Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Careers Clinic: how do I keep motivated while looking for work?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
by -

I’ve tried to frame this as a specific query but the truth is that after a good start and even a show or two early this year, I haven’t had very many auditions from about mid-June, and with Christmas and the resulting work shutdown looming, I’m just generally starting to feel a bit blah.

It’s not helping that several of my close friends from drama school have been lucky enough to get panto (sorry, I mean ‘talented enough’ – don’t want to start sounding like Hamlet the pig!).

Money is obviously getting a bit tight and while I have been trying to stay clear of the dreaded day job, so I can spend time on my own acting projects, it’s hard to keep the motivation up, so none of them are moving forward very fast. Can you help me get out of the November blues, even if it means giving me a kick in the butt?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE Rather than giving you a ‘kick in the butt’, I think what you need is a push in the right direction. Being ‘in the moment’ is an excellent place for actors to work from when they are on stage. It is also a useful way to operate with your business hat on, as the rest of my answer below will hopefully demonstrate.

Judging yourself based on what is going on in a particular moment is, in contrast, something that actors tend to be particularly prone to and is often the worst possible thing you can do, not least at a time of the year which can be pretty gloomy anyway. Most acting careers are a sequence of ups and downs at the best of times.

It would be foolish to rely on the fact that a great show you might happen to be in will go on for ever, but in the middle of a long period of unemployment it is equally common to feel that you will never work again.

However, it is only when we start acting on that feeling and give up that we guarantee not to work again. Yes, we are in November and yes the prospect of work materialising this side of Christmas is getting slimmer, but most of those ‘lucky’ actors in panto will, if they have any sense, still be laying down foundations for work in the New Year and that is something you can do too.

First things first – if you need short-term money, start thinking positively about that temporary job – now is one of the better times of the year to find one. If you need encouragement that this is not you ‘giving up on your acting’, have a think about what some of the money earned might be used for – new headshots, a session or two with an acting coach, or even some tickets to research current productions of some of the companies you would like to work for.

If you don’t take a day job then at least commit to using your downtime productively – that means rather than planning endless projects, pick just one of them (from a hat if necessary), set yourself a deadline to make it happen and then work at it as if somebody else was employing you to do it. Ideally, give yourself a Christmas deadline and invite some people to see it, so you can’t not finish it.

And, in the meantime, keep applying for castings – last-minute ones still come up, and if you are keeping yourself ‘in motion’ you will be in a much better position to take advantage of any that do.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.