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Don't Block Your Light: Navigating Your Career Transition from Stage to Real Life

Bri Cooper Mezzo Soprano

I have to admit, this post was difficult to write. For years now, I thought about writing something like this and thought "Maybe it's just me". My career path has been a bit unique. After touring the world a few times, and several failed relationships, by the time I was 29, I realized that a relationship on the road was not going to happen for me unless I "settled down". I tried ignoring those feelings which led me to utter loneliness and dissatisfaction with my career. I was so lonely I became obsessed with finding a partner. Needless to say, my parents were not happy with my decision to move back home, settle down, find a husband, have a baby, and keep my career intact. The best thing that came out of that decision was my beautiful daughter and an entirely new set of skills that I don't think I would have discovered otherwise. Well, maybe if I really thought about it, I can think of a few other things, but I will talk about that in another post...or my podcast.

A few weeks ago, I read a post by a colleague offering her final goodbye to New York. She decided to move back to her hometown, with her husband and daughter to start a nursing program (made sense because her Dad is a Doctor). I did not feel bad for her, but I felt this bittersweet happiness for her. We were on my first Broadway National Tour, thanks to social media, we kept in touch and I watched her career grow on the Broadway stage. I thought wow, I wonder how she will handle this transition.

The transition from a career in the performing arts to a life beyond the spotlight can be both thrilling and daunting. While the stage has been your canvas for self-expression, the 'real world' offers a fresh set of challenges and opportunities. I want to explore how we can embrace change during this time, and what you can expect.

Embrace Change

embracing change

Embracing change can be difficult, but it's a crucial part of personal growth and development. Change allows us to break out of our comfort zones, learn new skills, and experience new opportunities. By accepting change and being open to new experiences, we can expand our horizons and gain a wider perspective on the world around us. While change can be scary, it's important to remember that it often leads to positive outcomes and can help us become better versions of ourselves. So, don't be afraid to welcome change with open arms. The first step in this journey is to embrace change. Recognize that life beyond the stage is a new act, full of possibilities. Be open to redefining your identity and purpose outside of your performance career.


Self assessment

As an opera singer or performing artist, self-discovery, and reflection can be valuable tools for personal growth and artistic development. Taking the time to reflect on your experiences and emotions can help you connect more deeply with your art and bring a greater level of authenticity to your performances. By embracing change and being open to new experiences, you can explore new aspects of your identity and find new sources of inspiration. So, take some time to reflect on your journey as an artist and embrace the opportunities for growth and self-discovery that come your way.Take the time to assess your skills, passions, and interests. What aspects of your stage career can you leverage in other fields? Identifying your strengths and values will guide your transition process.

Education and Training

Education and Training

Continuing education and skill development are essential for any opera singer or performing artist who wants to stay at the top of their game. By staying up-to-date with the latest techniques and trends in your field, you can continue to improve your craft and enhance your performance. Additionally, continuing education can help you stay motivated and inspired, as you learn from other professionals and expand your knowledge base. Whether it's through attending workshops, taking classes, or seeking out mentorship opportunities, investing in your ongoing education is a smart move that can pay off in big ways for your career and personal development. Consider further education or training that aligns with your post-performance goals. Many artists find success in fields such as teaching, arts administration, or even entrepreneurship, but they often require additional skills or qualifications. I went back to school to get my MBA, and several of my artist friends have amazing nursing careers.

Network and Mentorship


Networking and mentorship can be invaluable in advancing your career. By connecting with other professionals in your field, you can learn from their experiences and gain valuable insights that can help you grow and improve as an artist. Additionally, seeking out a mentor can provide you with personalized guidance and support, helping you navigate the challenges and opportunities of the industry. By building a strong network of peers and mentors, you can expand your opportunities, stay motivated, and continue to evolve as an artist. So don't underestimate the power of networking and mentorship in achieving your goals and reaching your full potential. Build a strong support network of fellow artists, mentors, and professionals in your desired field. Their guidance and connections can be invaluable during your transition.

Financial Planning

We all know that performing artists are always thinking about our finances. Financial planning and security are crucial elements to consider when pursuing a career in the arts. Creating a transition budget can help ensure that you have adequate savings to support you during times of uncertainty or when transitioning between jobs. Additionally, working with a financial advisor can provide you with personalized guidance and support in building a strong financial foundation, helping you achieve long-term financial stability and security. By prioritizing financial planning and security, you can focus on your craft and continue to pursue your passion without worrying about financial stress. Recognize that financial stability is crucial during this transition. Create a budget and explore options like savings, grants, or part-time work to support yourself as you navigate your new career path.

Managing Emotions

Girl with Dog

It's important to prioritize your emotional well-being alongside financial planning and career development. Pursuing a career in the arts can be emotionally taxing, with the pressure to constantly improve and perform at a high level. Taking time to prioritize self-care and mental health can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance and prevent burnout. Consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor, practicing mindfulness and meditation, and engaging in hobbies and activities outside of your work. By prioritizing emotional well-being, you can cultivate a sense of balance and fulfillment in both your personal and professional life. Understand that this transition may bring mixed emotions – excitement, anxiety, or even grief. Seek support from therapists or support groups to manage these feelings effectively.

Transitioning from the stage to 'real life' can be a fulfilling and enriching experience when approached with intention and determination. Embrace the change, invest in self-assessment and education, build a robust network, and prioritize emotional well-being to ensure a smooth and successful career transition. Your life's encore can be as rewarding as any performance, and it's an opportunity to create a meaningful and fulfilling second act.

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