12th June 2021
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Stage Managers: Investing in Yourself

Investing in Yourself
By Melissa Bondar

For the last several years, my annual goals list has included adding two resumĂ© skills. I got this idea after reading “I am my biggest asset” over and over again on career related blogs, but it’s kind of true. It’s funny how long I overlooked that “investing in yourself” often has some pretty big returns, but it’s also funny how difficult it can be to do it at first.

I mean, investing in yourself is… a very wide concept. Even when I knew it would be a good idea, it took me several years to really figure out how to build up resumé skills.

Seriously. I just pulled up my December accountability posts for the last several years and I have never managed to write down 2 ways I built up new skills, even though I intended to for the last several years.

Despite that, there are a few things I’ve done over time to invest in myself and build up some extra resumé skills as a stage manager:

CPR & First Aid Training

You can get this certification through so many different groups, but if I’m not getting recertified for free through work, I usually go to a Red Cross training. If you don’t already have this certification, it’s fairly easy to do, not super expensive and looks great on your resumé. In fact, plenty of jobs require that you have it.

Approximate Cost through Red Cross: $120 (you can also find a lot of cheaper options too)

OSHA 10 or OSHA 30

Depending on how much time you have on your hands, an OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 card can help you stand out when applying to larger theaters/big companies. OSHA certifications can actually help in a variety of fields, not just stage management and knowing the different occupational hazards and how to keep employees safe from them is definitely a skill right up a stage manager’s alley.

Approximate Cost (OSHA 30): $160
Approximate Cost (OSHA 10): $70

Public Notary

I was a little on the fence about this one and actually just did it because I had a bunch of time while I was unemployed last year; however, I’ve actually used this skill several times at my current job. In my state, you don’t need any official training, but I did take an optional course (because I am not cool with being the reasons a will or oath or some really important document is declared invalid). The costs for this were the license, the course, an official notary book and my stamp.

Approximate Cost: $70

NYC Fireguard Tests

There’s a bit of a catch-22 here that you’re supposed to have a letter from the place you work to go take the test, but as long as you’re working somewhere, there’s really no reason they shouldn’t be willing to give you the letter to go take this test. Quite a few stage management positions in the city want you to have this card. There are two different kinds, the one for stationary buildings (F-03) and the one for festivals, pop-ups, etc. (or circus tents – F-04).

You can also study for and learn how to certify items have been properly flame-proofed through a similar test. All the study materials are available online in advance.

Approximate Cost: $35

Join Stage Management Communities

One of the best things I did as a young stage manager was sign up for a few stage management communities. The best one is free – the SMNetwork. It’s essentially an old-school forum board just full of topics where you can read more experienced stage managers’ discussions about the best way to do things or ask your own questions. You can also reach out to other stage managers who are working in places you’re looking to work to ask them about their experiences there.

The Stage Managers’ Association is slowly growing into a more useful tool for stage managers and it’s fairly inexpensive for students ($37 the first year and $20 each year after), though not bad for professionals at $70 the first year and $40 each year after.

A key thing to remember here though is that groups are only really as useful as you make them. If you get actively involved in the community of any of those groups, such as actively posting on the boards or attending meet ups, your return will be much greater.

Approximate Cost: $37-70

Other Training

Other very expensive or time-consuming ideas I’ve had but haven’t done (or was extremely lucky and did while I was growing up – thank goodness for band and dance ensemble):

  • ETC Training
  • VL School
  • Pyrotechnics Training (but someday I will because I really, really want to)
  • EMT Training
  • Rigging Training
  • Learn additional languages (you can do a super expensive route like Rosetta Stone, but there are also totally free programs like Duolingo)
  • Learn to read music
  • Learn how to play an instrument
  • Learn how to dance
  • Take an acting class

Mother Dirt

Very inexpensive ways to invest in yourself as a stage manager include:

Reading books on stage management

  1. Stage Management by Lawrence Stern
  2. The Backstage Guide to Stage Management by Thomas A. Kelly

Reading books on management in general

  1. The One Minute Manager series by Ken Blanchard (especially The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey)
  2. The Rules of Management by Richard Templar

Reading books on psychology

  1. Please Understand Me II by David Kiersey
  2. The Art of Speed Reading People by Paul D. Teiger


Volunteer with organizations that will help you network within this career path like the Stage Managers’ Association, USITT, Broadway Cares, Broadway Green Alliance, Broadway Stage Managers’ Symposium, etc.

Published in Collaboration with brokeGIRLrich

brokegirlrich TheatreArtLife

Also on by Melissa Bondar:

Useful Things To Do in your Downtime as a Stage Manager

Managing Money: What Cruise Ships Pay Checks Taught Me

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