Pursuing creative careers: How to achieve your dream job as a child of immigrants
By Abisha Sooriyathas
Posted on September 9, 2021
Children of immigrants often dream of becoming artists and dancers, writers and filmmakers. The world is expansive and limitless—until you grow up and buy into the false idea that your dreams are hopeless pursuits.
For 1.5 generation or second generation Canadians, these creative pursuits are replaced with a trifecta of careers that many of us know too well: Doctor, lawyer, engineer. Immigrant parents often tell their children their passions are unrealistic and profitless. As a result, those children grow up and find themselves burning out as they work toward jobs that they’re not even sure they want.
However, according to Indeed, creative careers can lead to happiness and success, as well as enhanced job satisfaction, better work-life balance, and greater personal reward found through work. These positive results, along with the potential to make money doing what you love, should encourage individuals to pursue their passions.
But what if my parents don’t support me?
Life is not often linear, and it can be scary embarking on a journey that your family may not completely support. For many of you, it can be hard to understand why your parents push you toward these practical, high-paying jobs.
An article by the Guardian explains that non-white immigrants often fear that their children will face discrimination in their careers. By encouraging their children to pursue “high-status” careers, immigrant parents might feel as though they are protecting their children from discrimination. Ability in science, for example, is based on test scores, while creative ability is largely based on opinion—opinions that may be influenced by racial or cultural biases. In addition, immigrant parents might place pressure on their kids in the hopes that it will allow them to achieve the prestige that often feels exclusively available to their white Canadian counterparts.
Nevertheless, being on the receiving end of this pressure is not easy. Luckily, a study by the School for International Training shows that although immigrant parents do not always understand the notion of putting passion and personal interest before financial stability, they are still able to respect their children as individuals regardless. This shows that following your heart can attract respect and recognition from your family in the long term. Let this knowledge empower you to make life and career decisions on your own behalf.
Although you may not be receiving the full extent of support that you desire from your parents, it is very possible for you to build a career that you are passionate about. Outlined below are three tips that can encourage you to move past the stigma of pursuing an unconventional or creative career.
Define your goals (and your WHY)
The first step is to figure out what you want to do, and more importantly, why you want to do it. In a TedTalk by Simon Sinek, he explains that the most inspiring, successful people and organizations in the world all share one thing in common—knowing their “why.” This is not as simple as, “I want this job because I want to make money doing what I love.” It is diving deep and discovering your purpose and your cause and then using this to have your work connect to others.
For example, Apple doesn’t simply tell their customers that they make nice computers. They tell their customers that they create beautifully designed, user-friendly computers. Why? Because they believe in challenging the status quo. People can connect with and respond to this message. As Sinek states in the TedTalk, people don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.
As with any career, challenges and roadblocks will arise as you move toward your creative career, especially given that there can be a limited amount of job opportunities depending on your chosen industry. These challenges can be discouraging and make you feel that others are right to say that your career choice is hopeless. However, holding on to your why—the reason it is so important to you to build this career—will help carry you through any hardships that you might face. It is important to remember that there is so much room for growth in creative careers, but it is impossible to reach this growth if you don’t take a chance on yourself.
Do your research. Find out what other first or second generation immigrants with your dream career have done to get where they are. Learn about people like Michael Ondaatje, a famous Sri Lankan Canadian author whose novel, The English Patient, was adapted into a film that won nine Academy Awards. Learn about Domee Shi, a Chinese Canadian storyboard artist and director who was the first woman ever to create a Pixar animated short titled Bao.
Listen to podcasts or interviews with your favourite creative people. Magic Lessons by author and journalist, Elizabeth Gilbert, aims to help aspiring artists overcome their fears and create more joyfully. Get empowered by the brilliance that others have to share.
While you do this, remember to hone your craft. If you want to pursue a career in which you’ll be drawing, draw. Writing? Write. Dancing? Dance. Action leads to motivation and inspiration. Clarity comes from doing, not thinking.
One of the major benefits of pursuing a creative career is that gaining experience does not have to be done in a professional environment. With the internet at your hands, practicing your craft—whether that’s fashion, filmmaking, or anything in between—can be done in your own time. Dedicating time each day to get inspired and work on your craft will allow you to develop the skills necessary to work in the field that you are passionate about.
Many individuals feel pressure to find success—and even define success—through the amount of money that they make. This pressure can often be elevated in newcomers. Many immigrants are in pursuit of a better life than the one they left behind and hope to achieve this through the elusive “American (or Canadian) dream.”
However, you do not have to buy into the belief that success is defined by the money that you make. Redefine what success means to you. It could mean the ability to connect with people through your work, or the feeling of alignment that you experience each day as you work on your craft. Ensure that your definition of success is one that motivates you. Success does not have to mean immediately making money within the first year of your career journey. It can, instead, mean being patient with yourself as you work hard toward the career that you know you will obtain in the future.
It is easy to feel discouraged when pursuing an unconventional career, but it is possible to move past these fears and doubts by taking confident steps toward your goal and knowing that your worth cannot be reduced to a dollar sign. Pursuing your creative passion can result in a career with just as much, if not more, job satisfaction as more conventional careers. It is important that all young people are encouraged to not only plan appropriately for their future careers, but to also listen to and follow their hearts.