Will You Make It – Or Break It?

“Grandpa Tortoise had reached his goal”, from Little Bear At Work And At Play by Frances Margaret Fox. Hopefully our goals won’t take as long.  xoxo

What does it take to make it after graduation?

Is it talent?  Hard work?  Knowing the right people?  Dumb luck?

This post over at the Blue Rose Girls’ blog sparked a pretty fierce debate on the topic, and when I was reading it, the argument seemed to echo exactly what us seniors are on the brink of here at Pratt.

Once we leave our cozy little studios and take our portfolios and fresh, shiny faces out into the world, are we gonna get our dream career?  Or will we say, 25 years later, “I once wanted to be an artist…”  What separates the graduates who get fame, fortune, or just plain happiness?

Does it take talent?

It’s been my experience that once you hit the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, top-tier art schools, talent becomes essentially a given.  I’m surrounded by talented illustrators in class every day, and yet, we all know that few of us will actually make it to be known for what we do.  I’m certainly not the most talented artist in my year, but I’m often asked these days whether I feel any competition. And you know what?  I don’t. Not because I don’t wish my classmates much more fame and success than me (I do!  Really!), but because I believe that I know exactly where I want to be, and I have worked my tail off to be in the position to enter my industry with confidence.

Is it hard work?

Can you work hard enough to get talent? In the words of Santino Rice from Project Runway Season 2, “you can’t polish a turd.”  There was many a slush piece at my internship this summer that had all the labor and care in the world put into it, but no amount of love could fix what was just . . . awful.

The scariest thought is that hard work won’t guarantee success either. I’ve watched with increasing nervousness as my absolutely genius older classmates have struggled to hit their stride, not due to their dedication, but because no matter how hard they try, they are not going to time-travel out of the recession.  It will just take time.

Is it “who you know”?

As much as I LOVE talking about networking, I’ll spare everyone and save it.  Networking can put you in the right place at the right time.  But if you don’t have hard work or talent, schmoozing won’t get you beyond that.

Is it luck?

With all the great timing I’ve been having with my career goals, I’ve wondered about luck a lot. Since I get a little funny around praise, I’ve actually caught MYSELF saying “oh, it’s nothing, I’m just lucky”.  But it’s awful to trivialize your success and the amount of hard work that it takes to get there!  I believe you make your own luck – by being talented, working hard and putting yourself out there.


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