Career Change for Performers: Plateaus, Passion, and Proactive Support
(Scroll down to find out about next week’s free career events for performers in NYC!)
I’ve heard it said more than once that performing is the gateway drug to a career in the arts.
That was my story, as it was for most of my arts and entertainment industry colleagues – many of you who work on the administrative side of the arts began as actors, musicians, or dancers, or even continue to perform professionally while working on the “other side” of the business.
How did you know it was time for a change? And if you’re still performing, how do you know if and when it’s time for a career transition?
Performing is an ambitious career choice, and every performer comes to a point when it’s time to reevaluate his or her career. Sometimes you’re just stuck and need a fresh approach. Maybe it’s time to retire and you’re excited to explore a new endeavor. More often, you realize you want a different lifestyle, but the idea of starting over seems overwhelming.
When I went through my career transition, I couldn’t find any resources that spoke to my challenge of positioning my performing experience as the right fit for another job or industry. And so I did a ton of research and pieced together my own process for finding a new career that was an even better fit. In my second career as a marketer, working with arts service businesses, it’s become clearer to me what can be done to strengthen a performing career or gracefully transition to an entirely new role.
My new book Exit Stage Right: The Career Change Handbook for Performers is designed to give performers a safe space and concrete process for exploring new options, whether it’s relocating to a new city as an actor or explaining how dance experience is relevant in a corporate resume. My hope is that it becomes a reference not just for performers, but for their support networks – organizations, schools, and family who want to understand both the tangible tools and emotional support needed in a career transition.
There are also some incredible organizations out there providing guidance to performers seeking a support career or a new one: Career Transition for Dancers, The Actors Fund Work Program, and LEAP, to name a few.
As an industry, we need to do more to empower artists to be in control of their careers from beginning to end. It starts with being honest about the state of the industry, from oversupply of talent to median incomes to how unions can work better. Universities and conservatories need to teach business skills to the thousands of artist-preneurs they release into the field each year. Unions have to continue to protect performers while keeping up with the times and the needs of every element of a production. And most of all, performers themselves have to characterize exploring additional or alternate career paths as smart and strategic, not as a betrayal to their initial career choice.
To launch Exit Stage Right, I organized a series of free events for performers to widen the dialogue about how to navigate a career change – join us!
Exit Stage Right Career Events (Free and Open to all Performers):
- Actors: Join us at The Network for an expert panel on career choices for actors. (Monday, December 10 @ 4pm)
- Dancers: Join me and Fractured Atlas’s Tim Cynova for a conversation about career passion at Gibney Dance Center. (Monday, December 10 @ 7pm)
- Musicians (and Everyone Else!): Come to The Knitting Factory for a happy hour where we’ll talk about how to create a sustainable lifestyle as a performer in NYC. (Thursday, December 13 @ 6:30pm)