Author Topic: Civilian Jobs?  (Read 7143 times)

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amandaackovitz

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Civilian Jobs?
« on: Apr 25, 2011, 12:00 am »
I'm going to be studying stage management in college starting this fall, but I know that the gigs won't come my way forever/I'll eventually want to settle down and may not be able to find gigs.

That being said, what civilian jobs have seasoned SMs held?

loebtmc

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #1 on: Apr 25, 2011, 02:48 am »
I apologize for not remembering the specific words that would allow me to search this, but we have had a couple of lengthy discussions on this topic, from things folks do for fun to jobs SMs take to keep a roof over their heads while working in theater (community or union). You might do a little wandering (I will continue to see if I can stumble on the magic combination of words as well) because there were some great responses you might want to read. Here are two links I found that may be useful as well -

http://smnetwork.org/forum/index.php/topic,5748.msg35187.html#msg35187
http://smnetwork.org/forum/index.php/topic,5293.msg35092.html#msg35092

stagebear

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #2 on: Apr 25, 2011, 09:27 am »
When I left, I looked for jobs in advertising, broadcast and event production - all of which mirror SM'ing pretty well. In the end, I ended up getting into advertising and now produce TV commercials, radio commercials, videos and still photo shoots.

nmno

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #3 on: Apr 25, 2011, 02:59 pm »
While I think keeping an eye out for jobs you might hold in tandem with starting out as a stage manager is smart, I wouldn't spend TOO much time worrying about what you'll do AFTER stage managing at this point. 
What kind of stage managing will you have done? where will you be living/want to live? what did you like about stage managing and want to incorporate into your new profession? why are you leaving ie tasks you want to avoid? what jobs/careers are there (not what's "available" but literally, what jobs exist and which are obsolete)? You have no idea where you'll be in life, or in some ways WHO you'll be, when you "retire" from stage managing.  Don't get too ahead of yourself.  Focus on pursuing your first career.

Now if you are questioning whether you want to be an SM at all, that's a different story and completely worth examining at this stage in your pursuit.  There are several topics on the board discussing that issue.

amandaackovitz

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #4 on: Apr 25, 2011, 03:06 pm »
I'm really just looking for options to keep in the back of my mind. My family, while supportive of my decision to leave "real college" and go to school for SM, they are concerned about what I can/will do once I settle down/can't support a family with the erratic pay/can't find jobs/etc. They won't stop talking about it, so it has put a nugget of curiosity in my head. That's all. Also, it's interesting to see where former SM's have ended up, especially if there turns out to be a couple of more popular fields.

LizzG

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #5 on: Apr 25, 2011, 04:42 pm »
I have several SM friends who work in other areas of theater when there is no SM work (props, electrics, house staff, etc.).  As for myself, I held a full time props job at a long running off-broadway show for 3 years (while freelancing as a SM) before going into Stage Management full time on the road. 

Guess that's not really a 'civilian' job...but pays the bills while still working in theater!

MatthewShiner

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #6 on: Apr 25, 2011, 06:50 pm »
Here's my big advice.

Don't create an escape plan.

If you are going to commit to this as a career, commit to this as career. 

If you have a side job, you are going to very quickly realize that there are easier ways to make money that involve a lot less time, commitment, etc.

But, if you say, I have to make a living as a stage manager, and only stage management, you are going to run you career as a business, and make choices base as business.

If you are constantly having to subsidize your career by holding other jobs, then maybe it's time to get another career?

(now in reality, there are always going to be some need of bridge jobs and issues, but if you are spending more times working at Starbucks . . . there is an issue)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

Cedes

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2011, 06:46 pm »
I worked at a retail location during all 5 years in my undergrad. If/when I will not be stage managing, I most likely will try to find jobs in the production/management side of entertainment (music, movies, TV, etc) and see if I can find a more "solid" job there.  I'm not putting much vested interest in this right now because, obviously, my passion is stage management and that is what I hope to be doing for a long time to come. 

