You’d be hard-pressed to find an actor on this green earth who’s not at some point held down a day job to make ends meet. Everyone from Academy Award winners to Broadway stars has likely at one time or another asked their table whether they’d like their salads peppered, or whipped up a latte with extra foam.
These trades and others like them are known as “survival jobs” and are often regarded as unwelcome steppingstones to success. But whether you’re an actor currently on the zig portion of a zagging road to stardom, or you’re just seeking extra nourishment for your piggybank, your survival job does not have to drag you down. We gathered advice from Backstage Experts on not only surviving your survival job but making it work to your advantage, because no part of your journey should be slogged through.
1. Never place your survival job before auditioning.
“You don’t want to let your survival job get in the way of auditioning. You don’t want it to get in the way of what you came to the city to do, so that’s a big pitfall that I see a lot.
“It kills me to see friends and they’re just like, ‘Yeah I worked a late shift from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. and I’m exhausted.’ And they’re dragging in their audition…Well, how is that helping you fulfill your dream and do what you came to do? If that late night bartending job isn’t working out for ya, let’s look into a temp job—let’s look into something else.” —Michelle Dyer
2. Seek flexibility above all else.
“What specific job truly facilitates an actor’s needs? The answer may not be a specific kind of job rather, a specific kind of employer—an employer who is more flexible and supports the employee’s acting. These employers may be found by networking within the acting community and through friends and peers.
“While no job or employer will offer total freedom, when it comes to subsidizing your acting career, be as creative and resourceful in choosing your day job as your are in your acting and you will strike a balance that supports your dream!” —Joanne Baron and D.W. Brown
3. Rebrand your thinking of "survival jobs" altogether.
“The term ‘survival job’ in and of itself infers a kind of depressing desperation: scraping by, not just financially, but emotionally, too. Shift towards a fulfilling financial and emotional income stream by rethinking your approach. Don’t start with the negative, ‘What do I need to get by?’ Start with a more positive and simple, ‘What interests me?’ approach.” —Stefanie O'Connell
4. Ask for what you need.
“When I moved to NYC, I made myself a firm commitment that I would a) only take day jobs that were in the performing arts industry, and b) the jobs must be so flexible that I can cancel coming to work – even the day of – and not be penalized. It’s a tall order. And sure, the interview process was tricky. I got turned down for way more jobs than I was accepted, mostly because I was clear about my expectations… [But] the managers always appreciated my candor, and those who hired me had a clear understanding of what I was requesting.” —Erin Cronican
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