How Theatre Helped Me With My Job Search

Liz Chirico

Five years ago I found myself laid off and job-searching with a fervor I hadn’t had since I graduated college. It was scary, intimidating, nerve-wracking, completely insane, and yet I was remarkably calm. Looking back through the lens of having found a job I enjoy, I can say I was calm because of what I learned from performing. But I think I knew even in the middle of the chaos that my thespian skills were serving me well. These lessons aren’t applicable to just a job search either.

1.    Preparation is key.

In the digital age, it’s so easy to apply for hundreds of jobs without really looking at the position, company, location, etc. That’s a waste of your time and theirs. Before I even applied I researched and usually found something I had done that I could tie to what the position/company entailed in my cover letter. Plus I weeded out places that would absolutely not be a good fit before going through the tedious drudgery that is the application process. This is akin to visiting MTI’s website and reviewing the character list before auditioning. If a company is producing “Calendar Girls” and you’re 15, maybe think about auditioning in say 20ish years. 

2.    Wear clothes you’re comfortable in.

They say that in all musical/dance auditions- wear comfortable clothes you can move in. Because if you aren’t comfortable, you can’t possibly present your best self during the dance audition. That’s absolutely true in a job interview. Wear something you adore, that you love how it makes you look and feel. That extra confidence boost goes a long way- trust me. Super-secret tip: wear the same outfit to every initial interview, a different fabulous outfit to each 2nd interview etc. Because your audience doesn’t overlap you can get away with this. (This rule also works if you’re on a dating website and going on several first dates all at once. But that’s a topic for another blog.)

3.    Have extra material at the ready.

Have you ever stood in the hall waiting for your turn to sing only to hear the song you spent weeks preparing coming out of someone else’s mouth? And of course, you think they sound like Sutton Foster compared to your Florence Foster Jenkins? That’s why you prepare for questions you know you’ll be asked and questions you hope you’re never asked, like “if your house was burning what would you save?” (I mean the answer is obvious, your Playbill collection but that doesn’t always go over well with non-theater obsessed folks…)

4.    Be nice to everyone!

As someone who’s been on both sides of the audition room, I can assure you there are folks whose sole job at auditions is to sit in the green room and watch the auditioners to see who’s chatty, who’s rolling in 15 min past the stated start time, etc. From the employee who holds the door open for you as you walk in, to the secretary/office manager asking if you’d like water, assume everyone is judging if you’ll make a good addition to the team. So smile and say hi. Show them how you’ll make a great addition to their cast… er, team. 

5.    Embrace rejection.

Even though you did your research and only auditioned for roles you’d be perfect for with a company you’d love working with, you’re not always going to get the part. When you hear (IF you hear) from an employer that they are going a different way ask why. They might not answer but you might get some feedback you can use. And then you pick yourself up, brush yourself off and start all over again. 

So after three solid months of job searching, I landed a wonderful role with great castmates. I know I’m lucky and I also know that my theater training played a huge part. I knew how to prepare, how to present myself and how to bounce back from every rejection until I found my place. 

Photo: Helen Murray