From Corporate Cog to Comedy Clubs
Transitioning from what I hated to what I love
Sitting in a tiny cubicle having NO idea what I was working on, I googled “how to get into Stand-up comedy”. Soon after, I hit my first open mic, bombed horrendously, and thus began my career as a performer.
Someone reached out to me on LinkedIn asking how I made the transition. For reference, I am an Actor/Comedian/MC. I act in Film/TV/Commercials/Industrials and VO spots, and MC for corporate conferences and present at trade shows. But this is all fairly recent. Prior to this I worked as a Financial Analyst, served in the Peace Corps, then worked at a big Consulting firm.
But WHAT was the main catalyst for the transition?
Serving in the Peace Corps showed me the lack of opportunity in the developing world. A lack of career opportunities for young people, and lack of opportunity for people to pursue creative passions.
I came back to the US with an offer from a big consulting firm and suffered SEVERE reverse culture shock. Working in a country where there was such a lack of opportunity, and now sitting at a desk cropping screenshots for a user manual (that no one was ever going to read) did not sit well. Especially knowing we have tons of opportunity at our fingertips here in the US. This doesn’t mean pursuing our passion is easy, but we have more opportunity to go after what we love.
Am I saying join the Peace Corps? No. Although, if you’ve been thinking about it: DO IT! What I’m saying is: 1- the Peace Corps was a big leap but it conditioned me to take risks and persevere through challenges
2- think about all the opportunity and resources we have here in the US, and leverage them to help your transition.
Take risks. See what it leads to.
But HOW was I able to navigate this transition?
It’s cliché almost, but it’s ALL networking. Network to meet new people. Turn your network into relationships. Turn your relationships into collaborators/partners/clients.
I met someone who worked as an Event Coordinator. Here’s what unfolded:
She told me it was possible to make money as an MC
She mentioned someone who’s been doing it for years
I reached out to that person and asked to meet for coffee
We chatted about a number of things
I followed up, went to some of his shows, stayed on his radar
A year later he hired me for a gig
I did well
He then felt confident to introduce me to a seasoned trade show performer
That trade show performer was looking to subcontract some work
They hired me
I did well
It turned into repeat work
They introduced me to a number of other people in the trade show game
The most important piece of information from above are the words “a year later”. It took a year for this relationship to “pay off”, as in, turn into paid-work. But that year has now set me up for paid work for years to come.
Play the long game. Don’t expect microwave results — ready in 30 seconds or less. Networking is about the value YOU can provide to THEM. Not vice versa. Apply that and your network will pay dividends.
There were a number of different ways I could’ve gone with this piece in terms of WHY and HOW I transitioned, but these were the two things I mentioned to the person who reached out on LinkedIn, so I felt compelled to elaborate.
If you’re looking to jump from what you’re doing now to what you love, losing the safety net of a steady paycheck and healthcare is scary as hell. Will it kill you? Neh.
Go skydiving. You’ll jump out of a plane and be free-falling towards the ground. You know what’ll happen? The person on your back will pop the ‘chute. It’s scary, but you’ll land safely.
But how do you know unless you jump?