Joining corporate America with an unconventional resume can be incredibly daunting. When I took that leap I had no idea how I would be received. Could I even get an interview when the most prestigious line item on my resume was "Soloist in Sleeping Beauty"? I'm sure that many potential employers just laughed and threw my information in the bin.
In the end I constructed a resume that looked more like an essay. I explained why I would be a valuable addition to any office, and acknowledged that I wasn't the average applicant. I emphasized that I had a unique skill set that reached far beyond pirouettes and plies, and drew attention to the carefully honed attributes that would make me uniquely suited to overcoming challenges in the workplace and in life.
My current employer still took a huge leap of faith when they hired me, and for that I am truly grateful. But for all the other former professional ballet dancers out there looking to explore their strengths beyond the stage, the process shouldn't be so difficult. Ballet dancers (former and current) will always make brilliant employees, no matter the profession they choose.
1. We expect to work hard.
Compared to the training we put ourselves through before and after becoming a professional, any other job will be a walk in the park. Discipline and drive are second nature. Long, intense days are expected, not scorned.
2. We learn quickly.
Ballet dancers are in the habit of learning, and picking up new information quickly. Rapidly learning and then retaining new information is a skill that requires practice, and dancers have this down to a science. We also pick up a lot of information through observation. As a result, when we're put in new situations we require less formal training.
3. We are perfectionists.
We've spent our whole lives looking for ways to go above and beyond what is asked of us. We are not content with succeeding, we want to excel. If you can spend years practicing the same tendu, working for that perfect line, perfectionism is not optional.
4. We're consistent.
Ballet dancers understand that hard work, excellence, and achievement aren't always flashy. Yes, those moments of brilliance and break-through are important, but true mastery of a skill means reliable results. In a profession that doesn't make allowances for "off" days, we've learned to try our hardest and give results, even when it's the most difficult.
5. Attention to detail.
In ballet, inches matter. The subtle difference in angle, the smallest gesture or look, can change the meaning of a step. Everything from our posture to our makeup technique has been studied and practiced. As such, we deeply understand attention to detail. We do not have to make a conscious effort to pay more attention to detail: that has been engrained in us since adolescence.
6. We're self-motivated.
Any professional ballet dancer has had to be self-motivated in order to get a job, and succeed professionally. At 16, 17, and 18 we became our own advocates, going to auditions, asking for help when we needed it, and pushing for opportunities. No one pushed us to succeed. Sure, our teachers encouraged us, but they had many students and only so much time. All they could do was give us the resources we needed and hope that we could make a career out of it. The ones that got jobs were the ones that pushed themselves. And that mentality prevails in ballet. You want to be better? No one is going to do it for you.
7. We're passionate.
Apathy is not in a ballet dancer's vocabulary. When we take ownership of a position, we're going to care about it. We care desperately about the things that brings us joy and fulfillment. We will always be looking for ways to grow and flourish.
8. We multi-task.
On stage, a dancer must be aware of the other artists, stay on music, do the choreography, demonstrate technical proficiency, tell a story through artistry, pay attention to lighting cues, know what is coming next, and look as though she (or he) isn't performing a mental juggling act. It's just another skill of the trade. Ballet dancers are constantly thinking about and/or doing more than one task, but that skill isn't confined to ballet. It translates directly into multi-tasking efficiently no matter what we're asked to do.
9. We're focused & dedicated.
From the outside, people often comment on how creative ballet must be. Yes, it is, but the presence of creativity does not exclude the demand for extreme focus and dedication. Ballet dancers are all incredibly focused individuals, and have been profoundly dedicated to a profession that has brought them more pain, sorrow, and doubt than they care to admit. If they have been able to remain focused and dedicated to an ideal through the literal blood, sweat, and tears, imagine what they can accomplish.
10. We want to know the bigger picture.
Constantly being part of a creative process makes a dancer aware of all the moving pieces that have to come together to form the resulting piece of art. Dancers are aware of how they fit into the greater scheme and mission of a company, director, or choreographer's vision. When moving into a position that has a limited, specific scope, a dancer will become engaged in trying to learn how their puzzle piece fits into the greater business model and long term goals of a company. Even if we're a small part of what's going on, we want to have an idea of the goals we are part of achieving. That kind of curiosity and understanding makes a valuable team member and employee.
I honestly believe that the skills and work ethic ballet dancers develop in their training and careers continue to serve them throughout their lives. Former ballet dancers will always be successful in the paths they choose, and that's not an accident. We've worked hard for our goals, and the lessons we've learned along the way are going to continue to serve us in whatever profession comes next.