Me: So do you think this program looks good on a piece of paper?
Him: Depends on who you’re showing the piece of paper to.
Me: You wouldn’t put it on your computer science résumé?
Him: Well, it’s funny, I feel like I have to have two résumés. I feel like I have to have my computer science résumé, and then I have to have my comedy studies/artistic résumé. Ah, you know what, no. It depends on who you’re showing the résumé to. You need a different résumé for pretty much every job you’re applying for.
While I agree with the “different job = different résumé” observation, it got me thinking. I myself have three résumés: one for corporate or office jobs, one for creative jobs in writing and design, and the artistic résumé/headshot combo. Personally, I put my time at Second City on all of them, regardless of the position I am applying for. Perhaps it has gotten my applications immediately tossed into the “NO” pile. But my present employer values my training, signing me up for public speaking bits, event planning, and general office cheer.
With the job market as rough as it is today, anything that stands out in that infinite pile of black and white résumés is gold. A comedy education is not only a great conversation starter, but shows that you have skills employers are universally in favor of:
1) Communication Skills (listening, verbal, and written): You spent however much time in comedy school learning communication skills: “show don’t tell”, projection, a concise yet informative writing style. These are skills business students are usually not taught in their six-figure curriculums, yet are highly desired in any job requiring human interaction. Your comedic training shows that you can get your message across, and be entertaining at the same time.
2) Self-Confidence: If you enrolled in a comedy studies program, chances are you were either already brimming with poise or were looking to hone this skill further. It takes guts to go up on a stage (or in front of your peers), and knowingly make a fool out of yourself week after week during training. Your comedy education probably included an unofficial crash course in dealing with funny, eccentric, and really driven people. Your prospective employer should not only value your overdeveloped public speaking skills, but also your ability to hold your own in a room full of attention junkies.
3) Planning/Organizing: Whether you’ve had to book a gig, organize a troupe, get rehearsal space, promote a show, or get your comedy classes in order, you have done some strategic planning to move your comedic endeavors along. It takes phone calls, emails, text messages, and research to put together a successful event, curriculum, or the weekly social gathering. Whatever the case, your organizational skills can be transferred to mostly any job, provided it involves more than repetitive motions or being a living mannequin.
4) Leadership/Management Skills: There is someone in every comedy act that takes the reins and gets things moving. Are you the person planning coachings and gigs for your improv troupe? The stand-up comedian negotiating your pay and time-slot? How about the writer who is editing submissions for a sketch show? Adding the stresses of being in charge makes you better able to handle yourself in tough situations. It shows that you are willing to be accountable not just for your own work, but for the work of others. An employer will see this as an added bonus to your already impressive skill set, and might keep you in mind for higher-paying management positions in the future.
5) Willingness to Learn: This one’s a no-brainer. You paid to learn comedy on your own time. Of course you have a “willingness to learn”.
6) Teamwork: More than likely, you have had to do group performances or peer evaluations during your comedic studies. These are only accomplished successfully when everyone provides their talents and input in a productive and organized manner (save, perhaps, the stand-up comedian or the reclusive writer). Being able to constructively add your voice to a final product, and graciously give/receive feedback is a skill many people never learn. An employer is usually looking for a team player. Your experience working in groups and hearing feedback about the most sensitive thing to any artist (their art) can set you above the competition. It proves you know how to collaborate, and that you can conduct yourself professionally when it comes to hearing your faults.
7) Dedication: Serious comedians fit at least one of the following categories: hard-working, tenacious, motivated, energetic, passionate, positive, or loyal. Employers are looking to add to their ranks someone who exhibits these qualities, and who wants to grow and develop with their company. If you’re applying for a job that you’re sure to enjoy, demonstrating commitment in other areas of your life can score you some major points. Sure, if comedy is what you really want to do, and you’re taking that nine-to-five office job just to pay your bills, that’s fine too. At least you have the training to pretend that you’re enjoying yourself.
I have friends who’ve seen this work out for them on both sides (one works in marketing at a major cell phone company, and the other had his application dismissed for a position he was very qualified for). Whatever your decision (because “it depends” is the answer to everything), be sure to give serious thought to adding your comedy schooling to your résumé. Chances are, if your prospective employer won’t hire you due to your comedy background, you’re probably better off not working there.