Home / Featured / OPINION: Annemarie Lewis Thomas – Do your research!

OPINION: Annemarie Lewis Thomas – Do your research!

Annemarie LewisApologies to regular readers of my ramblings for a longer than normal interval between my blogs. That said I’m confident that nobody has been pacing up and down the cyber corridor anxiously waiting for its arrival either.

As you can imagine it’s been rather a manic time of late. 19 months of preparation came to fruition a few weeks ago when the staff and students of The MTA turned up to complete their academic year in our new building.

Gloriously opened by our Patron – West End’s leading lady Ria Jones (who will shortly be seen as a mis-leading lady down at the St James Theatre in what is guaranteed to be a hilarious show, featuring Ria and her brother Ceri Dupree. I speak with some authority on this as in a past life I MD’ed’ an earlier incarnation of this show, and found it very hard being the ‘straight man’ at the piano…so book and see cabaret how it should be done)

I digress…the new venue was opened, hell we even got Ria to ‘cut the ribbon’. I’m pleased (and relieved) to report that the transformation to our college experience is huge. The students love staying behind late now that they have rooms to practise in…and even on a weekend they’re popping in to continue their private practise. My concern with the move was always that our ambassadors would feel displaced from us, as their physical home had moved, however that fear has been quickly dispelled as one by one they pop up to have a look around…and stay for most of the morning/afternoon. So it turns out that all my personal traumas around the move were 100% worth it.

Just as I was about to breath an almighty sigh of relief I was hit with the bombshell of my rather wonderful PA ‘s resignation metaphorically appearing on my desk. The MTA is really quite unusual for a drama college that predominantly employs freelancers insomuch as our staff turnaround is ridiculously small. Obviously our annual audit to check who’s still active in the industry means that we’ve lost a few over the years, but the majority have stuck with me (put up with me) for years. Sarah-Jane (trusty PA…or at least she was until she resigned) has been with me since 2011 and while I’m thrilled for her why she’s chosen to leave, I’m livid for me…she’s been my right hand woman for 3 years, and most importantly of all…is responsible for buying the biscuits! It takes time to build up an understanding between 2 colleagues of which biscuits are good and which ones just don’t cut the mustard! Anyway I digress again….cue operation find a new PA – which also cued operation let’s maybe have a complete restructuring of the rôle. So here I am 3 weeks in, interviewing lots of lovely people who are thinking that they’d like to work at the college.

Now what’s struck me already throughout the process is how little research people do in order to go for a job. In fairness if you’ve seen this job advertised at all you’ll know that it’s as vague as can be at the moment, as I try to work out which way to take it. However if you’re applying for a rôle such as this you’d think that they you’d want to prove to your potential employer that you’re efficient…a self starter than can be relied on. Seemingly not though, I have people asking me for directions (as obviously looking on our website is a real pain?), or asking great questions like ‘have you worked for the company long?’…I mean to me? At least read up who you’re going to be a PA to! Although my favourite one is always the response to my bog standard question ‘what do you know about the college?’ and about 50% of the applicants to date have said ‘nothing’.

These responses resonated with me though – as it’s long been my pet hate of people being lazy. How many times on Facebook do you see people asking a question that could have been answered by Google in seconds?

Our industry at the moment seems to be really buzzing around a couple of huge Facebook groups (huge in number that is), designed (I believe) to be support networks for professional performers. However what they’ve turned into in many instances is just lazy performers looking for shortcuts. They also make quite scary reading when you see questions posted by recent graduates, genuinely looking for answers, as they have no where else to turn, to really simple questions that should have been covered in their first week at drama college or uni. Of course there are a number of wannabes that literally just post the old ‘I want to be in a West End show…is there anything going?” post. As if one of the big casting directors would see the question and then drop them a PM inviting them in to audition? However the number of people that trained at supposedly top colleges, that have clearly not been given basic business facts, is alarming, and why can’t these graduates pose the questions to their old colleges? Why aren’t more colleges looking after their graduates once they’ve left. I’m not advocating that everybody does it to the same level that we do(free classes/workshops/24/7 pastoral support available, etc), but hell just give them somewhere to ask the daft questions that are doing these course no favours at all.

Of course I’m open to the possibility that the colleges have said and answered all the questions being asked, and it was just one person that left without hearing the information…except that the evidence would suggest that nobody heard the information at some colleges!

If you’ve ever watched The Apprentice, old Alan Sugar bangs on about doing your research, know who you’re applying to work with/for. Theatre is exactly the same. However maybe ask the questions discretely to Google…as opposed to your peers on Facebook, as I can’t be the only one that has alarm bells ringing when I’m seeing the same names popping up, asking the same ‘level of question’ time and time again. To the point that if I found myself auditioning those people for a show, I would not want to hire them, as I’ve already decided that they’re going to be high maintenance. Just like my own situation…if I’m having to tell you how to find the college, or what we do….you’re not the self starter that I think is going to help me organise my diary.

Common sense is a marvellous thing….and so is Google. Please try using both before going for jobs.

About The Reviews Hub - Features

The Reviews Hub - Features
Our Features team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The team is responsible for sourcing interviews, articles, competitions from across the country. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.