You studied theatre in college for four years, but the career fairs they held during senior year didn’t have any booths looking to recruit actors. So, now that you’re out in the world with your BFA, how do you go about landing your first professional job? A working actor is a prepared actor. So here are a few things you should be doing right now to get ready.
Choose Your City Carefully
Are you going to move to New York City after college or head to L.A.? Or maybe Chicago? Spend some time thinking about the kind of work you want to be doing and then think about where that kind of work is happening. While New York City is an exciting place with lots of theatre, it’s expensive and there is a lot of competition. If you decide you want to work on classic plays, maybe you want to live in a smaller city with great regional theatres. Consider the cost of living and quality of life you want as well as the job opportunities before choosing a place to live.
We have a great blog post on living and working in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, which will give you more advice on the pros and cons of each city!
Find a Job That’s More Than Just a Job
Sure, you want to get hired for a job in the theatre, but you’ll need to pay your rent while you are auditioning. Of course, you’ll need a job that is flexible, but there are lots of options other than food service. Make a list of all your special skills and see if any of them might be attractive to a potential employer. Love to work out? Maybe you can work at a gym. Good with kids? Apply for nanny or babysitter positions. Love animals? Be a dog walker.
Many actors find ways to turn their passions into their own businesses to support themselves. One actress who loved dressing up like Disney princesses now has a company that employs others for kids’ parties. Another actor taught himself graphic design and now he builds actor websites. Your “survival job” needs to help you achieve your dreams. Make sure it doesn’t zap all your energy.
Your education isn’t over once you leave school. The key to being ready for any opportunity that comes your way is to stay in shape, keep your skills honed, and continue to learn new things. Acting classes, dance classes, and voice lessons should always be a part of your routine. You’re not a singer? Take voice lessons anyway. Actors today may be called upon to do many things. Learn an instrument. Take gymnastics. The industry is always changing. You need to make sure you’re always ready to take on any challenge.
Audition! A Lot!
It can be frustrating at first to show up at open calls along with so many others day after day and not get hired. But when you’re starting out, it’s one of the best things you can do. Besides honing your audition skills, you will get to know the casting directors and other creative team members and they will get a chance to know you. And while you may not get the job today, you may be kept in mind for future projects.
Check out our blog post on How to Prepare for an Audition for some great audition tips!
Network the RIGHT Way
Creative teams like to hire people they know. So how do you get to know them? Forging professional relationships is a critical part of getting your career off the ground. But it’s important to learn how to network professionally.
Go to the theatre and support your friends by seeing their shows. Volunteer to be a reader at auditions. Even classes can be a great way to network. The choreographer for today’s dance call might be the same person who teaches your dance class.
Also, make sure to do your research before walking into every audition. Know who’s in the room, what they’ve done before, and learn as much as you can about the project. An educated actor is very attractive to a creative team. Find out if anyone you know has worked with the director. You can use that to start a conversation.
An artist’s life can be very unstructured so it’s important to create a routine for yourself. Keep an audition notebook and take notes after every audition. Note who was in the room, your interactions with them, what you wore, what you performed, and how it went. These notes will help you adjust your performances and will act as a reminder the next time you’re on the room with the same people.
Make a plan every day: gym, class, auditions. Make sure you are doing at least one thing every day towards your career goals to keep you on track.
It will be easy to get frustrated but remember that it takes time and perseverance to forge a successful career in the arts. Think of everything you do as a learning opportunity. Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people and learn from your mistakes. Set realistic goals and continue to adjust them. The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today!