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Jacqueline Kling on Navigating Passion, Time Management, and Burnout

Jacqueline Kling posing with a group of children.

Sometimes following your passion places you at risk for burnout. When something sparks your interest and you feel the drive to act on it, it may be difficult to know when (or how) to pull back. In today’s career landscape, it is common to have multiple commitments and diverse interests and the relationship between passion, time management, and burnout becomes glaringly clear - you need to constantly reevaluate their balance or one area of your life will begin to negatively impact the others.

Jacqueline Kling, Dance Director at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Minnesota, is a prime example of someone in the social impact sector who wears many hats: full-time employee at a nonprofit, professional dancer with a MFA degree, founder of a dance collective, teacher, and more. Her passion for the arts has been a consistent thread in her career development and a motivating factor for how she prioritizes her time. It’s important to her that her presence provides consistency in the lives of the youth she serves, that her influence as an artist creates a positive effect in the community, and that she is able to continue building the skills needed to accomplish her goals.

As I spoke with her about her career journey, three relatable ideas stood out as useful advice for dealing with the relationship between passion, time management, and burnout:

1) It’s possible to feel burnout after graduate school, but that doesn’t mean your degree is no longer applicable to your career. The same idea that motivated you to pursue that degree can remain a motivating factor for your career and happiness.

2) Time management has to include self-care. Self-care has to include taking time off.

3) If having a tightly packed schedule is unavoidable for your professional goals, then find ways for your work and interests to support each other. Let others know what you are up to so they can help support you, even when you may not realize you need the extra help.

In this excerpt from our conversation together, you’ll see these ideas come to fruition and learn what it takes to stay energized for, and dedicated to, your social impact goals.

Jacqueline, what do you like best about your work with the Boys and Girls Club of Central Minnesota?

My favorite part about the organization is the youth that we serve. We want as many youth in the doors - no matter where they come from. This project has opened the door to the community as a whole. Professional artists are offering programming at a level that may not be otherwise offered in our area.

My favorite part about my position is that there is an emphasis on my being a professional, practicing artist. In my job description, I have designated hours set aside for artistic development, as well as professional development money. I’m able to look around and pursue opportunities I think will benefit me as an artist and the youth that I serve. I also have the ability to use the studio space here at the club if I need time to create choreography or train on my own.

How does your organization use volunteers? Do you work with them for your programming?

Our organization has a lot of volunteer work. It’s been hard for me to commit to having a volunteer for my programming since a lot of them come to us through the colleges. Our skill development classes are high-content, high-focus, and it’s difficult when volunteers are coming in and out. Some are great! They commit their time and are always here. Others don’t place this high on their priority list.

I’m a little particular about who I let come in and be a part of the program because I want them to be an asset in the community we are building. Our youth are very transient (they may experience inconsistency in their lives and tend to come-and-go through programming) and we want to make sure our adult support system for them is dependable. Some of these kids come from lives where they don’t have stability outside of the club. We try to have a schedule for them and stability in our staffing so they know when they come through the door, they’ll see a familiar face.

I saw you earned your MFA in Dance from New York University. I thought that program was more focused on performance and choreography, and the Dance Education program was separate, yet you are spending a lot of your energy teaching now. How has that been?

I knew I needed a break from dance but I always came back to teaching or doing something around dance. It’s something that I’m always passionate about and just needed a sabbatical.

Yes, I graduated from Tisch so I was more in the dance performance, choreography, and conservatory style of learning. Dance education is a separate degree. When I went into the program, my main focus was to teach at a university. Leaving, like every other grad school student, it completely shifted. I think I got really burnt out from grad school and needed a break from performing and choreographing, so I invested more in my arts administration interests. I fell into this teaching artist role and it’s something that I really enjoy. 

What type of artist are you and how do you practice this art?

I consider myself a contemporary dancer. After my break from dance, I began conversations with a couple of my friends in dance collectives that they’d been a part of. During my time at the arts administration fellowship, we talked about a project we would like to pursue and all the logistical elements that went with it, and that’s actually what we did! We decided to bring back this dance collective called Crash Dance Productions. The conversation started in winter 2013; then we produced a show and staged it in September of that year to a sold-out crowd! We funded it through workshops we held throughout the Twin Cities and being really creative in our marketing and social media presence.

In our workshops with youth in the community, we wanted to bring them the world of concert dance. You have these youth who are dancing in studios for a crazy number of hours per week but many of them haven’t sat down and seen a concert piece before. Most companies appeal to the elite of society so the audience will be filled with them, but then you have these youth who are passionate about dance and not really tapping into that audience opportunity. We wanted to bring these kids to the table and show them that there is more to dance than competition or sitting in a concert hall that feels a little stuffy for them or doesn’t really consider their age group as a valid audience member.

How does your identity as an artist and the work that you do for Boys and Girls Club relate to each other? If so, how?

Some teaching artists have a really high standard for what they want their kids to produce in terms of their art because their name and artistic identity are attached to the classes they teach. I have very high expectations of how my youth are in the classroom, particularly their participation in the community and the effort in their work. I want to offer them performance opportunities that are high quality and at a level I expect from my own collective, in terms of the production elements, the marketing, and who we are inviting to the performance. I want them to feel like professionals but not have that pressure of feeling like they have to be perfect.

What has been the best piece of advice you’ve received that’s helped you stay motivated, energized, and engaged with your work?

My parents have always had the main goal to create as many opportunities as possible for me and my siblings. There are times when you reach burnout and wonder why you are doing so much, but when you have that support system behind you, it keeps you really motivated and wanting to do your best at all times! When I work with these youth, I see that they also have those rough days sometimes. I try to encourage them and support them through that. It’s making me come full circle.

When you’ve felt yourself approaching burnout, how did you recognize the difference between your limit and just feeling tired? How do you move through that?

It’s really hard. At the beginning of this project, I had reached the point of burnout and hadn’t even realized it.

It wasn’t until my supervisor and I sat down for a midyear review and she said one of my goals was to take time off. It was hard for me to recognize it.

She sat me down and said that there is value in having a day to yourself and not feeling like you always have to be doing something. When it was written down as a goal, it made me look back and think of how much better I could do my job if I took some time just for my mental health. It’s far and few days between that I take days off, but I do try and plan things to look forward to and step away from everything. I unplug all of my technology so I can recharge and focus in on what makes me happy.

We hope that Jacqueline's story resonated with you!

By Jhia Jackson

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