focused on upgrades, installations, troubleshooting, and tutoring to the tune of a nice niche market.
Our services and cash flow so impressed the parents of one of our customers that on graduating last month they were willing to bankroll a startup venture for us. My partner and I are seriously considering this offer, at least for a year or two, in order to see where we can take the concept while using someone else's money. We also like the idea of being our own bosses and creating our own workplace environment. We really get along great, work well with one another, and respect each other's sexual orientation. We've discussed and weighed the alternatives, and we can't come up with any better career situation for the two of us at this point in our lives.
Your thoughts on the business concept and funding opportunity, please.
Thanks,Computer Geek...No, Nerd
Rent-a-geek computer assistance services for home, school, office, and small business is the best thing to come along since Al Gore invented the Internet.
As long as you and your business partner can handle the initial pressures of a startup business, I see no reason why this idea shouldn't spell success. This type of service is reinventing the word "cottage industry" by way of its success rate. Who hasn't needed assistance with an upgrade or installation, and help with troubleshooting or tutoring? We all have. I ask you to multiply that figure by clocked fees--you'll come up with some nice numbers.
Sounds like you have two winning programs ready to install on this model. One, you already have an established client base from your college days. Two, you have some working capital to keep initial business costs in check for a while. See if the investors would be willing to extend a business loan with a competitive interest rate instead of taking them on as silent partners. You and your partner may not want their input on business matters every step of the way, especially if things take off. As silent partners they will have the right be part of the ultimate decisions affecting the business. If they are not interested in extending a business loan, seek out a business line of credit to handle the shortfall. You may even be eligible for a small business loan from the government (see https://www.sba.gov/ for free help).
I only see a win-win situation for you and your business partner. If things don't work out the way you want, you can always jump to a corporate job. Having tried your hand at your own business will make you an interesting candidate and uniquely position you with potential employers. A venture like this shows the attractive attributes of limitlessness and boundlessness.