I had just finished one of the worst gigs ever. The kind where they cancelled shows every other night, and our housing didn’t have heating or insulation during the below 30 weather of a New England fall, and sometimes they forgot to feed us, and the biggest highlight of our week was driving 45 minutes to the nearest Starbucks and Target.
“So,” said my mentor, Dylan, sitting across a pizza from me, “Why did you take this job in the first place?”
“I’d always wanted to play that part. Every night, as soon as the overture started, it made it worth all of the mishegas,” I said, “And it was my first paying gig out of school.”
“Well, there you go, not a waste at all,” Dylan said smiling at me, “You got two out of the three.”
It was then that I was introduced to a decision-making rule that I’ve used in every professional determination since then, what my friend Mike likes to call “People. Project. Pay.” If you’re not getting two out of these three things in a potential gig, don’t take it.
Take a project because you’re excited about the people involved in it. This can take both personal and professional relationships into account. Does the gig let you live close to your family for a while? Does your significant other also have an offer on the same gig? Is your best friend going to be playing opposite you? Those are all things that could contribute to a joyful, meaningful gig experience.
Also, consider any professional connections to be made. Is there a “name” working in the creative team? Could you build relationships through this project that will help you get jobs in the future? Take the gig that will lead to more gigs.
This encompasses any artistic reason that you want to take a job. Maybe you’ve been singing along to OBC of Oklahoma! since you were old enough to talk. Maybe you’re a successful ensemble regular, and this is your first shot at a leading role. Maybe the gig is letting you stretch yourself as a dancer. Maybe it’s a brand new show, and this is your shot at originating a role, or having a show written around your talent. Anything about the gig that will make you feel creatively fulfilled can be filed into this category.
Ah, the indomitable dollar. The necessity of paying the bills, earning your health weeks, and hopefully saving for the future are all excellent reasons to take a job. Taking a job for money does not make you less of an “artist.” Who knows? Maybe next year, you’ll want to take a 29-Hour Reading or a Benefit Concert, and the money you’ve saved now could enable you to do that.
Decisions are never fun, especially when it comes to your career, but weigh your gig against this helpful category system, trust your gut, and then “forget regret” and find the joy in the experience!