In Search of a Great Survival Job


Job Search Intensive class meets at The Actors Fund


The “survival job.” Just about everyone with a career on stage or screen has one – the job that pays the rent and the bills so you can pursue your primary vocation in entertainment.
But for many actors, stage managers, and other entertainment professionals, the stereotypical restaurant job does not make sense. The Career Center at The Actors Fund is there to help them find a fulfilling job that sustains between plays, shows, and movies, or to find a new career when they are ready to transition out of the industry. The Career Center receives support from CWE’s Jobs to Build On program, which is funded by the New York City Council.
The organization serves more professions than many realize.
“We don’t just work with actors,” says Alexandria Bellivan, the Employment Specialist at The Career Center. “We work with everybody in entertainment: actors, singers, dancers, directors, stagehands, scenic designers. If you’ve touched a stage or film in any way, we work with you.”
When an entertainment or performing arts industry professional comes to The Actors Fund for employment assistance, they receive an orientation and meet with a career counselor, who helps them decide what job they want to pursue. Once they have selected an occupation, they join a group of job seekers that meets with Bellivan weekly for a class called Job Search Intensive, where they discuss their progress.
“It’s an accountability group,” says Bellivan. “Every week, we discuss how many applications each client submitted. Did you network this week? How is your social media strategy going? And they help each other.”
They take control of their job search, with support from The Career Center, but they can also be referred to employers that the organization has worked with in the past.
Clients learn how to showcase their experience in order to land the job they desire. Acting, for instance, is often reframed as experience speaking before large groups. Creative artists can often be stigmatized, so a strong resume can be the difference between getting an interview and being ignored.
Actors Fund offers some classes for skill building, but also refers clients to outside resources.
A great survival job provides both a good wage and the flexibility to attend auditions. Many in the entertainment industry work as freelancers, doing projects like web development or bookkeeping. Careers that allow them to use their outgoing personalities are also popular, including coaching, teaching, and sales. To put actors’ talents to use for social justice, The Actors Fund has partnered with the Fair Housing Justice Center, which hires actors to play the real-life role of apartment applicant, in order to identify and document housing discrimination.
When clients need a quick job in order to make ends meet, The Actors Fund is able to help with that too. However, the organization continues working with them after they are hired to find long-term employment.
It all comes down to the organization’s belief that a survival job can be more than a paycheck – it can be fulfilling too.