I think that the two most important factors that helped me to break into my career were my ability first to create a plan for what I wanted out of my career, and then my determination to work the plan.
What does that mean? As a job-hunter in today’s economy, especially as a new working professional with limited experience, I need to be fully engaged AND flexible. This means, exploring all my targeted options without being so set in it that I am not open to opportunities. Underscoring it all, I have an unwillingness to give up.
When I was in school, I was always a good student, but none of my subjects excited me. I enjoyed school, but I didn’t look forward to any specific class. So, when I was starting to look at colleges, I had a difficult time deciding what major to pursue.
I asked myself what I enjoyed, what I was good at, and what I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. These questions helped me think of pursuing the theatre. That has a lot of options though.
From childhood, I have loved going to see shows. I loved participating in drama club, but I also knew that I didn’t want to be an actor. A professor once told me, to be successful as an actor, you have to want it more than anything. If you don’t need to be an actor, you shouldn’t be one. I knew I didn’t want that lifestyle, so I looked into other aspects of theatre. I am detailed oriented and organized, so I started to explore theatre management where these traits are much needed and sought after.
Once I knew what I wanted to do, I developed a plan to reach my goal. I have always been plan oriented, so creating a plan for my career path was simple. One day I want to run my own theatre, so I outlined a path that would lead me there.
I studied theatre and business in college. I planned to move to New York after graduation, but the DC area is home to me. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t want to move away. This was the first real deviation from my original plan, but once I made the decision to stay, everything else fell into place.
This is an important aside, because when you first start to make your career plan, you can get wrapped up and anchored in the details. Be flexible and open to options. You’ll go so much further and probably find unexpected benefits of the path you hadn’t expected to travel.
After I graduated, I started applying to every theatre related job I could find. I landed a few part-time jobs, but I struggled to find a full-time position. I didn’t let this deter me, though.
I found work as a house manager and a box office attendant at theatres ranging from large performance halls to one man performance artists. Each job that I took helped to keep my resume current. It also showed potential employers that I was working in my field. Finally, it demonstrated clearly that I didn’t mind working hard.
How did I get started to find these positions?
I built up my LinkedIn profile to connect with everyone I knew in theater and to showcase the experience I had. After referrals, up to 56% of recruiters say that LinkedIn is their primary source for finding qualified job candidates. This made sense to me to have a strong presence there.
As another job-searching benefit, LinkedIn gave me the opportunity to share more about my experience, interests, and passion for my chosen field than the limited space allowed by a cover letter or resume.
How did I stay motivated?
Even though I was landing part-time jobs, it was discouraging to send out so many resumes and applications and hear nothing back. Creating new cover letters and adjusting resumes to better suit the position is hard work – not to mention finding the job ads, maintaining professional social media channels, and filling out endless applications.
It would have been easier to say that this was the best I was going to be able to do, but I had to be unwilling to give up. I kept looking, I kept writing cover letters, kept turning in applications, and it has paid off.
Job hunting is a job all on its own, except it doesn’t pay your bills. Each part-time job that I got was a thrill. Yet, in some ways it made things harder, because I was working a great deal. I still needed to look for a full-time position. To stay motivated, I kept reassuring myself that I would find the right job and to stay the course.
This is a tough time for young people to be breaking into the job market. The opportunities are few, and the competition is fierce. I remember, one time, I had three rounds of interviews before I was hired for an entry level position. I don’t even know how many positions I applied to before I got my current job.
That’s okay, though. My work as the Business Assistant is giving me a firm understanding of the financial workings of a busy theater. I look at this job as a stepping stone to the larger career path I have in mind. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work in my field. I enjoy my work. This experience will be invaluable as I move on in my career.
I am continuing my other part-time jobs for now. The connections I’m forging, and the experience I’m gaining is rounding out my theater expertise. My plan is to continue to seek out new opportunities as they present themselves.
Getting to this point has been challenging. Yet, it has been educational and rewarding. I look forward to where I will go from here. I still have so much of my career in front of me. It’s exciting to think that one day I’ll be able to look at this time in my life and say that this is where it all started.
Guest author, Corinne Hayward, graduated from Virginia Tech in May of 2014 with a degree in Theatre. Her goal is to pursue a career in theatre management and eventually own her own theatre. She now works in the business department of Signature Theatre, and as a house manager and box office attendant at several other theatres.