Foot in the Door #1

Lifestyle

Hello lovely readers!

Welcome to a new and (more than slightly) exciting mini-series on the old blog.

As a Theatre graduate, I have found navigating the job-hunting-scene a pretty merciless task. A lack of funding in the arts and thus, opportunities, has created an extremely saturated market. Essentially, there are too many people applying for not enough jobs. If it wasn’t already tricky enough, throw in a global pandemic and countless redundancies. Dreamy.

Having spoken to many peers, alumni and professionals about the difficulties of the job-game, I was (9 times out of 10) met with this response:

“You’ve just got to get your foot in the door.”

Foot poking through the opening of my kitchen door, I quickly realised that to secure my dream job (or let’s be real, just ANY job) it would take a little more than dramatically entering all of the rooms in my house. This phrase has come to haunt me over the post-graduate months so I started to mull over what it really means and how I could achieve it. “Getting your foot in the door” is essentially an umbrella term for networking your arse off, sending countless ignored emails out and learning that every single person you meet has the potential to know someone who knows someone who is the HR manager for the company you’re applying to. This phrase is pretty useless unless you are able to discover HOW to get your foot in the door. We need REAL EXAMPLES PEOPLE! All of this in mind, I decided to start this little series where I will be chatting to a whole variety of graduates – all from creative backgrounds – asking how they got their “foot in the door”. Hopefully, these posts will enable you to put in place some practical steps to start climbing up the job ladder. Your gal is here to help.

My first guest is the lovely Brontë Thomasson. Brontë (or more affectionately known as Bran) and I both studied together at university and I lived with her in my final year. I wanted to interview Bran as my first guest as she has had lots of different experiences since graduating, both pre and post-Covid-outbreak. I really hope you enjoy reading our chat and that you leave this post feeling slightly more informed about Brontë’s journey in such a way that you can reflect on your own.

DRUMROLL PLEASE! Here we go:

Hello, Brontë!

Hi! This is so exciting.

Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell the readers a bit about yourself. Who ARE you?

I’m Brontë. I’m 22 and I live in Brighton which is lovely. I’m currently doing some communication work for a non-profit in London as an Assistant which has been a really good experience. I also love food. I’ve really been getting into food blogging recently so may be looking to take that somewhere. We shall see. But in essence, I’m just a friendly, outgoing gal!

We love to see it! Did you go to university?

Yes! I studied Theatre and Performance.

What made you decide to choose Theatre as your area of study?

So, funnily enough I originally set out to study English Lit and Theatre. In my head, I thought I needed to do something more than just Theatre. I thought “ooo, if I add English into the mix it’ll make me more…what’s the word? Credible.”

Where do you think that thought originated from? That Theatre wasn’t a “credible” choice in its own right?

You know what? Answering that now, I actually have no idea. I think I just made it up in my head. My parents weren’t like “DON’T DO IT!” it was just me.

When you decided you were going to pursue Theatre, at that moment, did you have a certain career path in mind?

In the moment, that [Theatre] was what I wanted to do. It was my favourite subject at school, it’s what I did best in. I just loved it. Going into the degree, I had the classic “it would be great to be an actor” thought but to be honest, I had no clear direction.

Did you ever consider auditioning for drama school?

I did consider it but I really quickly put that to bed. It wasn’t for me.

As you progressed through university, did your career goal or vision change at all?

That’s a difficult one. I actually did think in my final year that theatre marketing would be cool which I did eventually try. But again, it was more that I wanted to see what happened once I’d finished.

How did you prepare for post-university life?

I think I kind of panicked and started applying for so many jobs. I remember the first job that I emailed about – I was in the middle of writing my disso at the time. But then, they replied saying “we’d need an immediate start” and that hadn’t occurred to me. For me, preparing was trying to get loads of applications out and keeping tabs on what was around. In terms of practicalities like housing or money, I honestly didn’t really have a plan.

I think that’s pretty normal! So, in terms of your job-hunting, how and where did you look for jobs?

I really got into looking at Arts Jobs. I’d been told that it was a great place for jobs in the arts. I think I started to get addicted to it! Maybe social media as well. I didn’t have any sense of LinkedIn or anything like that at this point. Luckily, the job that I did get when I graduated, I did find on Arts Jobs. So, I really do love it.

