Author Topic: Changing lanes.....  (Read 12098 times)

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erin

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Changing lanes.....
« on: Oct 15, 2007, 07:40 pm »
I'm sure there has to already be a thread for this but i'm not finding one...

Due to a variety of personal reasons, I'm leaving theatre and Stage Management.   The job is too consuming for me and I need to transition to a line of work that will allow me flexibility in work hours and the ability to take time off when needed for illness or personal reasons.   

I've been a successful professional SM for years and don't have much job experience outside of theatre.   Even when not stage managing i mostly worked in theatre....

*I* know that I can succeed in just about any line of work, but how do I phrase that in a convincing way on a resume for people who just don't know how theatre works?  It's tough enough to explain what a stage manager is in 100 words or less.   I don't want to waste a lot of print and paper (and interview time) explaining what i've been doing with my life....more interested in spotlighting the many strengths and breadth of experience that i already have and can put to work somewhere else.

Any ideas on how to phrase this concisely without scaring off potential employers?  I've been lucky enough to not have to look for non-theatre work for a very long time so I'm starting from scratch here and it's a little frightening.  I have put together a non-theatre resume which i'm glad to share with anyone willing to give input!

I'm very sad to leave theatre, especially after everything i've been through and given up to make this career work.    However, it is what i need to do at this point in my life.    Sadly, i don't have a target audience yet so I'm not ready to tailor to a specific industry (or potential job market, still trying to figure out that aspect of the shift.)

I would very much love to get some help from people in the know on how to make the transition to non-theatre-work and how others would phrase our skill set to those who haven't 'been there'.     ;)



On a  totally different note, i told my PM in July that i would be leaving after X-mas, and am astonished that the rumour mill has not yet circulated this information.   The high-ups all know as they've already hired a replacement, but  but most of the people i interact with directly on a day-to-day basis have no idea i'm leaving until i tell them personally....is there a tactful way to spread the information without talking individually to every person?   It's a pretty big place!

PSMKay

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #1 on: Oct 16, 2007, 06:01 am »
I think this topic hasn't come up as often because folks generally stop coming by the site after they leave the industry.    I can give you a few pointers from a couple of perspectives, both as someone who left stage management and as someone who has worked in corporate recruiting.

First of all, there's a ton of stuff that can transition from stage management to other positions, including some that might not initially cross your mind.  Corporate middle management, certainly -- there was a time when IBM preyed on former arts managers for middle management positions, although I don't know if they still do.  What I found was useful was to draw the parallels by couching it in corporate language.  They're looking for the business verbs: I managed, I supervised, I organized, I created, I saved.  As an SM you regularly supervise a crew.  You coordinate supplies and organize paperwork.  You observe risk management policies and perform quality assurance checks on the show.  This is stuff that will speak to a corporate audience.

As an AEA SM you also have experience with union regulations.  As a part of a technical staff in a rapidly changing environment you have the ability to learn quickly and shift gears just as fast.  You've shifted from project to project to project as a self-starter in a supervised but highly independent position.

A lot of resumes these days are run through a scanner for keywords upon receipt.  If those keywords pop out, it frequently doesn't matter what environment they come from.

One thing to watch out for is the shift from being essentially self-managed to being more directly supervised.  This will happen in almost any situation.  As an SM you generally enjoy more autonomy than you would in any standard business environment.  If you're ok with being an ASM on a regular basis then this probably won't be an issue for you.  For me, I suck at assisting and generally make a pretty crummy subordinate, so my adventures in big corporate were brief and pretty disastrous.

Without knowing your new chosen field I can't really give you too much specific advice.  I can tell you that I did have better luck finding people who would give me a chance *and* a flexible schedule by looking on craigslist and in the free weekly papers.  The big sites like Monster.com and the big city daily papers are generally looking for too much experience for a career shifter.  I've wound up doing commission sales - I fill apartments for a living.  I know many folks have done well as real estate agents, too.  (If you can persuade an actor that he really wants to shorten that slowly lengthening beat while calming down the soubrette with a run in her stocking, you can convince a high strung yuppie couple that they really want a particular house.)

