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Unleash Your Inner Bard

The next time I’m tempted to complain about my career choice of being a writer, I’ll remind myself how great it is to have a creative job.

And that about 36 percent of Americans want to leave their current jobs for one that is more creative, according to a new report by CreativeLive, an online education company.

“When over 51 million employed Americans want to leave their jobs to pursue a more creative career, we have jarring evidence that our existing education and work systems are broken,” says Chase Jarvis, co-founder of CreativeLive.

The report had some other sobering news about the less-than-happy American workforce, adding more support to other recent studies about how the majority of workers feel disengaged from their jobs or don’t trust their employers.

Among the findings:

We want new careers. 54 percent of employed in the survey said they want a new career or to start their own business or plan to make such a change after retirement.

We want creativity more than money. 29 percent, or almost 41 million workers, said they would take a pay cut for a job that allowed them to be more creative.

We want to be entrepreneurs. 55 percent, or almost 78 million people, said they would leave a traditional job to self-employment if they could still pay their bills.

Creativity or Bust

One of the surprising things about such numbers is that with high levels of unemployment, you might expect more people to be looking for traditional jobs that might offer security. While certainly millions of people do, what is clear is that many workers now consider themselves–and their talents and values–a more reliable path to security.

That dynamic is readily apparent among Millenials. Americans between the ages of 18 and 33 have higher student debt and lower levels of income than Gen Xers and Boomers did at the same stage of life, according to a March 2014 report Millenials in Adulthood from the Pew Research Center.

Despite a higher rate of unemployment, and underemployment—12 percent in the CreativeLive survey—about 14.5 million Millenials said that working with creative people is very important to them. And 35 percent say having a job that makes a positive social impact is very important as well, compared to 19 percent of those over age 35.

Of course, there is plenty of glamour around the idea of the creative life, and earning a living as an artist, designer, photographer, writer or other creative professional can be challenging. Certainly, launching a business is far from a sure thing. Despite the appeal of calling our own shots and seeing our ideas become sought-after products or services, the reality remains that most businesses fail.

But if you long to express your creativity, you can find ways to do so regardless of your current job. And you might find yourself starting to enjoy that job a lot more as well.

Take classes. With sites like CreativeLive, Coursea, and hundreds of others offering webinars, classes, and certificate programs in a wide variety of subjects, you can develop your skills and your interests without a huge commitment of time or money.

Become an intraprenuer. If your current job is stifling your creativity, look for ways to launch projects, work on tasks that use different skills, or find supporters company-wide that might help you develop an idea for a new service, product or process.

Launch a sidegig. One of the best ways to stretch your creative muscles, and test and refine ideas for a business you might want to launch in the future is to start a small business in your off-hours. Many creative professionals freelance, but your business doesn’t have to be the same as your day job. Keep costs down by using commerce platforms, and be sure to keep your after-hours job after hours.

Find a creative mentor. Creative people tend to feed off the ideas of other creative people, and one way to get inspiration for a future job or simply to get a fresh perspective on making your current job more satisfying, look for a mentor in a creative field. A mentor who has found ways to make a successful living from their talents can be invaluable in helping you avoid the common potholes.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and iVillage.com, among others.