There is a necessary evil that exists in the world of stage management. Short-term contracts and a burgeoning obsession with job website Mandy’s daily emails means that most of us will submit between 10 and 20 job applications every six months.
Once you’ve negotiated the minefield of updating your CV, securing some strong references and writing the dreaded covering letter (the seventh circle of hell in Word document form) you hit the send button.
Then you sit back and wait. If you’re lucky and have worked hard there will be a day when a reply pops into your inbox inviting you for an interview. “Hooray,” you think. You get to bask in the glow of your initial success. And then, after those 30 seconds elapse, you sink in to the crushing realisation. Now you have to go to an interview.
People outside our industry have it easy on this front. According to a survey conducted by the Association of Accounting Technicians, the average number of job roles someone will inhabit in their entire working life is six.
If, for argument’s sake, you were to go for three interviews per job change then that’s only 18 job interviews over the course of an entire career. Most of us in technical theatre could polish that number off in two or three years.
Have you done the required research on the company, show director and producer that shows you’re engaged and forward thinking without coming across as a stalker?
Nothing fills me with more dread than the knowledge that I have a job interview. What clothes do you wear? An outfit that looks smart, showing you’re a serious professional who can be trusted, but simultaneously has to seem practical as if you could, at a moment’s notice, put down a flawless mark-up. What bag do you bring with you? One that can hold a laptop and lots of stationery but actually just has two big bottles of water in it for when you get the inevitable dry mouth mid-questioning.
Once you’ve decided on the aesthetic part, you have the next level of preparation to go through. Where is the interview? How long does it take to get there? Is there a cafe nearby to hide in when you turn up 45 minutes early and don’t want to sit awkwardly in the reception area? Have you done the required research on the company, show director and producer that shows you’re engaged and forward thinking without coming across as a stalker?
The morning of the interview rolls around and you put on your preselected outfit. It’s time for final checks. Do you have a notebook full of the questions you plan to ask when they say “and have you got any questions for me?” but inevitably get too flustered to spit them out? Have you printed off a copy of your CV and put it in the bag you’re taking with you? Have you? Just check two or three more times before you head out the door.
Eventually, the moment will come when you’re called into that room, the door closes behind you, the seat you are meant to take is gestured to and the interview begins. All you can do is answer honestly and be yourself.
Maybe you won’t get the job, maybe you will. But hey, it’s all experience, right?
Katie Jackson is a freelance stage manager. Read more of her columns at: thestage.co.uk/author/katie-jackson