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  • Writer's pictureKeith Jeffrey

The Seven States of a Working Class Cultural Professional's Life


State 7: What happens when you hit the glass ceiling?


What happens when you stop getting the interviews you used to?

What happens when you see people appointed to jobs not as talented or accomplished as you?

What happens when all the interesting jobs mean you have to relocate?


In any job, there comes a time to move on, to take the next step so you keep fresh, motivated and giving 100%. That is a tough decision to make, especially if you're a working class cultural professional.


I remember thinking as I was the head of a reasonably sized NPO “What next? Lots of good things surely? Look at all I have achieved."


I didn't realise how limited my options really were. I had family and other commitments so I couldn’t move. Money was important too.


But I’d reached a stage where I felt ready for the big one. I had the track record and the leadership chops but nothing ever came my way. The odd interview but nothing more.


This is a time that comes to us all at different stages of your career. It’s time to move on but the opportunities are limited. You’re stymied.


And after a while you realise “hey I’m not going to be given that big chance”. And the older you get the harder it is to even be considered for roles you can do standing on your head..


You believe there is a lot of competition and so you think, perhaps, that maybe, they’re having to make lots of tough choices but then you see who is getting the jobs and you wonder why am I not being given these chances?

Somehow you’re adrift, you can’t afford to pack your job in but you don’t want to be that person who has been there for decades getting bored and stale.


So what do you do? Has the glass ceiling been hit?


Experience has taught me that a career in culture is about exploration rather than clear upwards progress.


We have to be honest, in culture you can only get so far, in part that’s because it’s a pretty small field characterised by small charities, I had 80 staff at one point, pretty large for a cultural organisation but that still counts as “Small” for government policy purposes.


There are very few top jobs and they are almost always in London and to get them requires a certain type of background, commitment and access which you as a working cultural professional are unlikely to possess.


Then there’s the money. You need to think about pensions, your mortgage, the cost of living. That sense of proving yourself has long gone, you need to be properly rewarded for the work you do.


So what are your options?

You have all these skills, experience and capabilities but they’re going to waste, surely they can be used?

Go freelance? Very risky, the competition is tough.

Jump sectors? I did that, I got lucky but didn’t get the job satisfaction I craved.


I now know I should have focused on my purpose, understood better what it was I wanted to do and then built a career decision around that.


I could have looked harder for roles which would have given me more meaning and thought about the features of such a job and went looking for it.


This is an approach I’ve taken with clients and it works, suddenly the world looks a richer place, full of opportunities,


It’s from this experience that I developed my programme The Why of You. It’s a powerful exploration of who you are and what you can be which draws from your origin story explores what gives you meaning and builds a plan which helps you continue your growth and development and regain simple enjoyment of a purposeful career.


Message me if you think I can help.


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