Just yesterday, a friend asked me to tell her about how I scored one of my last assistantships. The story went a little something like this:
I was ushering at an off-broadway musical, and I happened to run into someone who I thought looked familiar. When I stopped them and asked, “excuse me, do I know you?”, they stated their name, and I immediately realized they were a fairly well known New York theater director (for our purposes, “director X”). I had heard this director speak on a union sponsored panel a few years back, I stated that that’s how I recognized this person, we immediately began to talk shop. I mentioned a few of the recent projects I had worked on, including the fact that I had just assisted with another NYC director that director X was 90% sure to know. A bit into the conversation, director X verbally offered me the opportunity to assist them on a new project. BOOM.
My friend complimented me on my “ballsiness” in being able to talk to this person, once I realized who they were. While I think that’s definitely part of this little success story, I think there are SEVERAL key take aways.
1) I was ushering. You too, dear artist, can have the opportunity to learn and grow from your peers. Go to galleries. Volunteer for an orchestra. Get involved in a work/study program at a dance studio. Any of the above will get you out and about, will enrich your mind, and will increase the likelihood of you meeting someone who can help your career.
2) I recognized this director from A UNION SPONSORED PANEL. Right away, this director has learned two things about me- that I go to see theater, any way possible (like through Ushering), and that I attend the career development events sponsored by my desired profession’s union. I’m two for two in the “I care about the future of my career” category, and I’ve only spoken one sentence.
3) I mentioned other projects: a career in the arts has so many fits and starts. But once you start to string together a few credentials- USE THEM! You worked HARD for them! Assuming that you did your best work possible on the project (and of course you did, right?), why not do a little name and project dropping?
And yes, it does help that I was “ballsy” enough to talk to this person. I know that that in of itself is a difficult thing for many of us to master. However, I think that what I said after making this connection was even more important than my ability to speak with ease to someone who is my professional superior. The three little things I discussed with this director are, on their own, inconsequential. Yet when I added them all up, they resulted in a great assistant position.
I think what is also apparent from this is a genuine spark to the conversation. “Do I know you?” is a simple question that, had Director X been in a bad mood, or wasn’t Director X at all, s/he could shrug it off. You were being a human, not a job-seeking robot. You placed yourself in that position by the solid choices you made previously. Congrats!