Some areas where you'd have the flexibility and autonomy:
Sales, Catering and event planning, Housekeeping, Professional Organization Consultant, Outcall tech support, web design, editing, tutoring.  There's also some fields where a quick study for a license would help you out - home care, massage therapy, real estate, etc.

LisaEllis

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #2 on: Oct 16, 2007, 04:19 pm »
Although I can't speak from the other side of the coin, I've had really good luck with a temp agency. 

In my area, alot of things are temp-to-perm (not what I'm currently looking for, but always gives me enough pause to consider).
The agency has free training options on software that I haven't had to use before, but would be great if I need to make the change.
And the temp jobs I have done have been really thrilled with my abilities, and they tell the agency that they'd like to have me back when I'm in town.

Temp-to-perm also gives the option of "do I like this industry"...and you get health benefits, etc. from the day you start working with the agency.  I haven't had to take advantage of alot of the perks, but knowing that it's an available option is a nice safety net.

So if I ever decide that it's time for me to change lanes, I know I'll be starting with the temp agency to figure things out.  And maybe try out a couple places before I find what will be a good fit for me. 

Good luck!  I hope you find something great.

LiLz

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #3 on: Oct 16, 2007, 10:57 pm »
Hi!

I find that theatre is a lot like the Marine Corps - regardless of where you go in life you never really leave it behind.  The skills you've gained will prove of great benefit to you!  Think about the literary skill you've developed, your ability to multi-task, problem-solving and crisis management, basic repairs ... You can apply those skills into all sorts of professions.

Middle management is a definite possibility and I'd recommend taking advantage of a professional placement service.  I've used my skills to find management positions in radio and commercial real estate.  I've also done event planning, though if you're looking to reduce your hours you may want to steer away from that.  You might also want to look into teaching - you can work at many programs or in the private school system without a credential.  I was paid quite well to work at a private K-12.  You might also want to help high school kids putting together their portfolios for college apps as a consultant.  Now I'm building my own travel business, planning retreats, and I can tell you that the people skills, planning and organizational chops and all of the other abilities I honed during my years in theatre give me a huge advantage in the "real" world.

Best of luck in whatever you choose.  Your SM experience will give you an edge.

LiLz

ljh007

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #4 on: Oct 17, 2007, 08:29 am »
Hi Erin -

I would emphasize some keywords from SM experience for the regular job world with phrases like: team leadership, logistics coordination, thinking on your feet, prioritization skills, report creation, union interaction (and negotiation, if you've had the occasion to sit at the table), high responsibility and accountability, and being the point-person for all information distribution. Definitely point out your amazing talent for prioritization and keeping a cool head under pressure.

In general, you need to find a quick way to explain how your SM skills are relevant to the new career you seek (and I promise SMing is fully relevant to most other positions!). If you need to explain to the new potential employer what you did as an SM, and it takes more than 90 seconds, they'll tune out and assume your heart and mind are still with the SM work. So a simple statement that will be easily translated, like: "An SM is like a stage director, but for all the backstage aspects and with an emphasis on reporting, documentation, and information distribution." (Because nearly any non-theatre person thinks they know what a director does, but at least knows the director is a big position.) A way I like to explain SMing to businesspeople is: "An SM is basically the General Contractor or Project Manager for all activity related to the production that has less to do with the creative process and more to do with all the coordination of absolutely everything onstage and backstage." People also quickly understand the old SM adage: when everything goes right, you have nothing to do with it; when anything goes wrong, it's all your fault. Then let them ask specific questions about your skills and experience. This way, you'll always speak to what they want to hear, instead of trying to give them "SMing and theatre 101" in a 15-minute lecture.

You might look into project management - there are a huge varieties of jobs and the work can be somewhat independently directed. Plus, from what I've seen in the past, it seems to pay pretty well. You might need to start with a small firm to give you experience in this field, as it's somewhat competitive. But it's where I think our SM skills might be 100% relevant and appreciated, and where the style of the work (dynamic, occasionally high-pressure) might fit our personalities.

erin

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #5 on: Oct 19, 2007, 10:39 pm »
I think this topic hasn't come up as often because folks generally stop coming by the site after they leave the industry.
.....

