It is vitally important for anyone in theatre to take stock of their career accomplishments. Theatre
can be a cut-throat industry, and most people don’t have time to stop and tell you that you’re doing
well and that your career is starting to take off. Like so many other things in this business, that has to come from you.
Taking a step back and admiring your achievements requires a moment of self-awareness, a crystallising consciousness, when you remind yourself to look objectively at all you have done.
You’re only as good as your last job, the old saying goes, but this mentality can often drive people merely to look to the next rung of the ladder.
If career progression really is just a series of stepping stones, then you can suddenly get to the other side of the river and realise you never gave yourself the chance to enjoy the crossing.
We’re all guilty of this mistake. In the past, I’ve been so wrapped up in making sure I meet the right people, or work for the right production companies, on the right shows, that I didn’t give myself the space to breathe and consolidate all the things I’ve done and learned up until this point.
A career is more than a list of credits on a CV. It’s who you’ve met, where you’ve worked, the challenges you have faced and overcome as well as the challenges you couldn’t.
The joy of a career in theatre is that we are all constantly growing and learning, honing our craft just that little bit more, or opening up an entirely new set of skills, which we never would have imagined ourselves capable of. Yes, we are doing this to keep moving up, to work on bigger shows, longer jobs, tours that go even further away. We’re an ambitious bunch, theatre practitioners.
But a great way to get really jaded really quickly is to not allow yourself to be proud of your achievements. If you’re only ever striving to reach a goal, what happens when you’ve reached it? How can you know how to be grateful and relieved and satisfied, if you were never doing it for those reasons in the first place?
Working hard on a job because you want to be hired by the same production company again is totally understandable. Given the inherent instability of being freelance, we all want to know where the next job is coming from. But don’t let that become the only reason you’re working hard. Remind yourself why you got into this career, and let yourself take pride in your work. You can’t and won’t love every show you work on, or every team you work with – that’s unrealistic.
However, this is your career and your livelihood, and you must have the fortitude to do what’s best for you. And sometimes, what’s best for you is to take a moment and say to yourself: “I’m doing well.”
Katie Jackson is a freelance stage manager. Read more of her columns at: thestage.co.uk/author/katie-jackson