My first job out of art school was a website for an engineering firm in Ohio. I worked on contract, in-house for a summer. A hundred people that do math all day… …and me.
In my free time I painted monsters. The engineers golfed and renovated their own homes.
There were fun-ish things about that job but, for me, it was not a dream-come-true.
Five years later I got my first job at Disney. I worked on contract, in-house for a summer and into the fall. A hundred people that tell stories all day… …and me.
I’ve spent the last four years here, mostly. It’s been amazing. …and none of this would have happened if I hadn’t asked for it.
THE ENGINEER’S ADVICE:
On my last day at the engineering firm, I left work early because I had an interview at a local print shop. My supervisor, who had become my close friend and mentor, said this:
“My best advice: Ask for the job.”
I thought about how my request for the job was implicit. I had submitted a resume and cover letter and was about to go in for an interview. A more direct request seemed, at best, redundant and at worst, uncontrollably awkward.
He went on: “A guy came in last week to interview for the [do math all day] position and on his way out, he turned around and just asked for the job. He said he liked this place and respected us and he really wanted to work here. He was very sincere. We were impressed with that. We’re probably going to hire him.”
Not fully understanding, I took his advice and “asked for the job” at the print shop.
I did NOT get the job at the print shop.
WHEN I GOT MY FIRST JOB AT DISNEY:
To date, my only paid creative work had been my graduate stipend and the occasional nickel-and-dime freelance illustration gig. Any assignment from Disney was a step in the right direction.
I painted two characters and then the movie got shut down. The Pixar merger extinguished all direct-to-video sequels and my Disney dream came to a premature end.
(Yes. It was another controversial, direct-to-video sequel but to be fair, it would have been a pretty good, controversial, direct-to-video sequel.)
I got paid (well), thanked them profusely and let some time pass while the merger-dust settled. A couple months later I sent a follow-up email asking for more work.
I asked for the job.
The Pixar merger had become an all-studio-overhaul, so they still weren’t hiring. But they said they loved my work and would keep me in mind for future freelance opportunities.
One year after that they called me and asked me to do visual development on Tinker Bell.
And as I already said, I’m still here and it’s a dream-come-true. You get it. So where am I going with all this?
POLITE AND PASSIVE:
Remember the job at the print shop? The job I didn’t get?
Well, it wasn’t a job at a print shop. I don’t actually remember what sort of job it was. I just added the print shop detail so you would remember when I brought it up later… …which is now.
I don’t remember what the job was because, deep down inside, I didn’t care. And because I didn’t care, I did not engage. I was polite and passive.
Sure, there were probably a lot of reasons why I didn’t get the “print shop” job but my passivity certainly didn’t help.
DON’T JUST ASK, ENGAGE:
Did I get the job at Disney just because I asked for it? Of course not. Although I’m sad that some people seem to think it’s that easy.
I lost my way in art school and tried for two years to become a freelance editorial illustrator.
But I eventually had to re-engage my dream of working in animation. I don’t have time to tell you the whole story but it involves a tremendous amount of hard work, patience, failed solutions and wastes of time. Then came the freelance gig on the movie that got Pixarated followed by another year of radio silence then, finally, the Tink job.
Just asking for the job is not enough. We have to engage and stay engaged by taking bold action to renew and realize our dreams.
“Asking for the job” is an external manifestation of the passion we have for what we do and what we can do for the company at which we are interviewing.
The guy who impressed my supervisor at the engineering firm asked for the job because he was actively engaged and had been engaged long enough to learn that he really liked and respected the firm. He didn’t come across as phony because he was sincere and passionate.
FOCUS ON PROGRESS:
This isn’t just a story for students or the otherwise inexperienced. This is also a story for the industry vets who are phoning it in because they’re bored with their jobs or the sorta-successful freelancers who dream of making art for themselves.
Whatever your dream is, it’s probably not going to come true if you just passively wait for it to arrive or if you just sit around and complain all day.
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with the distance or the obstacles between you and your dream. Just focus on making progress. Any kind of progress is still progress.
Engage your dream with sincerity, passion and take the next action right now.
Ask for the job.
COMMENT AND SHARE:
What is the ONE NEXT ACTION you can take to engage or re-engage your dream?
Share that next action in the comments below.