Heh, well, i still have another show before i go!   Just trying to get things before finding myself unemployed in a new city :)

Thanks for the key verbs and buzzwords, I'm always worried that my language is perhaps too "flowery" and not "business" oriented enough.

I actually prefer ASM'ing over SM'ing, though i haven't gotten that opportunity for years.   I find myself, as i age, quite partial to being a worker bee (as long as i have freedom to accomplish tasks as directed.  No one likes being micro-managed.)

I've considered nursing quite seriously but the thought of going back to school for years is pretty off-putting.   Ack, i already have a terminal degree!  And still have student loans from that.....

Thanks for the advice!

erin

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #6 on: Oct 19, 2007, 10:41 pm »
Although I can't speak from the other side of the coin, I've had really good luck with a temp agency. 

Yeah, that's sort of the fall back :)   I've had bad luck with temp agencies in the past, but always because i had a short and specific amount of time to fill (like four weeks until rehearsal for the next show start...) and they always wanted a longer commitment.  *sigh*  It's called "temping" for a reason, yes?

erin

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #7 on: Oct 19, 2007, 10:42 pm »
Middle management is a definite possibility and I'd recommend taking advantage of a professional placement

Pardon my ignorance, but what is a professional placement service?  Is that like a headhunter?   (Afraid i'm terribly behind with the lingo :)    Thanks for the advice and encouragement!

erin

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #8 on: Oct 19, 2007, 10:46 pm »
A way I like to explain SMing to businesspeople is: "An SM is basically the General Contractor or Project Manager for all activity related to the production that has less to do with the creative process and more to do with all the coordination of absolutely everything onstage and backstage." People also quickly understand the old SM adage: when everything goes right, you have nothing to do with it; when anything goes wrong, it's all your fault. Then let them ask specific questions about your skills and experience. This way, you'll always speak to what they want to hear, instead of trying to give them "SMing and theatre 101" in a 15-minute lecture.

Brilliant.  I like that:  short, simple, comprehensive.

Thanks for the keyword suggestions!    That's exactly the sort of thing i've been trying to brainstorm.

LiLz

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #9 on: Oct 20, 2007, 01:55 am »
Professional placement ... headhunter ... all pretty much the same thing.  There are agencies that take you through every step of the process, from helping with the wording of your resume to finding the companies where you'd best fit.  There may even be folks with special experience in handling people transitioning from the arts.  It may be worth your while to spend a few hours on the phone calling different placement agencies to see which one can best serve your needs.

PSMKay

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #10 on: Oct 20, 2007, 05:19 am »
There's pretty much five different structures for recruiting talent in the US right now.  Two are in-house methods and two are outsourced.

In-house you have the smaller companies that just toss ads out to the papers and craigslist and hire very informally.  You'll likely send your resume to the person who will wind up supervising you directly.  Larger companies with their own in house HR departments will be posting more on sites like monster.com, and all subsidiary departments will have to use HR to get new talent.  You'll submit your resume to HR, and they won't really have any connection with your department.  The actual department that's hiring will have given them their ideal specs and they're just trying to find a match.

If the company outsources, they can go with three different models.  A temp agency or temp to perm agency procures clients and matches them on a "trial basis" so that the company has someone doing the work until they find a permanent person for the position.  Sometimes the temp makes the cut, sometimes they're just a stopgap until they find the real deal. 

A contingency recruiter does not provide anyone to fill the gap, but is paid a commission for each potential applicant that they send to the hiring company.  It's then the hiring company's responsibility to weed through them.  Contingency recruiters and temp firms are very similar and will sometimes be two sides of the same company.  They're used for situations such as company opening a new branch and needing 20 new tellers.

A retained recruiter is usually hired for very specific and high ranking positions.  They're full service, they're usually paid a sum equivalent to one year's salary for the new position to weed through and hunt down highly skilled talent and only forward over groomed and likely candidates.  The retainer is all they get and it has to last them until they find the right person.  A situation where a retained recruiter might be used is looking for a new partner in charge of bankruptcy litigation for a law firm.

