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Careers Clinic: How do I apply for a day job when I have only acting experience?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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As a recent graduate, I have lots of plans and dreams for my acting career over the next few years. It was drummed into us by our tutors that ‘years’ rather than ‘months’ is the time frame we should be thinking of.

I have moved down to London to be more available for castings so my first acting goal is the unglamorous one of finding a decent day job. Having checked out a lot of the temp agencies and the various mainstream recruitment websites it seems they all want a CV as the first step of the application process, even for non-office based jobs.

I started at weekend stage school when I was seven and in the years since, whenever I wasn’t studying, I was always doing something actor related. For that reason I don’t even have a paper round to list as work experience.

I doubt that my ability to do jazz hands or recite soliloquies is what High Street employers are looking for.

How do I put together a ‘day job’ CV with absolutely nothing to put on it?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE Although laid out differently, a ‘day job’ CV and your casting profile may be more similar than you think. A beginner or casual observer is often under the impression that the main function of these tools is simply to list as many skills and as much experience as possible. This is often why even talented and experienced candidates fail to ‘get in the room’ for an audition or a job interview. Profiles and CVs should indeed present information and experience, but it needs to be tailored specifically to the job you are actually applying for. Moving from profiles on paper to the online model has certainly made life easier for actors and agents on the casting front.

Instead of being limited to one headshot, you can now highlight the most relevant one for a particular role. You can also sort your profile into categories such as ‘theatre’, ‘film and television’ and so on, to make it easier for casting directors to find the information that they are looking for.

Despite that progress, casting profile templates can still be fairly rigid, which is why actors and agents often have to agonise over which skill or attributes to add in certain categories where there is a limit. In this respect, your day job CV offers you a lot more flexibility, even if you don’t have as much raw material. Obviously there is a basic CV format that employers prefer. There are plenty of online templates to help you construct this. The National Careers Service is also a good place to access help, either online or by phone (0800 100 900). Once you know the format, you can then start to match your skills to available jobs.

You are right that if your CV lists only acting work, your skills section consists of accents, dance styles and stage combat and your personal profile says “my dream is to be cast in Game of Thrones”, it is unlikely to appeal to day job employers who don’t specifically recruit actors (such employers do exist by the way – check The Stage jobs section at thestage.co.uk/jobs).

However, if you think in terms of the broad range of skills you have gained from your acting work, you can list those skills in ways that are most relevant to the job you are going for.

Versatility, creativity, physical fitness, being a fast learner and being able to speak to groups are all attractive qualities to any employer. Read the job advert carefully and use the same language they use. You’ll often find your skills are more transferable than you think. If you get an interview, that’s where your ‘stagey’ rapport-building skills and ability to engage an audience can come into their own, although I would definitely save the jazz hands for the office party.

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

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