Until You Quit that Day Job, Learn Lots of Lessons from It

Lessons can be Learned While You're Still at a Day Job!. Credit: Klaus Vedfelt / Taxi / Getty Images

Some day jobs are very intense!  

I recently read a couple of articles which discussed suggestions for actors regarding day jobs, including how to quit a day job in order to free up time for auditions and other work in entertainment, as well as ideas for day jobs that actors can do to still be creative and earn a living.  I enjoyed both articles, which included messages of motivation for actors, and suggestions for actors to remove themselves from jobs which may not be helpful to their acting careers or overall wellbeing.  (Check out the two articles that I read, “Finding Your Dream Survival Job” and “How to Be an Actor Without a Day Job.”)

Reading these articles got me thinking about my own experience as an actor and a writer, as someone who has been pursuing the creative arts for several years and who has had to work many day jobs in order to sustain myself.  Throughout my journey so far of being an actor/writer and working different types of jobs, I've learned lots of lessons and I’ve seen firsthand that it can be very difficult to juggle a day job and an acting career.  

We artists obviously need to find a way to earn money when acting work is slow, and sometimes this means taking a job that is less than ideal.  Some day jobs are very tough.  And while pursuing a more exciting or creative day job is a great idea (quitting might seem like an even better idea!), some actors are simply unable to immediately leave the day job that they currently have.  So, if you’re an actor and cannot quit your current day job just yet, what can you do to hang in there for the remaining time before you quit?!  

You can learn lessons, create opportunities and make a plan for yourself.      

Make the Most of Your Current Day Job Situation

In every day job I have ever had, a valuable lesson has been learned - even in a small way.  It’s important to pay attention to these lessons, as a number of them will undoubtedly benefit your career and your life.  

Some day jobs are not very glamorous but are certainly very interesting!  Personally, I have worked as a promotional model, had many gigs as a background actor, I've been the “pig mascot” at the famous (and awesome) bar on Hollywood Boulevard called “The Pig and Whistle," I've worked at a party/club company, was a mail room assistant and writer at Surfer Magazine, had a job at a private investigation firm (yes this is all true!), and that's only to name a few!  Each one of these experiences in one way or another has contributed to my becoming more successful in my acting (and writing!) careers.  

The life experiences which you have and the information that you acquire - including from your day jobs - are uniquely yours.  Your success will have everything to do with your willingness to use each situation as an opportunity as opposed to a road-block.  Do you view your day job as a massive problem or as a huge opportunity to keep moving forward and to help advance your acting career?  

In my examples above, I listed numerous jobs I have worked that have helped me to move forward in my career as an artist, even though some of those jobs seemingly wouldn’t have anything to do with being a successful actor.  Let’s take “background” work as an example.  

Background Work:  A Good Day Job Option?

There is a widespread idea in the biz that working as a background actor is often "frowned" upon because it can somehow make it more difficult to work as a principal actor.  Now, I will acknowledge that in certain circumstances, being an “extra” could possibly hinder your chances of working as a principal actor, but, in all of my experiences, working as an "extra" has actually helped me to book more principal work!  This is because I learned to take the opportunity to be on set as a fantastic occasion to grow, as opposed to believing that nothing better would come from it or that I’d remain “invisible” in the background.  I'm certainly not invisible; and neither are you!  

By being on set, I am able to meet wonderful people and I can network, and even have the possibility to be upgraded for principal roles - which has happened to me on both television shows and on commercials!  (In fact, I’ve booked more work this way than from auditioning!)  

The same concept applies in the situation of other jobs, such as being a server at a restaurant, for instance.  You likely didn’t move to Hollywood to wait tables, but, if you must work as a waiter for a while longer, you can choose to use that opportunity to meet as many men and women as possible and network.  In Hollywood, you will literally meet someone in the entertainment business everywhere.  Befriend them!  A new connection (and a new friend!) can always be made.  (Even when I worked as a “pig mascot” I was able to meet many more amazing people here in Hollywood!)  

Some restaurants even allow you to utilize some of your performing skills, such as “Miceli’s” in Hollywood, where the servers sing to guests! 

Plan and Pave Your Own Path

You see, my friends, creating success in this industry requires you to pave your own path and run with every opportunity.  Becoming a working actor is not an easy journey, just like the pursuit of any dream.  It will require a lot of work and there will be times when it might feel like you want to give up.  Don’t.  

Keep reminding yourself that each and every day is a new opportunity and one day closer to kissing an unwanted day job goodbye.  Make a plan for yourself, a time frame for when you will leave a situation that isn’t making you happy.  (I did, and it has worked out well.  You can read about it here!)

Do one thing every day toward your goal, and soon you’ll be busier than ever doing what it is that you want to do:  act!