My First (Full-Time with Benefits) Job

Recently someone at my work referred to this as my first job. I resisted the urge to be offended because it is a common misconception. Nothing before you are full-time, specifically 8-5ish, with benefits counts to most of the world. I always wish there was a way to make people who don’t have a theatre background understand.

I never babysat. I did dog sit here and there when I was young.

My first-first job was working at my high school auditorium on various events. No, I do not mean our productions, though I did do those as well. I mean outside organization renting the space and us working as the crew.

I did my first summer theatre right out of high school at East Carolina University. Another year I worked at Berkshire Theatre Festival. The definition of summer theatre is making almost no money. Usually we rehearsed close to normal business hours. When a show was running you added a couple of hours onto the end of that. The very end was the only time you were just working nights.

My senior year in college I was in school full-time. I stage-managed two productions, one being the fall musical and the first big event in a renovated space and the other being a world premier opera that we worked out the kinks as we went. Stage management was a 1 credit hour course per show. I once did the math for how many credit hours it would be based off standard classroom hours. I looked at time in scheduled meetings and rehearsals, not extra time spent on paperwork or unscheduled meetings. It would have been worth 8 credit hours. That doesn’t count as working at all. That same year I also assistant stage-managed two shows. An opera for the local opera company in the fall after the musical and a play for the local theatre company in the spring before the university opera. I actually did make money on these.

When I was in graduate school I worked at the university auditorium doing front of house work. Almost 100% customer service and making people feel welcome. My last semester I didn’t have as much school work so I spoke to someone I know who worked in an office supporting undergraduates and “interned” with them for free. Then when I graduated and hadn’t found a job they kept me on in a temporary part-time position.

Yet no matter how hard I worked. No matter the immense amount of skills developed in these positions and listed on my résumé. None of this counts? Can you imagine if someone with standard business experience applied for a job at a theatre company and the interviewer asked “Why do you want this to be your first job?” The person would be flabbergasted. Unless you really know someone’s experience. You cannot judge whether it counts.


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1 Response

  1. Bill Jobe says:

    You can feel the pain of stay at home moms, that are referred to as not having “jobs”.
    I sometimes refer to working at MAHEC as my first real job, even though I worked 44 hours a week in the summer when I was 11. If we define having benefits as being a “real or full time” job some people work their whole lives without one.

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