Sunday, March 16, 2008

Prepare for Your Big Break

In interviews celebrities often refer to some incident, a "big break", that resulted in their getting on the fast track to achievement in their field of choice. Many times the story is told as some form of rescue drama -- the scout, the agent, the producer, the editor -- who spotted their insufficiently polished talent and got their professional lives in motion.

It's a good idea to prepare for that big break of your own. Just remember, you may be 65 years old when it arrives. You need to keep productively busy in the meantime. The valued experience called life is not what happens to you during your sojourn on this planet; the real grit is what you do, the way you react to what happens to you.

I started my first post-MBA job as an assistant to an account executive in the international area of a very large bank (this was after sending out 50 resumes!) However, I disliked intensely, much to my surprise, the rhyme and rhythm of corporate banking. In my process of learning more about the local economy, I ran across an ad for a writing job, one that paid double what I was earning at the bank. Even though I had no professional writing experience or writing courses in college, I got the job; it changed my life. Many years later something similar happened that got me teaching at ECU. I interviewed a professor in the process of writing an article I hoped to sell. At the end of the interview, I got a job offer; it changed my life.

Many, if not most of you, are not exactly sure of what you want to do with your work lives. That's normal. Probably, you do want work that is interesting, somehow fulfilling and allows you financial stability.

Prepare for what you THINK you want to do. On your own. College courses prepare you only imperfectly and inadequately. If you want to write for a living, read and write. Reading trains your subconscious mind for good writing. If you want to pursue writing Southern stories, read Flannery O'Connor. Just pick one of her short stories and read it until you have absorbed it. Reread it from time to time. If you prefer a different writing field, find a top author and read one of his works.

Prepare for your big break by taking action. Whatever you think you want to do, start doing it. Write. Read. Make movies. Take photographs. Paint. Start interviewing. Collect personal stories. Get together with like-minded people. You won't know if you really like something until you do it. In the process, opportunities surface -- otherwise known as "big breaks".