I’ve been working in theater for 12 years and this month is the first time I’ve ever had a job fall through at the last minute.
There’s been the occasional job way off in the horizon that didn’t work out for some reason or another, but there was plenty of time to recoup and find something else.
This job was cancelled less than 24 hours before I was supposed to leave.
After two and a half weeks of being unemployed.
A month after being unemployed for three weeks.
So. Yeah. That was real inconvenient and my bank account was pretty angry. To tell the truth, so was I. Cancelling a tour with no explanation 24 hours before it was supposed to start seems irresponsible and like incredibly bad management on the part of the touring company.
I feel even worse because one of my Fame co-workers was supposed to do this tour too and took it on my recommendation that this was a solid company to work for.
Apparently not anymore.
On the flip side, the fact that this has happened once in 12 years is a pretty good track record.
Additionally, my fully stocked emergency fund has me not so worried.
My incredibly low monthly bills (less than $300 in responsibilities each month) also have me not so worried (and more aware of my middle-class, easy going parents who don’t care if I show up and live with them for a while privilege than usual).
Finally, my small fleet of side hustle gigs also has me not so worried.
But man, did it suck when it happened. And I was angry. And scared I would never work again and no one would ever hire me and… a whole lot of irrational madness.
So here are some things I’ve learned over during the last few weeks.
#1 – In the arts, it doesn’t hurt to shout it from the rooftops that you’re unemployed.
I am so leery of social media and don’t really think putting all your business out there for the world to see is usually the best call, but in my “just lost my job” panic, I threw it out to the universe.
In response, more people than I could’ve even guessed stepped up to try to help me. Old co-workers I hadn’t heard from in years started passing on job postings. An old rigger who is now a local several states away had a dance troupe come through who just lost their stage manager and pitched my name and contact info to them immediately. Other friends volunteered to reach out through their networks to see who might need a stage manager.
At the height of my panic, I was suddenly overwhelmed by all these people who cared. It was really incredible.
And my friends who had nothing to do with theater reached out and said they were glad I’d be home more and we should hang out. That doesn’t sound like much, but it brings me to #2.
#2 – Totally take into account your budget, but don’t be an angry, unemployed hermit. If you can, consider this time a gift.
Let’s be honest, I’m still trying to fully embrace this mentality, but the moments I do well with it are when I’m happiest.
Some years, I’m gone nearly the whole year. I don’t get to do things like go to cousin’s game night on Thursdays and play board games with my brother and cousins. I don’t get to see a movie I’m excited about on it’s first night out with my best friend. I don’t get to take spontaneous road trips to Toronto for purple desserts.
Wallowing in your unemployed state sucks. Grabbing yogurt with a friend doesn’t. And isn’t something you could’ve been doing if you were at work.
#3 – Try to keep some sort of schedule to your days.
Every day I try to work. Work varies. It can count as substitute teaching (which I hate and am trying to avoid). It can be babysitting. It can be writing freelance articles. It can be working on my blog. It can even be transcribing for Rev. However you slice it, at least a few hours every day are dedicated to doing something productive that brings in money.
Heck, one day it was just spending the day listing stuff on eBay.
I’ve also picked up a little bit of stagehand work by obsessively following Offstagejobs and Craigslist and bugging a friend of mine who is the Technical Director where I went to college.
As this unemployment phase has stretched out a little bit, I also decided to work on some new projects. I have a 2017 goal to add 2 resume skills to my resume and why the heck not now, right? So I started researching how to become a pyrotechnician and I became a Notary Public. I also finally invested in a blogging course Pro-Blogging Secrets.
On the one hand, paying for the blogging course and the fees to become a Notary Public made me more anxious than usual. On the other hand, I realized I really don’t have time to do these things usually and all my other hustles should be able to balance out the expenditures.
And on the third hand, all these things are keeping me very busy and from going completely insane while I look for steady work.
#4 – Brush up your resume and update your website.
It should probably go without saying, but make sure both of these things are current and ready to be seen. I got a small one-off stage management gig in Washington, DC for a day based off a message to a guy in a Facebook jobs group. He just Googled me, looked at my website and hired me on the spot. If I hadn’t had a website and someone else had, that job could’ve gone to them instead.
I also have a pretty good generic cover letter template that works for about 80% of the gigs I’m applying for. A lot of them are straightforward stage management gigs for a one off show that will last 2-8 weeks. They are simple things. I might add a note or two to the bottom of the cover letter, but my generic one is just fine.
That being said, the other 20% of jobs get specific, detailed cover letters. I have applied to Cirque du Soleil probably 50 times in the last 8 years. Every single time, the show I’m applying for gets a unique cover letter, tailored to what an excellent stage management candidate I am.
Maybe someday, someone there will read it. :oP
Some jobs will also have a weird requirement that I can meet in their job description. Heck, one said they were looking for Mary Poppins, so that got worked into my cover letter too.
I’ve also taken every single interview that’s come my way, including a few shows that I knew there was no way I would take because it’s practice. Maybe some stage managers are great at bragging about themselves, but I suck at it. The more practice I get interviewing, the better.