October 28, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Dance & Kinesiology Department
Amber Steele: In addition to dancing skills, performers need to learn choreography quickly, have proficiency in multiple styles, understand the vocabulary for each dance style, and be able to record themselves for auditions, if not for performances.
Amber Steele: Video recording, constructive criticism, punctuality, preparation, knowing your choreography in advance, clear communication, and scheduling.
Amber Steele: Physical technique in the dance styles particular to the performance, nutrition, self-care, and basic rehabilitation to care for the dancer's body.
Amber Steele: Advanced dance skills for performances, technical theater skills, and/or teaching skills make you more employable, and a diversity of dance techniques, administrative abilities, and creative skills.
Dancers are most employable when they can also direct, choreograph, stage manage, costume, handle public relations, front-of-house, teach dance and assist in the administration of the business aspects of running a company. Most performing arts groups make the majority of their money through education, not just ticket sales. As a member of a private company, additional job skills may include public relations, creating promotional materials, handling budgets and tour bookings, teaching workshops or regular dance classes, scheduling rehearsal space, and continuing to train their bodies to increase the diversity of their dance skills, styles and rehabilitate/prevent injuries.
Dance companies rarely require degrees for a Performer, but when hiring for a full-time position, experience matters, and completing a degree will set you above other candidates for jobs that support the company offstage.
Dancers who wish to teach and/or choreograph as their additional skillset may find the following degrees expected:
-Community and Private Dance Studio Instructors: High School Diploma, Associates Degree or Bachelors Degree in Dance
-High School (Public) Dance Instructors: Bachelor's degree, Masters Degree and State-specific teaching Certificate
-High School (Private) Dance Instructors: Bachelor's degree minimum
-Community College & University Dance Instructors: Masters Degree Minimum, preferably Masters of -Fine Arts in Dance
-University Dance Lecturers: Masters Degree Minimum, preferably Masters of Fine Arts in Dance or Ph.D. in Dance Studies
To make a career income as a performing artist, very few dancers are solely employed as dancers. To compete in this job market, dancers often combine their dance skills with cooperation, communication and people skills, business knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and physical health practices. For those dancers talented enough to support themselves solely as a performer, physical training is paramount, as well as being exceptional at time management, professionalism, and a collaborative demeanor under high-stress situations.
Many companies now require auditions and performances to take place virtually. Dancers are increasingly required to have knowledge and experience with video recording, lighting, editing (and additional technical equipment and data storage proficiency) to apply for or perform in these opportunities.
Bridgewater State University, The State University of New York at Oswego
Thomas Kee: When I'm casting someone in a show or calling them in for an audition, I personally look for solid regional theatre and/or equity theatre credits. The "special skills" area of a resume is also instructive because it gives me a sense of who this person is when they are not acting.
Thomas Kee: Showing up for your audition/interview on time, no excuses, no story of how crowded the subway was. Be there, relaxed, prepared, not showing me how stressed your life is. Also, reply quickly, clearly, and stay with the scheduling process so I can get you in and see your stuff.
Thomas Kee: Actors that can't be heard and understood in a small rehearsal room cannot be heard in a large immersive environment. They need to make acting choices that support vocal energy and clear articulation. Scaling your volume and intensity is very tricky in our style of theatre, and people either have a knack for it, or they don't.
Thomas Kee: Audition skills.
Texas Wesleyan University
Joe Brown: Additional skills such as singing abilities and ability to read music or play an instrument, dialect abilities, stage combat, and movement abilities, as well as dance skills.
Joe Brown: Performers are not often trained as public speakers, so the ability to understand the needs of a public speaker and how to organize and present a speech. The ability to have a high level of Emotional Intelligence in terms of dealing with people and communication and stress.
Joe Brown: The ability to have some skills in Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, and Power Point. We encourage all our performance majors to have technical theatre skills in the areas of lighting, or design areas, or social media/marketing and graphics. We want them to have a skill set that could help employ them while they are becoming working artists/actors.
Joe Brown: We emphasize the need for critical thinking skills that are needed as a theatre artist in any area of emphasis. Collaboration and the ability to work as a team to reach a production goal and theatre production. We also encourage a strong ability in organizational and time management skills, which serves in so many employment areas.
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Department of Theatre Arts
Joseph Anderson: For performers, the variety and number of different roles performed - each role provides an actor the opportunity to delve into the psyche of someone other than themselves, to see the world from a completely different perspective. This allows them to work effectively with a wide variety of people with varying viewpoints and backgrounds. Their resumes also demonstrate, at a glance, the sense of discipline and dedication to a project as each production represents approximately 105 hours of rehearsals on top of a 12-18 credit class load and often an additional outside job to earn income for tuition/living expenses. That's a great deal of pressure and time management for students to navigate successfully, and they do.
The world of Theatre is designed to take place in the present tense. Meaning that we are ultimately producing live shows for live audiences. (excepting the pandemic shut-down) That means that situations often arise suddenly that need to be dealt with and solved just as quickly. Our Theatre majors learn to:
-Think quickly to creatively solve problems
-Anticipate potential issues and proactively prepare for a variety of situations that may arise
-Our Management students work with a diverse constituency each night (audiences are always a different group of people and potential issues). They must employ skills of tact, respect, leadership, and diplomacy when dealing with the public.
-Our Design/Tech students must be creative thinkers but must also be adept at solving problems quickly. Problems arise during productions that need to be handled expediently, efficiently, and yet retain the integrity and safety of the show. Our students are trained to remain calm under pressure and creatively solve problems in a way that the audience never knows anything went awry.
Joseph Anderson: I would say that what enables our graduates to earn the most, or more importantly, have a successful career, is the wide variety of experiences and skills they develop as majors. As you can see from the above list, the skills our majors receive line up perfectly with the skills employers tell us they look for in valued employees. Our majors know that it is the work of the group - not the individual, that mounts a successful production. That skill alone is extremely valuable and difficult to successfully cultivate in many other majors. So while we want all our students to have successful careers in theatre doing what they love, it is the last part that is most important to us, doing what they love. That they have been well-prepared and are poised to enter the job market for an endless number of careers is what we value and count as success.
Cynthia Loewus: Since the pandemic: video, on-line, virtual, and site specific work has become the outlet for theater makers.
Self-generated work, all forms, plays, musicals, comedy, cabaret work, dance have risen in popularity and product.
Social media platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Zoom, and Facebook, have given artists "stages" for their expression. Knowledge about these venues until the stages reopen is helpful.
Once we return to the stage, I believe there will still be virtual work opportunities, as it reaches so many people and is affordable for many. Therefore acquiring these skills now is important.
Cynthia Loewus: Resumes for graduating theater makers should show solid training, project completion for technical and writing students, for actors: a clear understanding of their branding and strengths as an artist. Your headshot and resume is your introduction. Make sure it's the best it can be. Also keep social media and website posts up to date.
Credits in virtual work are a must now.
Cynthia Loewus: Post pandemic, I believe there will be lots of new opportunities for the arts to thrive in many cities and towns. People are hungry for the arts, but might not want to travel to NYC to see shows right away, small towns will have opportunities for self-generated work and work written during the pandemic.
TV and FILM is in high demand and filming has continued through the pandemic, so cities that hire for these jobs are places to look for work: Atlanta, Chicago, LA., NYC.
VOICE OVER work for commercials and industry is another place to job search, you can live anywhere and submit virtually all your work.
Theater skills are very useful in event planning and theme parks. Learn how to market yourself to apply for theater related jobs.
Broadway will re-open and there will be a lot of auditions for singers and dancers.