Next time you stroll by the theatre department building on your campus, stop and look in for a minute instead of breezing by as per usual — you are staring at the space that will provide you with the tools you need to land your dream job or internship.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, employment rates for 18-24 year olds are at an all time low of 54%, which comes as no surprise to many of the post-graduates in the grinding job search phase. This rather depressing statistic is only supplemented by Yale School of Management’s Lisa Kahn’s finding that students who graduate into a recession are likely to continue to face negative effects from that recession.
Regardless of field, job, internship or opportunity, each college student is attempting to find that certain special quality or qualification to distinguish themselves from the endless waves of talented and unique competitors vying for the same position.
Making yourself ‘marketable’ has become a focus of many college students preparing to show employers just what it is that makes them special and perfect for that dream job opportunity.
Hence, for those searching to develop vital skills for both interviews and career opportunities, you have found your perfect extracurricular.
Theatre provides practice in memorization, the ability to think on your feet, problem solving, performing under pressure, speaking in front of an audience, operating under a strict deadline, and many other areas. For potential employers looking for the perfect applicant, citing experience in these skills may be just the way you will stand out from the hordes of other promising applicants.
Kathleen Franco, a senior graduating in photojournalism from Creighton University, has been involved in theatre during all four years of her undergraduate experience although she plans to pursue a career in filmmaking or photography.
“Though I do not intend on performing professionally, I take with me strong public speaking skills and a good capability to think on my feet — both skills can translate into any career,” Franco explains. “Having extensive theatre experience is a great quality to have on any resume — it shows that you are able to hold conversations and are able to approach others and speak in front of hundreds without fainting!”
Regardless of major, most college students who participate in theatre either as actors, directors, or technical hands recognize a significant improvement in their memory and ability to retain information, another important trait for many information-processing fields. Dan Mortell, an engineering Ph.D student at the University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland, began his participation in theatre during the fall semester.
“The first thing I noticed would be the improvement in my memory, or my ability to regurgitate raw data. I’m sure I haven’t increased my memory capacity as I believe it’s essentially infinite in a healthy brain, but I’m certain that I’ve taught myself how to more effectively use my memory,” Mortell states.
Kelsey Dawson, a graduate law student at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, credits her theatre major for improving her memorization, teamwork, and improvisation skills necessary to succeed in law school and as a potential litigator. Dawson fell in love with theatre after participating in ‘Our Town’ by Thornton Wilder during her freshman year. Memorization has also been a key benefit of her years of theatre experience.
“When I have a case and I am able to think back to the facts of one of the 1,000 cases I’ve read this year to gain a starting point for research I already have an edge on my classmates. I am able to store facts and cases in my head from the work I did in theatre memorizing plays. This will help me later in the courtroom when I’m litigating and I don’t get a script to assist me,” Dawson says.
In terms of technical knowledge, theatre experience will not give Mortell the edge he needs in a job interview for an aeronautical engineering project — but there is no underestimating the power of being calm, cool, and collected during a high-pressure interview situation.
“My opportunities for work will be improved by being able to present myself in a much more collected and professional manner without showing signs of nervous behavior while under pressure, having experienced similar pressure performing on stage,” explains Mortell.
Participating in college theatre can be the perfect opportunity to develop many of the essential skills not only for acing your next interview, but also for future careers in a large variety of fields.
“The teamwork you gain from working with a cast is so important because when you enter the real world, you have to know how to deal with people and work with them. Theatre is a great way to do that since you have so many strong personalities in one room,” Dawson explains.
Whether you are an engineer or an author, an artist or a mathematician, next time you find yourself with a few spare hours on your hands try heading down to the theatre building and see what you can become involved in. You never know, it just might land you the job or internship of a lifetime.
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