How to Land That Non-Dance Related Job with Transferable Skills

At 25 years of age, I walked into a well-known coffee chain to apply for a job as a barista. In my pocket of experience, I possessed a B.F.A. in dance, two university adjunct teaching positions, and three contracts with a major cruise line -- two as dance captain and one as company manager. I thought I had this barista job in the bag, but after three interviews at three separate stores, I was still not hired. Why? As I later learned from a manager who "took a chance" on hiring me, I was ineffective at translating my transferable skills. I didn’t communicate how the skills acquired through my training and positions in dance could make me a great employee outside of the dance studio. I failed to state the equivalence of specific duties in non-dancer language. To just say that I held the position of dance captain or dancer didn’t mean anything to employers outside of the dance world. Resumes for dancers must articulate how what you've done in the studio can apply to other work environments. This article aims to give you some resume writing tips so you can more effectively translate your dance skills into job skills. Below are the must-haves to include in your new resume as you build it off of your existing dance resume.

Consider this your opportunity to educate others about the skills learned through dance.

Contact Info

At the top of your resume page, you’ll want to list a few very important pieces of information. Employers must have a way to get a hold of  you, so precise contact info is a must. First, be sure to use your legal name. It is best to provide the name listed on your official documentation, saving your stage name for the stage. Then, list your contact information: cell phone number (personal preference to leave off if privacy is a concern), location (city, state, zip code), and email address. Unlike some resumes for dancers, your employer will not need your Instagram handle, nor will they need to know how many followers you have. Though this information is now commonly requested at commercial dance auditions, it's not usually required for most jobs like barista, waitstaff, or other customer service positions. Lastly, a one-page resume is expected, but a headshot is not. 

Work Experience for Dancers 

When listing dance jobs you've held, refrain from just writing “Dance Captain” without providing more details about what duties you performed. For example, one might add the following text:

Managed a production cast of 14 professional singers and dancers, scheduled all rehearsals and meetings for cast members, wrote weekly reports to land-based management, maintained product quality and integrity, and collected and processed weekly time cards for payment. 

Always remember this simple resume writing tip: Managers tend to be more interested in learning about your hard skills versus your soft skills. Hard skills are those that are measurable and tangible. You'll want to list the ones that make you hirable for the specific job in which you are applying to. For example, coding, math, languages, and writing all fit the hard skill description. In contrast, soft skills are associated with people skills like empathy and additional interpersonal communication. Both should be listed, but I suggest listing the hard skills that are appropriate for the job first. Additionally, including actual values rather than estimations or summaries are preferred. For instance, providing a specific number of dancers versus just using the general terms like “dancers” or “people”. 

Another resume tip for including transferable skills is to list the ones  you have learned and used as a dancer. The person you're interviewing with doesn't care if you were the lead in the resident choreographer's new piece, but they do want to know what you bring to the table. Skills used as a dancer include time management, interpersonal communication, collaboration, spatial awareness, empathy, persistence, flexibility, leadership, teamwork, commitment, ability to work independently, respectful of deadlines, respect for others, mental and physical stamina, attention to detail, listening, and following directions. Just adding two or three of these qualities will help your potential boss better understand just how much your dance training and work has prepared you for jobs beyond the dance world. 

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Achievements and awards

You know how much your competition titles and gala selections mean to you, but most people outside of the dance world have zero idea. Just listing these accolades and expecting employers to know what that means is expecting too much. Instead, offer a brief explanation:

2019 Miss [Competition Title]: Selected by dance industry professionals as the winner from over 100 applicants based on individual performance on stage and work ethic.

If your piece won an "Outstanding Choreography" award or was selected for performance at the Gala Performance, be sure to focus on the magnitude of the achievement stating how many pieces were up for adjudication or other informative facts.

Gala selection at a regional conference: Awarded by three professional adjudicators for inclusion in the closing night Gala out of 48 other dances.

Managers tend to be more interested in learning about your hard skills versus your soft skills.

With the resume tips listed above, let my difficulty in getting hired be a parting lesson to you that we must vouch for our dance skills as being transferable job skills. You must offer equivalences from your dance work to the job you wish to have because most people that have never trained in dance have no idea what we do. Consider this your opportunity to educate others about the skills learned through dance. And, to close my own story, that manager who "took a chance" on me offered to promote me to supervisor after only two months on the job.