I have a lot of clients who should wear a name tag that says Closet Creative. That would be the only way you’d know they have many creative talents that are waiting to burst out.
These folks have taken their musical, artistic, or literary interests and shoved them into a closet, especially as it applies to their careers.
Many professionals stop spending time on creative endeavors or at least relegate such pursuits to vacation time. By doing this, they can make their daily lives tiring and unfulfilling.
Previously, I wrote about a couple of clients in the post, The Arts and Your Career. Both of the clients I wrote about are closet creatives.
This post was originally published in June of 2016. It was updated in February of 2020.
Let me give you a couple of new examples.
Several years ago I worked with Larry. For 20 years, Larry was employed by a major television network. Everyone told him he had the coolest job in the world since he worked on sports sponsorship deals. This was big stuff!
He drank the Kool-Aid and believed everything people told him he had a dream job—well, not really…
He didn’t actually particularly enjoy sports. The sponsors were a pain to work with. He worked really long hours, traveled a good deal, and was away from his family much of the time. The reality is that it was a horrible job that paid really well.
Then came the cutbacks, and he was out on the street. He knew he could go to work for another major network…GAG! The television advertising and sponsorship world was changing, and not for the better. He did not know what to do next.
After we worked through his Career Pivot evaluation—which is built on the Birkman assessment—we diagnosed him as a closet creative. Over the years, he had taken all of his creative interests, packaged them up neatly, and stored them away. He had become an actor and played that role for over 20 years.
In my post Are You Your Authentic Self or an Actor at Work? I discuss how many of us become actors early in our careers. We play roles and we often get really good at playing those roles. The problem is that when we hit our 50s, staying in character becomes exhausting.
Larry had become a very process-oriented project manager and he was good at it. Now in his late 40s, playing this role was exhausting but it paid the bills.
Making a Pivot to Digital Media
After spending 20 years listening to others rather than to himself, Larry chose to career pivot. He has been working contract positions in the digital marketing world. His creative spark is being lit and he is figuring out what he wants to do versus what others want him to do.
First, he pivoted into the world of digital marketing by managing other creatives within a niche agency. He got to manage photo and video shoots, which happily fulfills his creative side. Unfortunately, the agency was sold and shut down.
Pivot into High Tech Marketing
He has since been hired by a software company as a contractor to manage a variety of marketing activities, including trade show collateral, website redesign, and branding. His creative side is in full view. He is no longer a closet creative.
The interesting part is Larry would have never been hired as a full-time employee as he has no industry expertise. Instead, he was hired as a contractor and should be brought on as a full-time employee in the next couple of months.
Larry may be making half the money he used to, but he is much happier. He has the flexibility that he so craves. The pay will improve over time, but will never be what he used to make. Still, he is coming out of his creative closet.
For More: 4 Ways to Date to Get a Job
Nancy graduated from college with degrees in Journalism and Political Science in the 1980s. She then spent the next few years wandering around until she landed in the world of environmental engineering. Opportunities appeared that allowed her to work with engineers on a variety of environmental permitting projects. She was detailed oriented and became skilled at her work.
Did she choose to be there? No, it just happened. She then worked in the industry for over 20 years.
What was the problem?
It did not feed her soul. She had become a closet creative. She shut off the creative side to garner a paycheck.
When she came to me, we diagnosed her as being a closet creative. I told her to start taking art classes. She asked me what kind. I said just randomly start taking classes in painting, drawing, jewelry making, or just about anything else that caught her fancy.
The good thing was that she really enjoyed these creative outlets.
The bad thing was that she hated her job more than ever.
Transition into a Business Development/Marketing Role
First Nancy transitioned into a business development and marketing role within her company. This allowed her to develop skills and gain the experience she would need to make a much large next step.
She then was hired by a large multi-national mining equipment company to work in a marketing role. She now gets to manage a variety of projects related to the company’s presence at trade shows. Nancy has authored numerous blog posts and white papers for the companies website. Finally, she has been designing t-shirts that are given away to new and potential customers.
Her current job is now feeding her creative soul.
Environmental engineering is not an industry that attracts many creatives. Notice this was not a one-step process but a step by step—or pivot by pivot—to maintain her modest lifestyle and income.
Do either of these stories resonate with you?
Are you a closet creative? Are you ready to come out of the closet?