BACK in the day, my first ever career out of school (funny isn’t it how we all used to think we would have one career and have to stick to it for the rest of our lives) was in the theatre. I was a stage and company manager, working my way up from the humble position of Assistant Stage Manager (tea maker, stage sweeper, lunch fetcher, prop maker, et al) through many different short term contracts with a wide variety of styles of theatre and companies.
You would get the job, work the job and then at the end of the contract you might be asked to do another show, or you would go and look in the back of The Stage newspaper and see what was happening, or perhaps you would hear about something on the grapevine, or better yet, you would receive a phone call from a production manager or director who had heard about you and wanted to meet you.
I started from nothing at my local theatre doing work experience, they in turn (and this was my first encouragement to keep going) asked me to return to work on a show the following year as a part of the stage crew, then one thing led to another and I joined the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain as part of their Stage Management Team (returning a few years later to actually work for them is one of the proudest moments of my life).
I worked in the West End, and toured nationally and internationally, all without ever having stepped inside a drama school or university to train.
Now, I know that you can’t apply this method to some types of profession, the obvious one being doctor and you can’t just show up and learn on the job as a dentist either I would suggest.
Sometimes you might even feel that you are not qualified or able to perform a task because you weren’t taught it in a classroom and then sat an exam on the subject, but really there’s a vast choice of jobs that you absolutely should learn from the bottom up that do not require three years in college.
More importantly is the individual aptitude and personality: are you enthusiastic, ready to work and eager to improve? I think these qualifications are all you need. But the crunch comes when you may be desperate to do something new in your working life, but simply have no idea what.
That’s something I have never suffered from and I think it’s because I’ve always kept an open mind about what I can and can’t do, and what interests me or not. Why do people get so stuck in jobs that they don’t like when the reality is that if you want to change your job, you can. Look around and find something that interests you, research it, go and introduce yourself to the people who can help you, and be enthusiastic, determined, and ready to learn. I’m living proof that it works.