All the world’s a stage, but it isn’t always hiring.
For students looking to work in the arts, the job search frequently poses challenges unknown to their more business-inclined peers.
“I don’t want to say [arts] jobs are scarce,” said Career Services Information Resources Manager Michael DeAngelis. “They’re just harder to find.”
DeAngelis, who has worked extensively in the world of theater, is frequently called upon to advise students looking to pursue careers in the arts.
Finding arts jobs is “a little more legwork because the jobs don’t come to you — you have to go out and find them,” DeAngelis said.
For College senior Maya Tepler, this means auditioning.
Tepler, who is vice chairwoman of Penn’s Front Row Theater Company, auditions for acting roles several times a month in both New York City and Philadelphia.
At times, the most challenging part of the auditioning process is getting seen at all, Tepler said.
“Sometimes they’ll line you up, look at your head shot and resume and if you don’t fit what they’re looking for, you don’t get to sing or act for them at all,” she said.
For Tepler, auditioning is also nerve-wracking, no matter how many times she does it.
“It’s often just a minute and a half, so if you mess up one note you’re not going to get it,” she said. “You can be the most confident and the most talented, but everyone has off days.”
“Internships are key” to getting jobs in the arts, according to 2000 College graduate Jennifer Weber, the founder of Strictly Funk who now runs a dance company in New York.
“If you intern at a big organization, that’s great,” Weber said. “Interning with a small producer I think is even better, because you really get to know the person.”
To help Penn students find internships in the world of art, Kelly Writers House Faculty director Al Filreis founded RealArts@Penn.
As it is, most arts internships are unpaid and impersonal, Filreis said. As “an intervention in the crisis that is summer arts internships,” RealArts creates custom-made paid internships for the seven students it selects.
Without the aid of programs like RealArts, finding paid positions in the arts can be a challenge.
“A lot of theaters are nonprofit, so you don’t get paid very much,” said College senior Johnny Lloyd, who is currently interning with the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.
For this reason, DeAngelis often recommends that students find a desk job “while in between gigs.”
“It’s a case where you need to support your art until your art can support you,” Director of Career Services Patricia Rose said.
In addition to interning, networking is crucial to creating employment opportunities.
“Networking is so much as just introducing yourself,” said DeAngelis, who encourages students to go to as many galleries, museums and performances as they can in order to make contacts.
Whereas many students walk away from Penn with jobs in other industries, success in the arts takes more time, Lloyd said.
“You don’t know if you’re going to be making any money right out of the gate or whether you’re going to be successful, even three or four years down the road,” he said.
Furthermore, while Weber’s friends in finance are frequently asked where they went to college, in the arts, “nobody ever asks you if you went to Penn,” she said.
“When I’m in a dance studio, people couldn’t care less whether you went to college at all,” she said. “They just care if you’re a good dancer.”
Though challenges exist, Rose still encourages students to pursue careers in the arts if they are truly passionate about it.
“I think our job is to help students be realistic, but also to provide hope,” Rose said. “If everybody was told, ‘it’s hard, you’ll never make it,’ then we wouldn’t have any actors or actresses or musicians or dancers.”
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