So Arts Jobs is the one! Love it. What did you / do you find the most difficult about applying for jobs?

Cover letters. Definitely the most difficult thing about applying for a job. One cover letter can sometimes take the whole day. Especially if you really want it. So, you can end up sending in a random one every now and then, hoping it makes sense. But that’s not good advice!

Do you have any tips for what makes a good cover letter from your experience?

Ooo, that’s a good question. So, what I’ve found, especially with the first job that I got, is really research the company and tailor the letter to how their values match up with your own.

I’ve found sometimes when applying for jobs, it can feel a little robotic if you are stating facts about the company to prove you have researched them. Surely, they will already know these things. How do you seamlessly weave in your research without it feeling forced?

I think using personal examples. Again, for my first job, the place where I worked really valued equality and inclusion and at the time, at uni, I was creating a piece surrounding racial inequality so I really wound that all together in the cover letter. This is what you believe in, this is what I’m doing right now and that is why we would be a great match.

How long did it take you to secure your first role post-uni?

I was very lucky in the sense that I already had a job lined up. I actually graduated mid-job.

Can you tell us a bit more about your first job? What sorts of things did you get up to?

So, I was a Marketing Assistant at Kiln Theatre in North London. I was helping with the day-to-day running of the social media accounts, designing artwork, marketing for their cinema and I did a really cool project called People of Kilburn where I interviewed local people and uploaded it onto the Instagram page. I loved it.

Brontë’s ‘PEOPLE OF KILBURN’ project

It’s probably worth mentioning that this was a fixed-term position as (whilst it was extended from 3 to 6 months) it wasn’t viable for the theatre to take on a permanent member of staff for the role. Post-Kiln, did you feel an advantage having experienced your first role as opposed to being new on the job-hunting scene?

If you’d asked me this pre-COVID, I would have said yes definitely. I actually got quite a few interviews after Kiln. Even if they weren’t related to what I’d done, companies were still interested in my experience. But now, I don’t really think it makes a difference. There are so many people applying for jobs. At the time, it helped a bit but now, no.

It’s no secret that COVID has devastated many industries, particularly the arts. Has this had any effect on you personally?

I have personally felt the effect. After Kiln, I started working in Influencer Marketing around March time. I literally had a week and a half in the office and then we all got sent to work from home. That was meant to be a six-month contract but because of COVID and finances and the changing of roles now that everyone was working from home, they didn’t really need my role anymore so I was let go two months earlier than planned. That kind of left me up in the air. If I’d seen the whole contract through, I would have only just finished now. I’ve been unemployed for two months.

How has this made you feel about the stability of the arts industry? Has it made you reconsider your chosen profession at all?

I think subconsciously I have moved away from looking at jobs in the arts. I’ve started looking at jobs that are more home-based or centred around social media. It feels even less safe than before applying for jobs in the arts because you don’t know if they’re going to let you go again.

So, what’s next for Brontë? You’re currently working a two-week placement role now. What are your plans for the future?

I want to take my time and really think about what I actually want to do. I’m really looking to take my food blog further. I’ve been having a lot of fun with that recently. If I do go back into the arts, I really want to be able to help people. I’d love to do community work. Even working for this charity for the past week has been a really humbling experience. But, who knows! I really can’t say a certain plan at this time.

What’s the name of the charity you’re working for?

It’s complicated but the full name is Daughters of Charity.

Last question! The big boy. What is your one, golden piece of advice for creative graduates trying to navigate the world of job-hunting?

Again, on a very practical note, make sure your CV is a good design. Make sure it stands out. Switch up the colours. Make it fancy. Only one page of A4!

And there we have it! The first instalment of ‘Foot in the Door’ is finito. If you made it this far, congrats. I’d love to thank my gorgeous Bran for agreeing to be the guinea pig as my first interviewee! I really hope you enjoyed learning about her post-uni journey. Please check out her socials:

INSTAGRAM: @bronteisa & @brontesbrunchnbites

Until next time, my lovely readers!

