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Now hiring: Survival job! Great for actors!

November 12, 2013

Who here has a survival job?  (Looks around) Most of you? Fantastic. You’ll appreciate this one.

I’ve had lots of survival jobs since moving to Chicago. I’ve worked in a toy store, been a tour guide multiple times, had a desk job, and currently wait tables. During my multiple job hunts, there were times I found job postings that were labeled as “great for actors!”

“Well,” I thought to myself, “isn’t that convenient! I’m an actor! I should do this job.”

After some trial and error, I learned to ask myself a question after seeing this phrase. Why are they good for actors? Do they require you to use memorization? Is the scheduling flexible? Or do they just like you for your “acting skills.” (For the record, having employers tell you to “use your acting skills” for a non acting job is one of my biggest pet peeves.)

My point is that there are usually red flags that come with these jobs that are supposedly fantastic for actors. I’ll some examples.

There’s a company that consistently posts on nearly all of the Chicago theatre websites I use to check for auditions. Their headline is along the lines of “Actors needed for live infomercials!” After doing some research on this company, I’ve learned that it’s nothing more than a sales job. There’s nothing wrong with having a sales job as long as that’s what you want to do. I’m assuming they go after actors because they know we’re capable of selling their products. Unfortunately, it’s misleading, and not in the field that many of us want to stay in.

Another example: There’s a walking tour based in Chicago that stops in different candy shops and gives a history on chocolate. They also love to post for jobs on audition websites. I actually worked with this company for a very short period of time. Being a tour guide can be great for actors because you get to use your personality and be yourself while showing enthusiasm for a particular museum, city, etc. With this particular job, they have you memorize a twenty page script, insist that you do it word for word, and have a big smile on your face the entire time. In addition, the script is screaming the personality of writer. So really they want actors for the memorization aspect. The scheduling was fairly flexible too. Unfortunately you don’t get to show your personality because you sound so much like the person who wrote the script. While there were other unlikable parts of the job that led to my departure, this was yet another job that (in my opinion) wasn’t great for actors.

I once saw another posting on a popular Chicago audition website that was looking for actors to go undercover to work for the government. Yes, the real government. There was training in DC. How on earth are you supposed to stick to your goals if you’re training in DC for something that is most definitely not in the field of acting??

Obviously everyone’s goals are going to vary. And if you’re looking for something different that’s not waiting tables, perhaps one of these jobs will work out for you. But I point these examples out to show that not all jobs claiming to be “great for actors” are actually great for actors.

That being said, if working undercover for the government can teach people to tip better and be nicer to their servers…I will take all the time in the world to train in Washington.

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