DreamWorks lawyer Christia Crocker has never been afraid to take a risk to build a fulfilling career. Christia took out student loans and went back to law school after a successful seven-year career as a producer.
She has been a performer, a producer, a talent agent’s assistant and a solo legal practitioner. Now she has her dream job, working as an in-house lawyer at DreamWorks.
Christia told us how she did it – how she found her dream job and how she had the courage to risk it all.
1.Take inspiration from the pathways of people who model your version of success.
Christia grew up as what she calls a “song and dance” child. She graduated college with a degree in theater and dance – a degree that created a foundation for a career that empowers impactful storytelling.
Remember that you can always evolve and keep pursuing what’s interesting to you.
Christia took a job as a production assistant at Viacom, which owns MTV and VH1, and worked her way up to a full producer by her late 20s.
By then, in addition to her production responsibilities, she was handling a lot of what she calls the “heavy-hitting business stuff” like contracts and union issues.
She found that she liked the corporate side of the creative industry, and it was the network and and studio executives who were handling this type of work.
Christia hadn’t grown up with a parent who modeled an entertainment or legal career, so she looked around her for guidance.
“I looked at the resumes of the people who were doing what I wanted to do and asked myself how I could emulate their careers,” she says. “I looked at the characteristics they all had in common.”
“Most of them had advanced degrees, whereas I had life experience and a bachelor’s degree, so I headed back to school,” she added.
Christia was already seven years into a career in production, but she applied to law school and took out student loans.
“It actually felt like the more secure step at the time,” she says. “It was a step toward developing a deeper connection with my professional passions, and was an exciting and fulfilling path.”
2. Jobs that aren’t the right fit are just research experiments.
After law school, Christia explored the world of talent agencies, taking a job at Creative Artists Agency. But she says that she learned pretty quickly that she didn’t want to be an agent.
More than anything life and a career is about wanting to be where you are and showing up.
“At CAA, I learned a lot about what I did and didn’t want in a job, and I used that information to determine my next step,” she says. “I also picked up some professional tools that I still use today. I like to say that at CAA I added more tools to my toolbelt.”
While Christia fostered skills like negotiation, and packaging and leveraging relationships, she also took note of what she didn’t want to emulate in her career.
“I like to think of myself as a tough negotiator, but I’m not a yeller. I’m not going to pull out an oozy when I can use a feather,” she says. “I decided that the right role for me would value my negotiation skills, but in a more collegial setting.”
Proof that learning to leverage relationships was a useful skill? Christia hired her former CAA manager a few years later to work with her on a legal project for a client.
3. Success is in the big picture.
A lot of people say that they define success as making their boss happy. While making her immediate superiors happy is certainly important in a career, Christia views success as tied to the success of “the end result of creative expression.”
She says she asks herself: “What quality of service am I providing the end creators?”
Her job is to execute her job well – turn legal projects around quickly, be flexible, and respond in a way that is clear and helpful – so that she is enabling the creative process.
“Success is doing my job to the best of my ability so that the artists, producers, directors can do their jobs,” Christia says.
If legal doesn’t function well, the creation process can stall or fall apart.
Legal is just as much a part of the creative process as on-set production, according to Christia. If legal doesn’t function well, then the process stalls or falls apart.
“Everyone – from the people on set to the people in development to the ones working on the distribution deals to where the ideas and money come from – we’re all working toward the same end result. We want to make meaningful things that impact people. Things that bring people to action, make them laugh, give them a breath of fresh air when things are tough,” she says. “Everything needs to run smoothly across the company in order to create something great.”
“And it’s amazing to be part of something that is bigger than yourself, that you can see on screen,” she adds. “I’m one piece of a big and beautiful puzzle.”
4. Never Stop Growing. Never Stop Evolving.
Christia has taken a lot of risks in her career to say the least. She has left the security of one profession for another more than a few times (including going solo but that’s another story).
“You are more than what you are on paper,” she says. “Don’t give in to the idea that you’re just a college ranking or a number, a GPA.”
Asked what she would tell someone who wants to make a big life change, she says, “I wouldn’t say it’s a cakewalk but on the other hand, if it’s something you want to do, you’ll find a way.”
Remember that you are more than what you are on paper.
When Christia has seen someone doing something that she’d like to do, she has worked hard to make it happen for herself. She says that if you remember that you can keep evolving and pursue what’s interesting to you, then you’ll find your place.
“Yes, sometimes it’s crazy, but stay in there. It’s worth it, and yes, the obstacles look daunting. You may be asking yourself, who would want to do that?”
“I’ll tell you that perseverance makes it sweeter. The hard work involved in getting here makes me more appreciative of what I have every day,” she adds. “More than anything life and a career is about wanting to be where you are and showing up.”
“I’m going to enjoy this for as long as possible,” she says. “If things change, that’s OK. Change happens and can be a wonderful opportunity.”
The views expressed here do not express the views of DreamWorks or NBCUniversal Comcast.