Career Conundrum

10 Jul

Hi there,

I have a question that the Grit Doctor may be able to help me with! I’ve already sorted out one area of my life thanks to her, i.e. my fitness. I went from no exercise at all bar walking to and from the station to running 5 times a week in the last year. So thank you, GD!

My question is about something else entirely, i.e. career.

I’m 35 and live in Ireland where I work as a P.A./office manager. This has pretty much been my career since 2006 (before that I worked in advertising for 3 years but ultimately decided it wasn’t for me). The P.A./office manager jobs have tended to come with good, not brilliant pay and a lot of responsibility, but at least some of them (I’ve had 4 in total in this area) have been interesting and engaging. But – they don’t come with any room for promotion, because I tend to be at the top of the “admin tree” in any organisation, with nowhere to aim for in terms of other positions. My past bosses have had nothing but good things to say, but because of the lack of prospects I always end up moving on after a couple of years.

Six years ago I did a two-day screenwriting course and really caught the bug. Since then, I’ve written/and or produced 3 short films, written 6 feature scripts (as yet unsold), won awards for my scripts and even spent 3 months in L.A. last year to see if I liked it and/or could get an agent. I found that I did like it, but that getting an agent (especially one who would sponsor a visa) would mean getting a lot more experience first. I’m back home now writing a TV pilot and working (yet another) senior admin role.

However, here’s the thing. While I love screenwriting and both it and watching/talking about films are my main hobbies, it’s not paying the bills. It could be YEARS before I make enough money from it to support myself, and I’ve made peace with that.

But in the meantime, I’m 35 and behind most of my friends in terms of a. career building and b. meeting a guy and c. having a family. I do want the last two things in particular very much. Part of me also loves living in Ireland and would hate to leave it to pursue this career. Another part of me hates having to spend 45 hours a week in a day job that has (genuinely) no prospects, even if it does mean I can go home and write in the evenings. I haven’t really concentrated on the non-film job side of things at all, because it wasn’t something I was passionate about.

But if it really is going to be years before the scripts start making some money, and if I’m going to be working in the meantime to support myself, I’m now starting to wonder if this is really good enough. I If shouldn’t be aiming higher and give a more “normal” career a chance, look for something I can really get my teeth into.

I’m asking for advice mainly because my friends and family are too close to this issue and all have their opinions (many of which I’ve heard before).

Thanks a million in advance,

Anon

A: Firstly, can I just say you come across as an incredibly #gystful human being and are doing an awful lot in terms of developing your screenwriting whilst holding down a stressful full time job too so I applaud all your efforts and so should you.

I wonder if there is a third way for you that might kill several birds with one stone. Given that your PA roles have a short shelf life, when this one comes to its natural end (or sooner), why not set yourself up as a freelance administrator/PA to several people in a part-time capacity from home? That way you can create a lifestyle around your PA duties more suitable to creative pursuits. For example, you may find your most productive ‘creative’ hours are in the morning and can use that time for screenwriting and later in the day for your paid PA pursuits when your creative juices are spent! My best friend was a PA in London, now a mother of two who looks after two clients’ admin/PA stuff in London from her home in Hampshire so it can be done!

At 35 you need to get cracking if you want to settle down and have kids so I would make this a priority alongside your writing endeavours. I am going to attach a blog piece I wrote about this fyi. You sound like an inspiring clever talented woman and I feel sure you will meet a gorgeous guy but you have to put yourself out there to create opportunities for love to find you.

The Grit Doctor says:
Keep me posted on all fronts.

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