by Terryl Jares, International Executive Board Member and President of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL)
As the world begins to get back to normal, albeit what will most likely be a new normal, we will go back to work. For many of us, this has been more than a year without real employment. The ability to bring our talents to live and appreciative audiences was abruptly taken away by a relentless virus of which we had limited control.
Things are beginning to look brighter as we turn the corner and get back to work. However, it is extremely important to assess your value and know your self-worth. Understanding your musical abilities, remembering what you bring to the workplace, and the contributions you make to musical products are essential as we return to work.
First, you must have positive self-esteem. Feel comfortable with yourself and your abilities. Approach work with confidence and professionalism. Prepare yourself to go back to work and be ready when the time comes. To quote the tennis great Arthur Ashe, “One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”
Next, strive to make a difference. Whatever opportunity lies ahead of you, do your best to meet the challenge. If you are called to serve on a negotiating team, accept the role. Get involved and work to improve your contract. Know what your peers want and work toward achieving those goals. You may not get all you ask for, but you sure won’t get anything if you don’t ask for it.
Try to find and accept work that is exciting and fulfilling. We all have had gigs that we took just for the money and others that we truly enjoyed. Those that were fulfilling stick in our memories, add to our positive attitude, and enhance our creativity. As hard as it might be, try to avoid performances that are stressful and aggravating. They challenge your self-esteem and are not worth the money you may earn.
Finally, set financial goals and don’t allow yourself to undercharge for your musical talent—especially now, at a time when most venues had to abruptly shut down, dates were postponed or canceled, and everyone is struggling to get back on their feet. It may seem appropriate to discount your value or give added services. Employers will offer wages below union rates or even ask you to perform for free. There is a temptation to take the work just to get back into playing. Remember, unionism is based on setting wage standards that allow each of us to earn a living wage. We are stronger when we work together. This solidarity is the core of our existence and one we all must strive to achieve.