What is a Day Job?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A day job is a term used to describe a money-making occupation that allows someone to pursue their as-yet financially unprofitable dreams. Day jobs are common for entertainment professionals such as writers, actors and artists, as the little money they make from their preferred professions is not enough to make ends meet. Getting a day job in the industry you are trying to make a break into can be a great way to make contacts and launch your career.

The stereotypical day job of an aspiring act is waiting tables.
The stereotypical day job of an aspiring act is waiting tables.

Stereotypically, aspiring actors frequently have a day job waiting tables. While this is certainly not the only available job, shift-based jobs usually permit the flexibility that actors will need in the event that they get a part in a play or film. Because these jobs are usually low paying and not very rewarding, they are also easy to abandon if a better opportunity comes along.

Hopeful screenwriters and directors can sometimes find day jobs with film studios. Even if you are doing secretarial work, it affords the hopefuls a chance to meet industry workers, even those at the bottom levels. Jobs as production assistants, script readers, and secretaries in the film and television industry are difficult to come by, but are considered the ideal day job for those seeking to get in to Hollywood.

An old Hollywood cliché states that screenwriters work at book stores and directors work at video rental stores. While this, too, is a stereotype, aspiring filmmakers are often drawn to jobs that will allow them at least some connection to their interests. Because day jobs usually offer little in terms of creative outlet, it is worthwhile to at least look for one that holds your interest.

A day job can also be a second or third job that provides you with additional income or health benefits. In many places, health benefits are only standard with full-time employees, but educational institutions and hospitals tend to provide optional benefits to part-time workers. For those that cannot get healthcare through their chosen profession or cannot receive government benefits, a day job that provides health benefits can be a literal life saver.

As expenses increase and youthful dreams fade, some people may discover that their day job has become their actual job. This is common in those who chose to have families, as the expenses of raising children often preclude the dream job desires of hard-working parents. Some people may experience depression or crisis if they come to a realization that they job they were only supposed to have temporarily will probably be their permanent position.

Acceptance of your day job as a more permanent situation does not mean you have to give up your dreams. While you may never be on Broadway, local community theaters are always in search of capable actors for a variety of shows. Local TV channels and independent film companies often need people with experience on a part-time or volunteer basis. Keeping your day jobs may afford you opportunities to benefit your community and maintain your passion as a hobby.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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