Career transitions can occur when economic conditions change regardless of our skill set and the organisations competing for those skills. Transitioning from the career structure of being a core professional to only being able land portfolio career gigs can be a common trigger for career advice in Perth. The film La La Land provides a good example of these two career structures.It also captures the central dilemmas faced by people trying to realise a good life founded on the creative authenticity required to successfully create your own business. The film charts the relationship and career trajectory of musician Seb and actor Mia. It is set in Tinsel Town, and its two big industries — film and music — are offstage characters.
Every city has its own distinct culture, which we learn to live in whether we grow up there or move later in life. Similarly, every city has a unique ecology of employment that everyone has to navigate to create a successful career. Career advice in Perth, with its distinctive private sector ecology, can support unexpected career transitions that impact on your pathway to successfully achieving solopreneur goals within Perth’s limitations and opportunities.
Career advice on career structures
A sense of fulfillment in your career is usually achieved following one or more of the three ways to structure a career in an era when organisations hold nearly all the power in professional negotiations.
- The first is a career as a core professional in a traditional corporate or government style organisation. Although now and in the future, obtaining and retaining such a position will demand a huge effort it is still a widely held career goal.
- Secondly, people who started on the professional path can reinvent themselves as portfolio workers or freelancers.
- Then there are the group of people who will have few opportunities for ongoing full-time employment the longer they live. These are the people whose best option is to tighten their belts and seek fulfilment outside of the workplace – a common theme during the great corporate downsizing of the 1990’s.
At the beginning of La La Land the aspiring actress Mia is committed to becoming a core professional in the film industry. However, her reality is that after six years pursuing her acting ambitions in LA she is still working in a coffee shop and looking to fulfil her career goals outside of that work. Seb the jazz musician, is in a more complex career position. He is a freelancer and portfolio musician. Although this role is what he has come to after losing the stake he had created to start his own Jazz Club.
In my view, professionals running their own business have a career structure that is equivalent to core professionals. They have to make a huge effort to initiate and build their business. Depending on the competitiveness of their niche and how dynamic change is in their industry, they usually need to maintain high levels of professionalism to survive. In the early scenes of La La Land Seb still has the ambition to open his own club, he just hasn’t found a stepping stone to make progress with that career goal.
In her attempts to break into a core professional role Mia uses a variation of the jobseekers two primary calling cards – the resume and the interview. In her case, the interviews are auditions for roles in the film and TV industry. She has submitted a resume of her career which directors and producers appraise alongside her audition performance.
Seb, acting as a freelancer or portfolio career model was finding gigs using his network. Either people he had worked for before, or people who knew of his reputation as an outstanding musician with a wide range of styles
Local knowledge always matters
As an LA local, operating in a complimentary industry Seb had a good understanding of how the film and TV industry works. This is part of the reason why his career advice is to urge Mia to write and perform in her own show. He knows it can be a way to create the conditions she needs to break into the inner core of film and TV industry acting professionals. In the first instance by garnering a reputation to win enough work to be a legitimate jobbing actor – aka a portfolio or freelance career in the industry of her dreams.
Mia is from Boulder City and has very little understanding of the music industry. This helps her to urge Seb to take a role in a significant band. That role will pave the way for Seb to realise his dream. Like many specialist professionals who have reached a level or status within their field, Seb needed to polish his soft skills in order to relaunch his career trajectory towards opening his own club. His relationship with Mia was instrumental in allowing him to start paying his dues again in someone else’s band. The career structure of Seb’s role in Keith’s band is as a core professional, and is a transition from the portfolio pattern he had been following up until he joined the band.
Mia’s self-written and performed one woman show was astoundingly successful. However, it did not look or feel like that to Mia. She fled LA because measured against her criteria of success, it flopped big time. Seb knew the function of that performance was to create the reputation that could break into the sort of acting that will secure Mia career fulfilment. By that measure her one woman show was successful, and she was able to secure an audition in a role that was more in keeping with her strengths.
Fulfilment as a core professional
By the end of the film we are given to understand that Mia had converted her first big role into a career in the industry of her choice. In fact it appears she had become an inner core professional in the film industry. Seb had achieved his ambition and opened his own club. Both characters have realised their ambitions in the industry of their choice. The seem set to remain fulfilled, performing as core professionals for many years. In the process they are creating a body of work that will enable them to reinvent themselves again as freelancers or portfolio workers in the event of a significant change in their circumstances.
LA is a megacity with a hugely diverse economy. What La La Land helps us understand is that the idea of an inner core professional who is employed for decades in their profession can be applied more broadly. It doesn’t only apply to those professionals in corporate or senior government roles that are still represented as the main measure of career success in the mainstream media. In a city like Perth if you don’t work in the resources industry, many of those inner core professional roles occur in small or medium sized businesses, state government departments and local government. Outside of government such roles often demand a high level of commitment and demand a strategic approach to ensure the work life balance you desire. In many ways, this can create optimal conditions for portfolio careers and initiating a side hustle. It can mean downsizing housing ambitions for instance, but otherwise provide a lifestyle in keeping with a sustainable career that can take advantage of boom periods in the West Australian economy.