My family did the same thing, and eventually, you learn how to tune them out.  If you are dedicated, you will have no real issues finding work or staying busy. Trust me.

Balletdork

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2011, 09:44 pm »
I agree with what a lot of you have said-- no back up plan is the only way to go! I went to a BFA program, and have been CONSTANTLY employed since 1999 - With 1 5 week lay off in the summer of 2000 and 1 10 week lay off in the summer of 2010~ other than that I've been employed nearly 52 weeks a year (47 weeks per year since 2007) as a professional stage manager. The work is out there -but you do have to hustle and be willing to make cross-country moves!

nick_tochelli

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2011, 01:09 am »
As a person who followed the aforementioned advice myself (don't have a back up plan, be willing to do whatever it takes etc), I think it creates a huge disservice to you. And as an act of full disclosure: I'm telling you this as someone who is currently transitioning out of the profession because I got married and want to have a family and theater can no longer pay the bills and my career has come to a stand still.

Here's the reality check: Theater is a hard business. The pay sucks most of the time, and the expectations people have of you for a show that pays on a Broadway level and a crappy showcase are identical. Yes, there is work out there, but if something comes up in your life that makes theater an impossible career path for whatever reason and you don't have a back up plan: what do you do then? Not everyone is as successful as some of the contributors to this forum and haven't been able to break through the glass ceiling.


My advice, and like all bits of advice, take it how you will: While you are in college now, get a second degree in something else you love and might be able to see yourself doing as a career. It's easier to do it now, vs. going back to get it done later.

When you get out and start your career in theater, DO follow all the advice you've received from everyone in this thread. The advice is solid for those who are pursuing a career in stage management. Especially Matt's and Balletdork's advice about committing to Stage Management as a career and a business. I made the commitment when I moved to NYC 4 years ago, and I was employed well from the moment I set foot on the city sidewalk. I held one side job outside of the theater and I never worked more than 20 hours a week there and it sucked. I quit 4 months after I got the job because I hated it so much.

However, I really think not having a back up plan is a horrible disservice to yourself. I'm not saying you ever have to use this back up degree you get. But there might come a time where you have been working the Showcase grind for far too long at $100 and a metro card and it's not a viable option to continue moving forward.

Relatively back on topic: Management positions in retail and offices are very similar to work Stage Managers do, and I know friends who have held those positions. A lot of what we do is similar to so many different careers...the issue becomes trying to show employers the similarities when they don't know what you might have been spending the last 10 years of your life doing.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2011, 04:20 am by nick_tochelli »

MatthewShiner

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2011, 10:17 pm »
The reason while I encourage people not to come up with a back up plan or to subsidize their career with a side job is I think people have a better chance at success in this career when they put all their efforts into making this career work.  A side job can be distracting in many ways - besides getting in the way of the job, it might just prove to you that you can make money in easier ways, easier ways.  (Trust me, there are a LOT easier ways to make a living).

You know, the stats people throw around is that 50% of small business fail in their first five years.  So, if we are our own small business . . . then the odds are pretty steep against us.  Even if we do everything right, there is just a certain amount of luck involved in this crazy business.  You can work your ass off, and just never get high enough up the rungs of the career ladder to make a decent living.  (See previous rants about schools putting out too many young stage managers and too many young stage manager desperate for resume credits working for little or no pay . . . )

You know, we are in a business that combines LOVE of theatre, ART, BUSINESS, etc - it’s a complicated economic model, for a career that really pays for and favors experience - but makes it VERY difficult to get this experience.  Theatre thrives on taking advantage of young, good and cheap/free labor.  Theatre can be an EMOTIONAL DRUG that makes us pursue this career perhaps a wee bit longer then perhaps we should, or SUFFER for art, when in reality, is stage management a career you need to suffer for?  (Does one suffer to be a pharmaceutical sales rep?)