I don't know if any of this is helpful, but I figure it pays to know what sort of people you're working with in the quest for employment.

J

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #11 on: Oct 20, 2007, 01:56 pm »
This has not been said yet, and though it's not answering any of your questions, I wanted to congratulate you on having the courage to make the decision that you needed to make.  There seems to be a certain stigma in this industry, with any production and creative staff, that looks down on those who leave the business. I'm not trying to generalize us as theatre people by any means, but I find that there are many of us in the field that have a certain attitute towards those who leave.  We feel that "they didn't have what it takes" or "they didn't have the creativity" or they "chickened out". It's an attitude that I constantly try to persuade others to remove from their mindset.

There is NOTHING wrong with changing careers. This line of work can be difficult in itself, not to mention the extreme difficulty in finding work.  Sometimes, there is only so much one can take before it's not worth it for them anymore. And to recognize when it is one's time to leave the field is a very strong character trait for a person to have.

I also find that this negative view of leaving the theatre world can exist inside of the person leaving as well and cause a level of personal shame. As I've had brief notions of changing careers in the past, I've certainly felt this.  I encourage you to stand strong beside yourself and know that you are doing what you need to do.

Though I don't know you at all, I'm very proud of you for being able to recognize that you needed a change. Congratulations on your decision and I wish you the best in whatever line of work you go into next.  On behalf of all of us, please keep us posted on your endeavors.

erin

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #12 on: Nov 02, 2007, 04:26 am »
I don't know if any of this is helpful, but I figure it pays to know what sort of people you're working with in the quest for employment.

Very helpful, the whole corporate culture is such an odd concept to me, every insight is useful :)

debos23

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #13 on: Nov 06, 2007, 07:40 pm »
Hi, Erin!  Thanks for starting this thread.  I'm going through a slightly similar dilemma, since I decided to leave my resident SM position and have been updating my resume for the possibility of finding a non-theatre job to hold me until I pick up another SM position.   This thread is very helpful as I continue to look for work.  :-)

I don't have much to add on the job search question, but I will say that I found that the only way I could get the word out to the couple of hundred people I'd worked with over my four years there was a mass email from my personal email address, so that people would have new contact info for me.  It worked out really well and got me back in touch with folks I hadn't seen or talked to in a while, and who are not necessarily full-time theatre people, which was great from a networking perspective, as well as personally.   The grapevine worked for a portion of it, but I wanted to make sure everybody knew that there would be a new person in my position to contact.  I had the fortune to already know who my replacement was, so I kind of introduced her in the email.  Felt good to pass the torch that way, too.

For what it's worth...

Break a leg out in the business world!

kjdiehl

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Re: Changing lanes.....
« Reply #14 on: Apr 04, 2008, 04:02 pm »
Hey gang, been a while since I've posted, but I'm kind of in the middle phase of what Erin's been up to, too. In the last several years, and especially the last couple, I've slowly been becoming more and more of an electrician, (theatrical, of course,) and less and less of a stage manager. Living in NYC, freelance electrics work is far easier to come by, and pays better than all but the highest tier SM gigs. So in that regard, I've made the transition away from stage management, but stayed in theatre. For all you young stage managers, remember that your further technical theatre skills not only help make you a better stage manager, but they can provide you with other jobs when work is slow, if not an entire other career! I can't reiterate this enough.

But while LX is fun, easy, keeps me fit, and pays well, I don't really find it interesting enough to do it the rest of my life. So here I am, in a similar place as Erin, asking you guys for further advice. Especially wondering if anyone else out there's successfully made the transition, or if Erin's got updates? While I want to utilize my skills I've developed as a stage manager, I'm not sure how much I'd like the idea of corporate middle-management. I've more kind of been thinking about the working at a library, or maybe in editing or publishing- especially inasmuch as editors oversee an overall project. These are just preliminary ideas, but what do you folk think? I've also been recommended the book, What Color Is Your Parachute, and which sounds like a useful resource. Does anyone have any experience with it?
-Kris Diehl, AEA SM

"Somewhere in the city there's a stage manager waiting,
standing in the shadows with a clipboard in hand..."

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