Gee xxx

FOLLOW ME ON MY SOCIALS:

INSTAGRAM: @geeblogs

TWITTER: @geeblogs

The “Theatre Degree” Stigma

Lifestyle

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A few things have happened recently that have awoken the little voice inside my head that likes to come out and rant every now and then. The constant threat of funding cuts to the arts and the disappearance of subjects such as Music and Drama from GCSE option boxes across the country are just two of the reasons why I wanted to write this post. Recently, my friend Sophie performed an autobiographical piece about the injustice that undercurrents the education system, in terms of the prejudice that surrounds Theatre as both a subject and a potential career path. Her ‘political rant’ resonated a lot with me, making me think about the many times I’ve been made to feel slightly (I hate to say it but) ashamed of my choice to study Theatre at university.

When it came to choosing my degree subject almost 3 years ago now (oh my gaaaad, where has the time gone?!) there was an obvious winner in my mind from the outset. Yes, I attended Law talks at Warwick and even a Psychology open day at Cambridge, but my heart always led me back to Theatre. Anyone who knows me will understand how important a role the theatre has played in my life and these are the people who have never once questioned my decision to further my education in this field. That being said, there is definitely a prominent stigma around studying for a Theatre degree or particularly around the people who study for a Theatre degree and that is something I have always found ridiculous.

Historically, the subject of Theatre Studies has been branded as “fluffy” and has yet to be viewed on the same level in terms of difficulty as other more traditional subjects, such as Geography or Maths. Therefore, the assumption that the people studying for a Theatre degree are “less academic” and “less able” has been cemented amongst the minds of the majority. However, the stereotype that someone who enjoys learning about the theatre industry is less intelligent than someone who enjoys studying continental drift or trigonometry is honestly absurd to me. If I had a pound for the amount of times I’ve received a patronising “oh, how nice” or “oh, so do you want to be like an actress or something?” after revealing that I study Theatre at university, I would be a veeeeery rich gal.

People don’t seem to understand that my course is academic (trust me, at times it is too academic!!!). I’m still submitting essays at the end of every module, reading ridiiiiiiculous amounts of academic writing each week and attending seminars and workshops. On top of this, I am rehearsingBeing a theatre student, you are not only assessed theoretically but also practically which comes with the assumption that you will carry out a set number of hours as ‘rehearsal time’. Quite honestly, I think I spend 90% of my life rehearsing for something or other (and that is not me being an overdramatic drama student, I promise). I would absolutely loooove to invite the people who have this preconception of Theatre as a subject to sit in on one of my seminars and give their opinion on how phenomenology affects an audience’s experience or how romanticism conformed to or subverted the avant-garde movement towards postmodernism (literally just throwing all the big words that I know at you now lol).

It really does sadden me that I feel as if I have to justify my decision to study a subject that I love to other people who are too quick to judge. Theatre makes me happy. Theatre interests me. Theatre makes me want to learn. So, why shouldn’t I study for a degree in it? Because it’s not ‘academic’? Because I’m ‘never going to get a real job’? Or because I’ll ‘never have a stable income’? My response to these questions is one of self-fulfilment in the sense that I know for a fact that whatever job I do end up doing, in whichever part of the industry I decide to go into, I’ll be doing it because I love it, not because I have to be doing it. Whilst this may be an unpopular opinion of the minority, I would much rather live a life where I’m potentially not always in a constant flow of work, but when I am working it’s doing something that I’m passionate about, rather than being stuck in a 9-5 office job that I absolutely despise. I find it so disheartening when I hear people say “you’re not supposed to love your job…that’s why it’s called work,” because, honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to enjoy what you do.

Another thing that really makes me laugh is that the people who undermine Theatre as a career choice will have a favourite film, or a favourite book, or will enjoy going to watch the pantomime at Christmas, or a musical on Broadway, or will watch every ITV drama under the sun. What they don’t seem to understand is that THEATRE PEOPLE HAVE MADE THESE THINGS HAPPEN!! The industry is one that brings constant enjoyment to the lives of (may be generalising here but I’m going to roll with it) everyone, or has done at least once in their lifetime. That’s why it makes me so sad that as theatre students, it feels like we’re fighting this constant battle to defend our subject to those so quick to undermine it.

I feel as if I have fully just word-vommed onto the page but I thought it was important to fight my little corner about a subject I’m super passionate about and love with allllll ma heart.

(Also just want to take a few words to defend all my fellow Theatre guys and gals. The people that I study with and others that I know who study elsewhere are honestly some of the best, most intelligent people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Their creativity is OFF THE SCALE and their knowledge literally pours out of them every time they speak. All the love ever).

G X