The Office Temps You Tell to “Break a Leg”

Mar 13, 2014
Addison temp Andy Planck portrays Trevor Graydon, performing  in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Addison temp Andy Planck portrays Trevor Graydon, performing in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

If you’re looking for office temps you can place in any environment and know they’ll fit in, who won’t quit on you the instant they get offered a full time job, and who want the flexibility you’re offering, hold a casting call.

Chicago’s Addison Group, discovered a few years ago that performers make great office workers, and today, the staffing firm has over 100 theatrical workers in its database. As much as 35% of Addison’s contract admin placements are actors, actresses, directors, writers, and others who work behind the scenes.

What they have in common, and what makes them so desirable, says Ed Kavanagh, president of Addison’s administrative division, is their ability to fit into so many different environments.

“Typically, actors are very comfortable in different roles,” Kavanagh says. Many have improv experience, which requires them to respond to situations and people with no prior planning. “Actors, actresses really do a good job reading people and they fit in very well. They are very adaptable.”

Temping also fits their lifestyle. It gives them the flexibility to make it to tryouts and casting calls, while still having a source of income. Should they land a role, they can they can cut back on their temp work.

Addison recruiters have learned over the years how to work with the theatrical community. “We really work hard behind the scenes,” says Kavanagh, to properly vet the candidates and work with their schedules.

Discovering that theatrical workers make great office temps was purely serendipitous, explains Kavanagh. With the improving economy, recruiters began looking for office temp candidates and included some acting schools in their outreach. Once they discovered how versatile these actors and actresses are and how flexible their schedules, the Addison Group embraced the theatrical community.

Today, in addition to Addison’s sourcing efforts, there’s an active grapevine that keeps a steady flow of candidates coming in, Kavanagh observes.

Like any placement, the candidates have to be able to handle office work and have the skills employers require. That’s not much of a problem, Kavanagh notes, since the ten-office agency gets requests for all skill levels and types of office work.

“If you do proper due diligence,” he adds, you avoid the prima donna, or temperamental personality. “We spend time on the soft skills.” But difficult individuals are rare, he says.

In turn, the actors and actresses show a high degree of commitment to Addison.  “A pleasure to work with,” Kavanagh says, commenting on the “Tremendous, tremendous loyalty they have shown our teams.”

Even in a city like Chicago, office temps won’t get rich.. The average hourly pay for a full time office worker there is $17.61. Actors in Chicago, when they can get paying jobs, earn an average of $27.68 an hour. Few, though, are so lucky. Most end up working for free or a flat fee.

“As they mature in life,” Kavanagh observes, many come to realize the theater will never pay their bills. Their temping experience “exposes them to environments they have never been exposed to before,” he says. “We’ve seen a lot of people from the acting community go from contract to (permanent) hire.”

Addison has offices in several parts of the country, including Dallas, Houston, Denver, Boston, New York, and Tulsa. Sourcing the theater community is easier in some cities than others, but in each there are some hopefuls. With the strong resurgence Addison sees in demand for office professionals, Kavanagh says any agency that places office temps should consider reaching out to their local acting community.

He’s still waiting for the day when one the Addison Group temps hits it big in show business. “We have had people who are nearly there,” he says proudly, but “not yet.”

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