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Young director

The question

I have just recently completed my MA in theatre and performance studies, and I also hold an Honours BA in English literature and dramatic arts. I am stumped as to what career path to follow as it seems that any decision I make appears not to be a foolproof choice. I have considered being a secondary school teacher, teaching theatre and English, but the job market for teachers appears to be incredibly slow at the moment. Most of my friends who have just completed teacher's college are lucky if they even find a substitute position let alone full-time work. I have also considered applying for my PhD but the thought of another five years of school seems somewhat daunting. And, just recently, I have begun toying with the notion of completing a degree or diploma in journalism, as I feel that most of the jobs I have come across and have been interested in require such qualifications. There is of course my theatre background, which ideally would be what I want to pursue, a job in a theatre company, creating and producing would be amazing, but I seem to not know how to go about achieving this and the jobs that I have applied for in this field have not produced any positive results. Any advice would be great. I simply feel as though I am all over the place, when I truly and somewhat naively thought that after completing my masters I would not only know what to do with my life, but also that everything would somehow fall into place.

The answer

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In the current economic environment, there are no career certainties. If your educational objective was to have a foolproof career, I wonder what made you decide on theatre and performance studies for your masters degree. My guess is that you were following your heart and not necessarily your head. And that's not a bad thing. You're now challenged with finding employment in your desired field and so your head is challenging your emotions. If you are looking to pay the bills and find a job to fulfill that agenda, go back to school and get a degree that will allow you to gain employment in areas where there are regularly needs – e.g. health care, business or engineering. These types of jobs will not necessarily bring you the happiness or fulfilment you were initially hoping for, but they are more likely to bring you a regular paycheque than your current field.

If you are truly passionate about the theatre and performing arts industry, then you're going to need a lot more than just a masters degree to earn income. This industry may not be the type that fits the normal "recruiting" process – that is, you may not get very far if you are only intending to apply for jobs and wait for news. The entertainment industry calls for persistence and entrepreneurial creativity to stand out from the crowd. First of all, do you have the backbone, stamina and courage to succeed in this industry? You seem discouraged after a few application rejections. People who survive in the entertainment field have nerves of steel. You have to learn how to wipe the rejection off you and keep moving forward. It is only with a deep passion for the work that you will be able to last. So now is the time to really ponder, "how much do I want to succeed in this industry," and "how far am I willing to go to be noticed?" If you don't immediately shout out "this means everything to me and I'll do whatever it takes," then you might want to reconsider staying in this industry.

If this industry is what you really want, here are some things you can start doing to help you get noticed:

Take some marketing and branding courses. This will not only help you learn how to put yourself out into the public eye, it will also help you create a unique self-image and quality that will set you apart from others.

Start building a portfolio of productions. You said you would love to create and produce – so start doing it. Write a small play, cast it and get some small venues to stage it. It can be as easy as a children's play with an important learning message that schools would like to support. You may not make a lot of money doing this, but in this industry, the more you practise, the better you get. Remember the 10,000-hour rule – to become an expert in your field, you need 10,000 hours of practise. How do you think the Beatles became so famous? It was due to many performances in small bars with maybe a handful of people in the audience.

Call on your network. Start talking about your dreams, ideas and developed projects with everyone you know. Ask for their help in getting your projects seen. You never know what opportunities may arise from this. It's a very small world and you never know where your contacts may lead you.

Social media really does work. More and more you hear of people becoming famous after being noticed on You Tube. Create a smart production and go viral. Have your social network spread the word to increase the number of views. That type of exposure can be huge for you.

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Cindy Gordon is president of Culture Shock Coaching .

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