How to find the right jobs to do between acting jobs
We all dread that small anxiety attack we get when we come to the end of a contract with a theatre company we enjoyed working with. UNEMPLOYMENT! The same motions go through our minds. 'Well, as long as it pays for the rent, I don't care what it is'. 'Why am I not qualified for anything else but acting??'. 'Why should I have to do a job that has nothing to do with acting?'. 'Why can't I be discovered by a director whilst walking around the National, so that I never have to do another standard, customer service/sales related job again?'.
The truth is, this anxiety is not only true of actors out of a job. There are hundreds of different professions where qualified individuals are unable to get a job in the sector they want because there just aren't enough jobs. So yes, everyone is agreed that acting is an extremely difficult and competitive industry to break into full time, but we actors are not alone! So before considering how unrelated any job is to your chosen profession, remember that the people interviewing you, your fellow future employees, and the people you network with at your next job, may not all be theatrically linked, so will not show any sympathy for you as a poor, unemployed actor.
The other thing to remember is why you are going for these jobs. What will they offer you? Money. OK, money is good, it pays bills, it buys you a travel card, it allows you to have some quality of life, but it means so much more than that. A job, any job, means security, peace of mind, stability, even routine can be a positive thing when the rest of daily life is so turbulent for you. Don't ever give up on your dreams of becoming a celebrated performer, but don't look at the world through pin holes. Open yourself up to trying other things, because for the large majority of us in the industry we will spend more time learning new skills, working on jobs unrelated to our profession and plundering on with whatever opportunities present themselves.
Of course, you can go down the route of creating theatre for yourself. But again, funds permitting, this can be dangerous territory and you really have to have an idea that you are more passionate about than anything else so that if you lose substantial sums of money, you can be happy that you at least gave it your best.
So where to start?
The first thing to do is to look at your NON-acting CV. What jobs have you listed? Are there any jobs that you have omitted? If so, why? Even if it was only for a short while, even if you were asked to leave, did you learn any new skills or knowledge that would be transferable to other job sectors? Are there any titles you were given in an acting job that would definitely help out? E.g 'Tour Manager'.
If you are young, maybe recently graduated and have spent the majority of your life learning about theatre, the probability is that your CV will consist of words such as: Waiter, Sales Assistant, Barman, Usher, and any other jobs related to customer services and the general public. This is not a bad thing!
There are hundreds of jobs like this readily available all over the country. Whether you are London based or not, whether you live at home still, or rent in the city, any job that pays you to learn new and relatively simple skills, will most likely offer benefits that an actor needs such as flexibility of working hours etc. You may even find that once you have worked solidly and proven yourself as a valued member of a team, the work environment may be friendly enough for you to ask your employer for time off at short notice for an audition.
Don't underestimate your own skills, whether you have strong communication skills and a good smile, very quick learning abilities, managerial skills, your employer WILL notice and will enjoy having you as part of his/her team, and will in turn, do there best to help you when they see you struggling.
What are the right jobs?
There is no perfect job that puts an advert in The Stage saying 'we pay you lots for doing stuff that you don't want to do whilst you look for work somewhere else'. A lot of possible employers will advertise jobs that sound too good to be true. They list good hourly rates, the benefits you can expect, no experience necessary. However, what they don't tell you is that you might be on probation anything up to 6 months, and you will not receive the pay rates they listed until you prove, to their satisfaction, that you are accomplished at the job. The pay rates that you will receive therefore, can be absolutely dreadful. They may not be enough to keep you afloat, so it might be worth cutting down your hours at that job, and having a larger, better paid primary job to keep you moving.
Restaurants, Cafés, Bars and Pubs, usually offer very flexible working hours, straight forward work, and competitive rates for the specific industry. If you live in London, and choose to look for work in the city, never underestimate how much of a tourist trap the centre is, and how much of your weekly takings will be in the form of tips. Britain has a National Minimum Wage that most people are entitled to.
"It makes no difference whether you work full time, part time, in a permanent job, on a short-term contract, for an agency or directly for an employer."
New rates from October 2012:
The new rates will come into force on 1 October 2012, as follows:
£6.19 per hour for workers aged 21 and over - a rise of 11p
£4.98 per hour for 18-20 year olds - no change
£3.68 per hour for workers above school leaving age but under 18 - no change
£2.65 per hour for apprentices - a rise of 5p"
Theatres both West End and Regional tend to be on the look out for prospective employees for most of the year.
Theatres are an actors home from home, so it feels only natural that you should want to seek work either in front of, or behind the iron curtain.
Front of House work has pros and cons much like any other job. The Pros are:
A lot of Front of House jobs in the West End offer membership to a union which entitle you to a very agreeable basic rate per show, including overtime, work for special skills such as money handling and supervising etc.
Front of House jobs take place in the evenings, apart from matinees, meaning that you have your days free to schedule auditions, workshops, rehearsals etc.
You work as part of a large team, so there is always someone to ask for support and assistance.
You are working in a theatrical environment.
There are many jobs within the Front of House team so you can always expand your skill set.
The cons are:
Having to watch someone else performing on stage every night can be demotivating when you know you have nothing lined up.
Other than that, Front of House work does feel secure for actors, because the majority of your work colleagues are in the same boat as you, you work in a theatrical environment everyday, and there's every possibility that it will spur you on to push for the acting jobs.
The truth is, there is no right or wrong job. If you have good communication skills, a relatively good amount of experience working in other fields, and a strong will, you can make most jobs work for you. The best thing to do from here, is to print off a number of CV's, dress up smartly, and spend the next couple of days dropping CV's to prospective employees in person. High street stores and eateries often advertise on the internet. Luxury department stores such as Harrod's or Hamley's like to recruit actors for their performance based communication skills because they consider the main store as the 'show' of the company.
Have confidence in your own abilities, your own interests, and something will come along.