At the end of the day, here’s the honest truth - not everyone who wants to be a stage manager will be able to make a living as a stage manager.  (It’s one of those odd things about life - it’s true when a parent tells a child they can grow up to be president, but not every child can possibly be a president.)

Yes, I agree with Nick.  I bet at least 50% of the stage managers on this web site will find that they will have to change careers in the next five to ten years.  It doesn’t mean that they can’t stage manage for the love it.  Yes, you should always have back-up plan, but don’t jump to it right away - commit to this job, and do everything you can to make it work - if you find you have to keep compromising things that important then . . . then maybe it’s time to make a u-turn.

And we complicate the issue with life choices, such as marriage, a child, taking care of a family member.  I will tell you right now, if I had fought and won custody of my child in my divorce - I do not think I would have been able to let my career grow the way that it did.  Hell, if I had stayed married, I don’t think I could have made the decisions I made.  (The relationship I am in know makes my career difficult enough).  But you may find waiting around for the big break is nothing worth other things life have to offer, and let me let you in on the big secret - live the life you want, and find a career that can support it - as opposed to living the life you career will allow.  Stage Management has an odd way of taking over your life . . . and not always in a good way.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

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Rebbe

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2011, 10:52 pm »
My civilian job experience is kind of backwards.  I was a double major in broadcasting and theater, and worked in radio for a two years right out of college before I started dabbling in theater, remembered I loved it, and ended up making a career as an Equity SM.  I continued to work in radio as a freelancer as time allowed, and it has provided some important financial cushioning for those between-shows-times.  So I would second Stagebear about broadcasting or mass communications as a Plan B.  Choosing a field with equally strange hours to theater, and that pulls on the problem-solving and organization skills of an SM would probably be a good fit. 

I can also relate to nick_tochelli, as I am also transitioning out of theater via grad school.  For me it’s a matter of being tired of the lifestyle, combined with wanting new challenges, and a career that is doing something positive for society.  In that spirit, I’d say that the “helping professions,” things like social work (my choice), nursing, counseling, etc, can be another avenue for using the people skills acquired as an SM.  While it’s true you have to convince folks that your prior experience is, indeed, transferable, but that has not been as hard as I had expected.  Plus, I ended up being picked for an interview because the decision-maker had been a theater major…so you never know when taking the long road will turn out to be in your favor! 

Hey, SMs are wired to have a Plan B, C, and D.  The trick is to know when to make Plan A your top priority, even if it means Plan B & Company need to fall off your radar for a while.   
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

PSMKay

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2011, 11:09 pm »
Matthew's offhand comment piqued my curiosity so I did some quick poking into the member database.

Of the first 30 people who registered for SMNetwork who have not been purged, only 11 of them have logged in within the past year.  Now, we cannot gauge a stage management career by a visit to SMNet, but it makes a decent benchmark as to career longevity - especially when you consider that about 2/5 of all accounts ever created were deleted in one of the two inactive account purges.

Now, that being said, I heard an anecdote when I was in college that IBM had a hiring policy of deliberately targeting stage managers for middle management in the late 80's.  (I cannot verify this, but it makes a nice story.)

I have a short attention span when it comes to work projects - I think the main reason I enjoyed SM when I was still active was because of the sheer diversity of the job.  I can certainly remain focused on a task that interests me, but I have no need for closure or brand fidelity so I'm generally committed to about 5-6 projects at once, any one of which would suffice as a career for most folks, and none of which will keep me on board for more than half a decade.

Out of curiosity a few months back I made a list of all of the various stuff I've done 8 hours a day for love or money going back to 5th grade when I first had to file income tax.  I've had varying levels of success at each, but they all tend to use segments of my skill set.  Stage management was one of the few that used something close to 90% of my applied experience, although my current adventures in real estate come close and over time I'm sure real estate will exceed stage management in terms of random stuff I'll be able to say I did and got paid for. 

