Having spent 10 years as an actor, my main area of ‘between the glamour jobs’ work was doing educational shows in schools. It could be tiring when I was on a long contract, sometimes doing two or three shows a day, but it meant I didn’t have to look for the other types of day job my mates were doing – working in a bar or a call centre.
Now, I’m searching job sites and recruitment ads for supermarket work, with rent already in arrears and a landlord who is chasing hard because they have their own financial difficulties.
What holds me back is that, since I never had to apply for non-acting jobs, I don’t have any other work experience to offer. My application forms and CVs so far are just lists of shows I was in, which might get me seen by a casting director, but not my local supermarket manager.
Do I need to make stuff up or is there a better way to find myself work sooner rather than later?
After reminding actors for years that our industry isn’t as different from other businesses as they have been led to believe, I now find myself encouraging actors like yourself that the process of applying for other jobs isn’t as far removed from the casting process as it looks.
Whether it is the shelf-stacking and delivery jobs that seem to be currently in demand, or whatever new jobs will be created once the economy adapts to the new landscape, the logic that applies when filling in application forms or creating your ‘non acting’ CV is the same as fulfilling a casting brief. As with a casting, to ‘get in the room’ for any role you apply for, the closer you fit the brief, the better your chances.
The skills and qualities listed in each job advert are the same ones – preferably in the same words – that need to be listed in your application. This doesn’t mean you have to fabricate jobs you haven’t had, but in your CV or application form you should flag up the ways past acting jobs have given you the transferable skills required for the current one.
Does the role require you to be a good team worker? Any touring show will usually have ticked that box. For outsiders, the ‘magic of showbusiness’ can disguise the hard work most actors do. You and I know that teamwork is at the heart of a successful production, but the person reading the application may not.
Don’t be afraid to spell it out for them. “Worked as part of a team of six, touring schools around the country, sharing driving duties and with responsibility for assembling and disassembling the set quickly and efficiently” tells an employer a lot more about your skills than just putting “acted in schools tour of Macbeth, April to July 2019”.
Just as auditions are about bringing characters to life, interviews are your chance to flesh out your skills for prospective employers. “Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult customer” is a common question intended to discover whether you actually have a skill or just claim to. Even if the question is not asked in that specific way, answer as if it were.
When ‘rehearsing’ for interviews, look at the general skills required in the recruitment ads for the work you are chasing, think of experiences from your acting and non-acting life that demonstrate those skills, and get used to telling those stories succinctly but engagingly.
Every success with your job search and remember that, as in our business, the more roles you apply for, the more chance you have of securing a gig.
John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne