How Do I Get Your Job?
By Sarah Grubb
After a 15+ year career primarily working in large scale events, I often get asked ‘How do I get your job?’ by everyone from long term industry workers to recent graduates. It really is the most asked question after I explain why I lived out of a suitcase in about 15 different countries for the past 10 years. It is not an easy one to answer.
Truth be told, I would say I owe it all to a certain set of choices I made, which put me in the right place at the right time. I know it sounds a bit hokey, but it is true. I studied at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney in 2000, which genuinely put me right in the middle of it all. I met the right people, had sort of the right skills and it got me involved in some great events.
I had to start with the basics. I worked as an event coordinator just booking venues, entertainment and production elements for corporate gigs. I worked as an assistant stage manager, finding props and cleaning coffee cups. I worked as a props maintenance intern with a large touring kids show.
Throughout these jobs, I tried to apply the communication skills I learned in university to help build relationships, gain professional trust and to hopefully keep me moving up my career ladder.
I attended NIDA on exchange from a ‘conservatory style’ BFA technical theatre program at University in the US. My class had only about 8 students in my year. We worked with professional directors and designers, alongside student actors, stage managers, and costume creators. It was solely focused on production. We only had 1 or 2 classes in design. It was during my final semester that we took a course called Verbal Aikido. This was probably where I learned the most about how to communicate to all the different types of personalities within the arts industry. We learned how to say no without physically saying it. They taught us how to present options that are more realistic without laughing out loud at the director. I started to appreciate the entire artistic process more and my contribution to it. It made me a solid communicator and gave me the skills to become a smart manager one day. Now while this course didn’t do the same thing for all of us, it certainly drew out some strong communication skills that were inherited from my father and taught me how to apply them to my chosen field.
Fast forward a few years and I got myself into the crazy but amazing world of Opening and Closing Ceremonies. I also started off making spreadsheets but worked my way up to different positions where I was hiring people and ensuring those people knew how to deliver their roles. I enjoyed what I did, and I loved being able to re-employ people I knew who had the same work ethic and communication skills as I did.
What was I looking for in staff? It wasn’t necessarily amazing experience in large scale events because let’s face it, that’s hard to find especially when you need to hire local staff who may never have had a large-scale event come to their country. But the list is simple:
- Similar background to myself ie theatre production, stage management, event production.
- Dedication – an impressive show of dedication to delivering the best show ever, while understanding that the number of hours we want you to work may be high.
- Humility – a great understanding that every single person involved in the project is important from the cleaners to the executive producer. Someone who wanted to just help however they could without a showy attitude always impressed in my book.
- Strong Communicator – someone who really understood that there are a lot of varying personalities involved and that you need to be able to get all those personalities on board with what you needed them to do regardless of how crap a task it might be…this is a bit harder to gauge in an interview, but it was something I asked for in their references.
That honestly was about it. In terms of the logistics and specifics of how to be a part of the technical operations of the show, I could teach that to someone with the above skills easily. If you came recommended by someone I trusted, even better.
So, how do you get my job? Ask a professional for advice about your resume. Volunteer on any local event or production in your town. Have a coffee with a local industry professional to see who they might be able to connect you with.
Search the employment listings here on TheatreArtLife in The Market section. Reach out to me if you want a chat. Take advantage of your internship. In all seriousness, every good intern that ever worked for me is nearly impossible to employ because they are always working!
Then when you land a great opportunity, DON’T SCREW IT UP! The key to getting and keeping amazing gigs is this: work hard. Do things before you are asked. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember you are only as good as your last gig. Be prepared to potentially do the same exact role more than 3 times. Keep an amazing attitude. Be excited to keep learning. And then, when you move up in management, it does become harder with longer hours, lots of meetings and plenty of responsibility, but being able to hire the same kind of people as yourself to help with the groundwork is so rewarding.
Those same people who I interviewed, hired, trained and watch become amazing professionals themselves, continue to be successful. That makes me very proud. Having them live all over the world is an added bonus….more people to visit!
I continue to employ people, give advice on staffing solutions and review resumes all the time. These basics are still a requirement for me, and I know they will continue to be throughout the remainder of my career, no matter which direction it takes me. Look out LA 2028!
Also Sarah Grubb:
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