How to Find Your First Survival Job in NYC

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Photo Source: Handiwork NYC on Unsplash

Every actor knows how difficult it can be to find good, flexible work. Add moving to a new city—New York in particular—on top of that? Even once you find your feet, it can take a while to get a paid gig, and you’ll probably want to eat (and pay rent, and maybe take a class) in the meantime.

What’s the solution? Your best bet is any artist’s oldest trade secret: get a survival job. You know the staples: waiting tables, bartending, or catering. These are classics for a reason, but if you’re starting from scratch, it can be helpful to consider your needs over your wants. Here’s what to look for in a survival job in NYC, ordered from most to least important:

Income
This should go without saying, but it wouldn’t be a survival job if you weren’t doing it just to survive. That means you should be making at least enough money to live, whatever that means for you. Food and rent, minimum, but if you’re paying off student loans, you may not want to risk digging yourself in too deep by getting behind in payments. The same is true for health insurance, car payments, and other regular bills. And who doesn’t consider going to see a show once in a while part of basic survival?

Flexibility
Not quite as important as income, but flexibility is still essential for an auditioning actor. Last minute callbacks, midday cold reads, and evening dance classes can make holding down a regular 9-to-5 tricky at the very least. Opt for something with off-peak hours or a job that’ll let you change your schedule as needed. Freelancing, driving Lyft or Uber, teaching, or tutoring are some things to consider.

Consider: Rabbit Movers (think the ‘moving and shaking’ part of TaskRabbits, but based in NYC and hires primarily artists and creatives!) or Broadway Maids.

Networking
It’s always easier to start with a foot in the door. If you can get a job where you already know someone—or one where you’ll be able to meet new people in your field, you’ll be that much further along in the rest of your job hunting.

Consider: The Made In NY Production Assistant Training Program. Their mission? “Provide unemployed and low-income New York City residents with training and placement into entry-level positions in film and television production.”

Experience
Find a job that caters to your strengths, or a job where you can learn to hone them. If you’re hoping to build your resume while keeping your schedule open, teaching may be the way to go.

Consider: TakeLessons—want to keep your voice intact and in tune between auditions? You’ll get weekly practice setting up as a teacher for both in-person and online sessions.

Fun
Let’s face it: work is called work for a reason. Most jobs, especially survival jobs, aren’t going to have you exactly jumping out of the bed every day, even if that’s what you’re working toward. But do you have a hobby you love? Consider turning it into something profitable! Photography, blogging, editing, or even opening an Etsy shop—take the creativity you’ve already got and make it do the work for you. It’s not easy, but neither is being a full-time actor.

Check out Backstage’s New York City audition listings!