The Art of the Day Job
A lot of the time if we take a leap and follow our dreams, things turn out to be a little more challenging than expected. That being said, when I was a sophomore in college I found myself in a bind. I was unhappy with my major and had no aspirations aside from theatre. Therefore, I took a leap, changed my major to theatre and decided right then that I would pursue it full blown. I had sculpted the perfect plan to be a successful actress/director once I graduated. I’d get a “no-brainer” 9-5 to foot the bills, be a performer by night, eventually turn equity, no longer need a day job…you get the idea.
Unfortunately, shortly after graduating (a week later) I realized that getting a “no brainer” day job in the “real world” was a lot harder than expected. Little did I know that I had just taken my first step on a new path: “the path to find a day job.”
Fast forward almost 3 years; I’ve had my share of jobs. Camp counselor, barista, sandwich maker, box office, fitness floor cleaner, juicer, ticket services; those are just a few of my many titles. With all of my jobs I’ve had plenty of learning experiences and I’ve become all too familiar on where to work and where not to work as an artist.
One of the most important and most challenging things about finding a “day job” is finding a job that is going to support and allow you to be an artist, aka flexibility. One of my part-time jobs didn’t allow me to take a day off for an audition when I had asked for it off 3-weeks in advance. That being said, have a dialogue about your theatre aspirations with your employer/future employer. If the company is concerned with your possible audition conflicts or performance calendar then maybe it’s not the job for you. On the other hand, if the company sees that as something positive then what do you know – you found yourself a perfect day job. Your employer knows that theatre is your priority and you are not punished for it; you are respected for it.
Another thing to think about is the size of the company you are interested in working for. I worked for a start-up 5-month-old quick-service sandwich shop. I was 1 of 2 workers working alongside the owner. This job was part-time and incredibly stressful due to it being a new business. I was hired to be a “story teller” during lunchtime and a cashier. However, because there were so few people on staff, my job title quickly expanded into: social media guru, dishwasher, cook, food prep, custodian, and server. My point being: my position(s) was crucial day to day and it was not possible to take any time off or leave even an hour early for any theatre commitments. After an awful 4 months I knew it was time to find a job that was accommodating and had more than 2 people staffed. Due to that experience (and a few others) I have found it much easier to work for a large company due to the sole reason of there being an ample number of staff members. Therefore, if an audition comes up I have a handful of people to cover me. Granted, these things vary, this is just from my personal experiences. Working for small companies has its pros and cons, as does with working at larger companies. Just find what works for you and your craft!
Lastly, find a job that is positive and doesn’t drag you down. Pursuing a career in the arts requires a lot of commitment and dedication. If you are unable to give to your craft as much as you’d like because your job is getting the best of you, then maybe it’s time to look at a few alternative options. Most jobs aren’t going to feel as fulfilling as theatre; however, finding a job that suits your lifestyle and keeps you in a positive mood is going to be much more beneficial than a job that drains your energy and attitude.
At the end of the day, day jobs come and go. You may find a few good ones and a handful of bad ones. The experiences gained and learning achieved is worth it in the end. Whether you’re a bartender by night, a barista by morning, or a freelance photographer by afternoon, don’t let the titles define you; have them fuel you to be who you want to be in a career you want to have.