In the interest of answering the original question, here's the list:
 
  • Greeting card designer
  • Hospital volunteer
  • Nursery school teacher
  • Health insurance documentation author
  • Theatre company owner
  • Accompanist
  • Flute teacher
  • Piano teacher
  • Sheet music shop clerk
  • Stage director
  • Stage manager
  • Scenery carpenter
  • Theatre electrician
  • Costume draper
  • Production manager
  • Police dispatcher
  • Bus driver
  • Lyricist
  • Executive Recruiter
  • Strategic business consultant
  • Office manager
  • Dot-com accounts receivable clerk
  • Restaurant accounts payable clerk/graphic designer
  • Web designer
  • Software instructor
  • Leasing agent
  • Systems manager
  • Caterer
  • Realtor
  • Database engineer
Hopefully this will give you some examples to work from.  Oh, and for the record, I have a double BA in theatre & French but can't really say that I've needed proof of a degree in anything to do anything.

nick_tochelli

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2011, 12:41 am »
At the end of the day, here’s the honest truth - not everyone who wants to be a stage manager will be able to make a living as a stage manager.  (It’s one of those odd things about life - it’s true when a parent tells a child they can grow up to be president, but not every child can possibly be a president.)

Yes, I agree with Nick.  I bet at least 50% of the stage managers on this web site will find that they will have to change careers in the next five to ten years.  It doesn’t mean that they can’t stage manage for the love it.  Yes, you should always have back-up plan, but don’t jump to it right away - commit to this job, and do everything you can to make it work - if you find you have to keep compromising things that important then . . . then maybe it’s time to make a u-turn.

And we complicate the issue with life choices, such as marriage, a child, taking care of a family member.  I will tell you right now, if I had fought and won custody of my child in my divorce - I do not think I would have been able to let my career grow the way that it did.  Hell, if I had stayed married, I don’t think I could have made the decisions I made.  (The relationship I am in know makes my career difficult enough).  But you may find waiting around for the big break is nothing worth other things life have to offer, and let me let you in on the big secret - live the life you want, and find a career that can support it - as opposed to living the life you career will allow.  Stage Management has an odd way of taking over your life . . . and not always in a good way.

Perhaps I came storming out of the gates just a little too strongly last night. Upon the re-read....I may have been very cranky last night.

I do completely understand what Matt is saying about not falling back too quickly. You do have to give yourself a honest try at Stage Management without a supplemental job. You can (and most likely will) be amazed at the opportunities that you can find when searching for your livelihood.

I made it my goal to not work for less than my rent payment on any production and I'm proud to say that in my 4 year professional run in New York, I worked a grand total of one show that didn't meet that goal (But that's ok because I met my Stage Management "wife" on that production). It just seems that lately the pool is drying up and I haven't been able to find work that meets that standard and I refuse to work for less than I'm worth/can live off of. Its sad when some of the most consistent paychecks I've received in the last 5 years has been from the NYS Unemployment office. 

And it seems that I, much like many other small businesses, didn't quite make it to their 5th year. My transition out of Stage Management can't kill my love for the theater and I hope I'm able to find a way to continue working in theater in any manner possible. It just so happens that my priorities have to shift at this point in time. I have every intention on maintaining my Equity status (I mean...if I can't swing just under $120 a year I think my new career move is even spikier than my choice to pursue a career in theater in the first place! :P) and if the planets realign somewhere down the road, I'll be right back in the thick of things with gooseneck light and headset in hand!

BARussell

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Re: Civilian Jobs?
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2011, 11:21 am »
I certainly have no experience in this situation but I can say two things:

1.  Parents do have great advice, and know a lot it's true. But it's really hard to explain to them wha you don't even know yourself, Get some experience in the program talk to alumni, faculty, etc. When you atart having facts to back up your feelings  your parents will come around. plus really how many majors in college automatically come with a job attached? Not that many...My friend who just graduated with a degree in Stage Management got a job at a law firm, so you never know...

2. You can be a stage manager and be settled not every stage manager is working gig to gig, at many of the regional theatres in my area they use the same stage manager on each show, they have been working there for years.
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