Last week Geoffrey Owens, an actor from “the Cosby Show,” made headlines after a woman shopping at Trader Joe’s in Clifton, New Jersey, was so surprised to see Owens bagging groceries that she took a picture and sent it to the Daily Mail, which ran the headline, “From learning lines to serving the long line!” After that, Fox News picked up the story, and then it really began to make waves on Twitter—not so much shaming Owens for being a grocer but more so shaming Fox News for shaming Owens for being caught in the act of a day job.
Here’s the thing though…Owens has been a working actor for decades. He’s been on Broadway four times, was a cast member on “the Cosby Show” for five seasons, and has had roles on shows like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “the Secret Life of the American Teenager.” You can check out his IMDB page to get the full scoop of where he’s been (TV-wise) for the past couple of decades.
Owens was interviewed by CNN about his day job at Trader Joe’s. Here’s what he had to say:
“The fact that I as the guy from the Cosby show was shamed about working at Trader Joes that story is gonna move on that’s gonna pass ya know? But what i hope doesn’t pass is this new recognition, this current sensitivity that people are feeling about work and about working. I hope what continues to resonate is the idea that one job is not better than another, that a certain job might pay more, it might have better benefits, it might look better on paper but that essentially one kind of work is not better, superior than another kind of work and that we reevaluate that whole idea and we start just honoring the dignity of work and respecting the dignity of the working person.” —Geoffrey Owens
3 Tips to Create a Career that is a Combination of Passion Job and ‘Pay the Bills’ Job
1. Brainstorm about what skills and interests you have aside from your main passion. What else do you like to do? What else do you like to talk about or think about? What have people told you you’re good at?
2. Think about your values. What is most important to you in work? Look for a side hustle or a day job that has the benefits that are most important to you. Even if you end up having a day job that isn’t your dream, if it provides some of those aspects that are important to you (say good pay and flexibility) it may be a great fit for a day job for you right now.
3. Don’t be afraid to create your own job. Entrepreneurship pairs SO well with jobs like acting. In Episode 13 we unpacked tools like Skillshare and Teachable that can help you create courses online. Or you may have some kind of freelance skill—get plugged in on LinkedIn and begin to spread the word about your skill on that site. That is the place where people go to find freelancers to hire. Don’t be shy about sharing your day job endeavor.
Mythbusting about Actors with Day Jobs
Actors with day jobs are “unsuccessful.” The vast majority of acting jobs are short-term contracts—whether it’s TV, film, or stage. For actors equity (the stage union) of members of the union that worked *at all* in the 2016-17 season, the average amount of time spent in jobs on stage was 16.4. That leaves the average working union actor with 35.6 weeks a year to find some other way to pay the bills. That’s about 8 months of the year.
Day jobs are soulless gigs actors have to take to be able to pay their rent. While sometimes, and especially, in early career days, you gotta take a job that will take you, as careers mature you can find other flexible gigs that might bring you even more income than your acting job, and may give you an opportunity to flex those skills and talent muscles that you have in work that is more in demand. Do you know what another word for “day job” is? Side hustle. I have actor friends who also choreograph, teach, work with nonprofit organizations, work retail, do event planning, real estate, get paid to advertise products on instagram, and of course bartend and cater.
Connect with Hilary on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You can also catch the episode of Melissa's "Figuring It Out" podcast in which Hilary is guest discussing how to work from home productively.
This episode is sponsored by the Side Hustle Starter Kit.