How making lateral career changes within the industry will keep you paying your bills.
“Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.”
The last year has brought unprecedented obstacles to how and where we work. The landscape has changed drastically, and the future can feel overwhelming. We are placing a higher value on resiliency and adaptability not just to survive but to pivot and thrive while throwing new information about the pandemic. Events are booking, canceling, rescheduling, postponing, and that is stressful. We reward people and companies that can look at their options and pivot quickly.
Over the last few months, I’ve been fortunate to see first-hand how events are coming back within different areas of the live event industry. We’ve seen anything ranging from virtual zoom performances to hybrid conferences to large crews in arenas doing broadcast-based events. The name of the game to fill my schedule has been about making lateral changes to keep my schedule full with gigs in live events.
Three years ago, I worked full-time in theatre. To avoid the dead season in my market, I quickly realized I needed to adapt and make a parallel move into corporate AV. I stayed in corporate AV up until March 2020. I noticed many production companies stick to using a core group of people to do virtual events. Hiring freezes created an interesting power dynamic. With the limited number of shows, many production people were out of work with the relatively small but highly competitive need for leads, but labor for events became more crucial. Good hands were (and are) quite literally hard to find as people take jobs outside of the industry.
I made the move into labor in arenas. I had always been hesitant to consider the arena environment for its notoriously bad reputation for treating women in the workplace. While it hasn’t been all peaches and cream, the first thing I noticed was how appreciative of my skillset they were. They genuinely seemed grateful and excited that I was there and a part of their teams because of my broad range of experience. The standards in my other workplaces made me exceptional as a new hire.
Now I’m offered more opportunities to work and train than I have in years. I’ve done so much online training that I’ve gotten to refresh my resume. I haven’t done as much audio as I’d like, but being willing to switch into different departments as easily as changing my days uniform (from black clothes to different black clothes) has made the difference in keeping busy. I’m taking a Covid-cautious camera class soon. Try saying that one five times fast. I’m also even getting trained in rigging, which will only make me more assertive as a candidate for future productions.
The uncomfortable change that this pandemic has put us all through has forced some of us to make decisions we probably would’ve never considered. I’m still taking corporate gigs as they recall more people back to work. I’m still working for multiple companies to keep my schedule full to pay my bills. But as the quote says above, stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but we can thrive in new ways we never could’ve imagined had we not taken that step.
Alyssa Freire is a live event technician and crew lead from Miami, FL. From theatre to corporate events, she takes pride in having a varied skillset and broad interest in all facets of events. She started her career in lighting and quickly found joy with the faders of another console. While having a strong focus on technical knowledge is crucial, Alyssa also focuses on social and communication skills to create strong interpersonal relationships with her teams. As a Cuban-American, the topics that are important to her are diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility in all forms. She is a proud member of TSDCA and ESA.