Careers Clinic: How do I secure work all year round?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I’m really enjoying my time at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. We’ve had good houses and nice reviews.

My one concern relates back to a nasty experience I had a few years ago, in a very good regional show that also ran for about four weeks in August.

We were all delighted when the producer talked about taking the show on national tour.

Foolishly, I held off looking for other work, as he was adamant he could raise funds to get the tour up and running in a month or so. To cut a long story short, he didn’t. I then ended up out of work for nearly six months.

I’m not blaming him for his enthusiasm, but the hard lesson I learnt was not to sit back based on a promise.

I also know not to assume that, if the show I am currently in is doing well, it will automatically lead to more work.

We’re now halfway through our fringe run and the show is bedded in, so what’s your advice for using my spare time to make sure I get work the rest of the year?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE We’ve all had the experience of waiting for big opportunities that eventually faded away to nothing. Most of us can also look back on genuine career breakthroughs that had their roots in a random conversation or interaction that happened months or years before. That’s simply how our business is.

With that in mind, well done for factoring in some forward planning for the rest of the year. But since no plans are ever guaranteed, I also wouldn’t want you to miss the unique opportunity the Edinburgh experience presents to expand your horizons artistically, as well as from a business point of view. The two needn’t be mutually exclusive.

Yes, schedule definite blocks of time to check castings coming in, keep your social media up to date, and do all the other stuff you would hopefully be doing at home. However, there are also a couple of useful career-focused exercises for which you can use the vast and unique carnival of theatrical life currently swarming all over Auld Reekie as your ‘test laboratory’.

The first exercise involves going for a wander round the streets and stopping to look at as many posters and collect as many flyers as you can. The only rule is that you are not allowed to investigate shows that have any close connection to your own show or themes you are already interested in. If you are a comic, no comedy. If you are in a play, no plays. Game of Thrones fan? Sorry, no GoT parodies for you. I’ll leave it up to you how tightly you apply the rule, but the more strictly the better.

Once your initial field trip is done, pick a show from the material you have collected and see it. Try to be influenced by what really grabs you, not what time it is on, how near it is to your digs or other ‘comfort’ options. Then ask yourself what it was about the poster, the flyer (or the person who gave you the flyer) that influenced you. There may be some valuable tips there for marketing your own brand in the future.

If you’ve played the game properly, you’ll now be watching a show you might not normally have chosen, possibly involving a performance discipline entirely different from yours. What can you learn and apply to your own stagecraft? Love it or hate it, you can always learn something. You will also be making a positive contribution to the fringe by being a ‘bum on a seat’ for another performer.

And finally, don’t forget to give your best at your own next performance just in case any of the bums on those seats belong to other readers of The Stage trying the same experiment.

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