On tackling the opportunities that make you nervous

Brooke Boland

It takes both courage and ambition to face new challenges in your career.
On tackling the opportunities that make you nervous

Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash.

At one point or more in our careers, we each have to face a new challenge that we don’t feel ready for. Our first instinct might be to reject the opportunity for fear of failure. But before you do, consider how important it is to meet the challenges that make us nervous head on, particularly at the beginning of our careers in the arts but also later when you become more established.

‘Whether you're nervous about the first meeting with someone or nervous that a particular brief or commission is beyond what you've done before – the best thing to do is just start,’ said Lachean Humphreys, Managing Editor at custom publisher Hardie Grant Media.

To inspire you at what is likely an exciting cross-roads in your career, ArtsHub asks artists, academics, and writers to share their advice and insight on tackling the opportunities that make you nervous.

Your nerves are a good sign

‘Most people get nervous with new opportunities, especially if it’s something you haven’t done before,’ said artist Zoe Kirkwood, recipient of the 2017 Samstag scholarship.

Kirkwood said she has learned to embrace the feeling as a good sign of things to come for her creative work.

‘I’ve always found that the work that comes from being in a challenging position is often the most interesting and important for me.  A friend of mine, who is also an artist, always tells me that nobody makes interesting work when they are too comfortable — so it’s good to be a bit unsure — it means exciting things are coming!’

Ask for help if you need it

Dr Frances Barbe, a Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), said experience has also taught her that something good often happens when she feels ‘a bit out of my depth’.

‘New experiences that challenged me allowed me to experience the greatest growth in my skills and creativity. So if you are a bit challenged, you are probably in the right place’ she said. 

At these moments, it is important to be courageous, but also humble. ‘Ask for help if you need it, but don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone. Something good will happen if you meet the challenge head on.’ 

It could be the start of something even better

Who really knows what this new opportunity will lead to? If you don’t have a go, you might miss out on something else even better. 

‘The arts is an area where you really don't know where you might end up or what you might work on. While it's great to have goals in mind, opportunities will come up that won't sound like they're exactly what you wanted to do – but could lead to something you're really good at or really enjoy,’ said Humphreys. 

Her advice to people starting out in their career is to say yes to as many opportunities as you can. 

‘Don't underestimate how impressive it is to be 1) enthusiastic, 2) receptive to feedback and 3) interested in the people working senior to and alongside you on any project. They will probably have a wealth of things to teach you about your industry and their experience.’

Don’t let fear stop you

Set and production designer Charlotte Mungomery said tackling new opportunities comes down to being courageous and ambitious in equal measure. 

‘And don’t feel scared, because there is nothing to be scared about, it’s just having the passion and the drive to go for it,’ she added. 'A big thing for me — and how I live my life — is about seeking out things you’re not sure you’re even going to be able to pull off.' 

‘Just by taking these risks you often surprise yourself with what you’re capable of. It might sound cheesy, but it shows you that you can do things you didn’t think were possible, and that you didn’t know the knowledge that was inside of you. That you actually have more experience than you thought.’ 

About the author

Brooke Boland is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.