To the Theatre Majors of 2019:
Congratulations! You graduated from college! That is a huge accomplishment. Take it in. Appreciate what you just did. If you are like most college students, you are probably freaking out about what to do now. Below are a couple of suggestions that barely scratch the surface on emerging into the working world, but it is great to get started on your journey. I graduated as a Theatre Major in 2017 and got my masters degree in 2019, so this journey is still pretty fresh in my mind. Here are the resources and advice I had (or wish I had) when I was starting out.
It is unlikely your first gig out of college will be your dream job. I was a barista, nanny, hostess, assistant, and about a dozen other odd jobs before I started working at LA STAGE Alliance. That is completely normal. Job experience is valuable even if it doesn’t seem relevant to your dream job. My two best friends when job hunting were the career portals from Center Theatre Group and Berkley Rep School of Theatre. They have advice on how to write cover letters, format resumes, and prepare for an interview. These are resources you can use for any job application.
Finding the jobs to apply for can be a little more of a challenge. Berkley Rep has links to the job boards for theatre companies all over the country. My personal favorite job board is Arts for LA. When it comes to non-theatre jobs Indeed is the job platform I trust the most.
DON’T RUN! This is important information that can be uncomfortable to talk about, but the sooner you start to understand personal finances the better.
A recent study done by Center Theatre Group showed that financial skills are important to your long-term career as an artist, which includes your personal finances. There are not a ton of great resources out there that are specific for artists. Everyone’s financial story is different, and the resources available are still limited (we are working on it here at LA STAGE Alliance). Keep in mind that even when the resources out there are not applicable to where you currently are in your journey, you can still learn about them now. Avoiding things like credit scores and student loans will not make them go away.
Acorns is an investment app aimed at millennials, but you don’t need an investment account to read their blogs, and most of their blogs are about basic financial literacy, not investing.
GirlBoss is a media company for entrepreneurial women, but they write about money in a way that is applicable to any gender identity, and as artists we are also a little bit entrepreneurs.
I keep my budget on Google Drive, so I can always check it and keep it up to date. It’s been awesome to create my own categories for budgets that are specific to my life (I have a line item for parking…. Because it’s Los Angeles) and recognize my bad spending habits (Target/Coffee).
Now we can get back to theatre! It is important to keep seeing theatre when you are starting out, (and forever in your theatre career) because you are looking for theatre companies you might want to work with some day. You want to see if their art resonates with you before trying to work with them. You may not have that sweet student discount to shows anymore, but you can still find discount tickets at onStage.LA. There are also theatre companies that offer Pay What You Can nights, young subscriber packages, and free tickets to previews. It is not hard to find a deal if you do a little research.
There is an important difference between volunteering for a day to expand your network and spending hundreds of hours on a project in exchange for “exposure,” but that is a completely different topic that demands its own article. However, I have found that volunteering has been one of the best forms of networking. It can also lead you to organizations and jobs you didn’t know existed. My favorite example, which is a little extreme, is that I had no idea LA STAGE Alliance existed before someone asked me if I wanted to volunteer at the Ovation Awards. It wasn’t glamorous, I stood backstage and made sure people didn’t get lost, but I fell in love with this organization and volunteered again and again. When LA STAGE Alliance had a job opening to work on the Ovation Awards, it made me a competitive applicant because I knew the organization and the program better than most candidates. If I hadn’t said yes to volunteering, I probably wouldn’t be working here. That isn’t the case for everyone, but it does help you meet people and get your foot in the door.
There are tons of ways to volunteer for day-of events, the easiest one is that most intimate theatre companies need Front of House volunteers to take tickets and sell concessions. For larger theatre companies, you can see if they have any public events happening that they might need volunteers for. Don’t be afraid to reach out, after you’ve done your research.
There is no possible way that your university could have taught you every type of creative career available, and there are new opportunities appearing every day as the sector and technology expands. If you went to school to be one thing, you don’t have to stay that one thing. I spent most of my undergrad thinking I was going to be a Stage Manager. You can explore other options, which is what is amazing about Los Angeles, we are a city based on multi-hyphenated artists and there are opportunities to challenge yourself and try new paths. It’s also okay to realize you don’t like doing what you went to school for. You have options. I highly recommend everyone take this career quiz to have a better understanding of what options are out there and how you can find jobs that fit into the type of life you want to live.
Most people put this at the top of the list. I put it last because I believe you need to be prepared to network effectively. People want to help you, help them, help you. Have some ideas or goals prepared, have your resume up to date, and have questions ready. Also, be prepared to know how much time and energy you can put into projects before signing up, I’ve made that mistake many times, and it doesn’t help anyone if you’re overbooked and overwhelmed. People mean well, but if you are wandering aimlessly with no goals or boundaries, it will be easy to burn out.
You are entering a new chapter of your life with more freedom and more responsibility. Take both of those seriously, and be open to the crazy world of LA theatre. If you can confidently say who you are, what type of projects you are looking for, and the type of art you like to create, you’ll be fine. If you don’t have those answers yet, you’ll still be fine, and hopefully, this will help you to start figuring it out.