Job Advice

I'm currently having a difficult time at my job. When I was interviewed/hired, the manager told me that I was the lighting designer/technician. Now I'm just a general tech except I still get the blame for lighting problems and must still do the design for shows that come in. We don't really produce shows, more like provide the equipment for the shows that come in. Therefore, I'd been told to make the production people happy, but my manager doesn't like the way the lighting looks (even though that's how the production wanted it to look). I feel as though I am being pushed out of a job. Do I try and fight to keep it? Or do I just find something else? I can give more details (the place, etc.) but I'd like an idea on the general situation first. Thank you for any advice.


My experience down this road - when you're questioning whether or not you should stay with your current position, that's a good hint that you're unhappy and could be much happier elsewhere. Start looking around and see what you can find in the area. You may find that you're better off staying where you are longer, you may find a position elsewhere that you love. Don't burn bridges either way, not good for you in the long run. Things do get around.
I definetly don't want to burn bridges. In my short time in the industry I've already experienced the "you worked there?? do you remember...." I am fighting the battle that my earlier positions were when I was untreated for depression, so they may have a bad picture of me as I struggled with that. Part of my problem is that my current job is within a corporate structure, so I'm suppose to work my way up with my complaint. Neither my supervisor or manager have understood (and in fact feel to be adding to the problem) so the next step in the department director. Except I have a feeling that my manager will get pissed at me if I go a step above him (which human resources says I have the right to do). That's where it gets kinda weird for me. That also what I meant when I said "do I try to fight" meaning do I work my way up to try to get a clear answer and hope that my life doesn't become more difficult in the process or just keep doing what I have been doing (grinning, bearing and getting upset while I'm alone) and secretly find another job (if I can)?
Having people to talk to is often very helpful. Feel free to post as much as you wish or contact people individually, but most important is socialization and peers. No matter how hard you have worked in a week, do not forget to get out and do something socially with friends. Do not let that need for a hug after a hard day build up in you or you know what will happen. Just as you must pay bills, eat, do laundry etc. consider it to be absolutely necessary to socialize other than at work. Or at least to socialize outside of work with those perhaps renters coming in. Perhaps become their tour guide or something. This is a necessity because isolation only causes problems to become worse.

Onto the job:
So what you are saying is that you are the house electrician, and dependant upon the rental also do design tasks when there is not a show designer. Been there done that, for me it was enjoyable up until the point where I would be paid to be there to babysit only, more often than fix stuff and maintain the place.

Brian is correct in that if you don’t enjoy what you do, you should not be doing it. The question you seem to be at is if you should fight for your job or find another one.

In not knowing how much you would want this job to work out as you intend and the reality of it happening, it’s more of a you question. The grass is not always but sometimes greener in finding a new home. Sometimes it takes years in the trenches also than falling ass backwards if ever into a place that you can retire from. Trust your intuition, but be sure it’s that and not being upset over how something currently is. If it’s possible to change a situation, perhaps it will become more what you want. Than again if intuition lied and in attempting to get it how you wish, than leaving after letting the you out will be preferable once the attempt to make it your home failed. In doing so however be mindful that spitefully doing what you want in getting it done or changed or in doing things in a way other than tactful and the real you not a spiteful you as opposed to what is feasable and a part of your long term goals is not a solution. What is that prayer no matter the religion or intent - but good advice" God give me the strength to live thru the day in changing what I can and the will to stick with it until what I can't change today is changed to be sensible. (Not in quotes because I sort of re-wrote it.)

It’s also something of a question of how involved with the productions your managers are. Are they more front office paper pusher types that have limited production experience or is your direct boss more of an old man of the theater type that has a presence in the theater and years of experience in doing what you are doing? One can also find that even a paper pusher by job has also had years of experience in at least seeing shows, and while they might not know the details of either the group renting or intent, they often can spot a actor in the dark or something similar.

My advice: Do not work up the chain of command with your complaint because people hurting your feelings about their opinion of what level of art you are responsible for pulling off is not something that those above your boss’ will have much to do with that can be more supported by the manager. Like parents, they just don’t understand my situation. Perhaps this manager has forgotten to some extent what it’s like to deal with the renters wishes, but they also might have expectations of what level of productions they expect to be in the space. This level of quality is especially defenseless unless you can produce letters upon letters of thanks from the renters for great shows and most especially your efforts. Chances are, doing what the client wants is not producing great art your manager’s standards expect. You say it’s putting on stage what the renters ask for, but I also note that you are less than defending the artistic merit of it. Perhaps it is the case that you also don’t think that what work is being done is up to your much less the theater’s standards. This push and pull of in some ways doing the simple in getting the client what they ask for, and on the other hand being told to do better work that perhaps you also feel in some ways is perhaps more the need for change in how you deal with the client than in just giving them what they ask for. This given you were the designer. If you were not designing the show, it is someone else’s problem, given you tried to help them as a fellow designer more familiar with the theater and they did not take the advice.

How much do those asking you to do their lighting know what they want anyway? Given they ask for things, do you do so even if you know it will look bad or produce spotty and dark scenes? Given a show renting the space most frequently brings in their own designers that are familiar with the show and have already done the pre-production meetings in getting the show’s look, it’s perhaps very possible that just because they want something does not mean that they realize all the options for achieving it while still looking good. Part of the job as a designer no matter who pays your salary is in being a designer. You don’t just arrange lights on a table, you take what is wished for, create and defend your own design based upon this, that in addition to the goals of good lighting in general if not art, as a designer for a show also takes into account what is wished for or agreed upon after negotiation with the director, what will fulfill the basic and even artistic goals of lighting.

This negotiation with the renters is going to be difficult in both giving them what they want, but more importantly giving them what they really want. Or at least balancing that desire on their part with the necessities you convince them are important to fulfill given the production. If someone is saying the shows look bad, than they probably do. Would it be any different if a friend of your’s came to see a show and let you know in a frank way? Your answer would no doubt be the same, but to some extent, I feel that those you work for are not citing this problem because they are out to get you, more that they have to and that you are able to do much better. You would be fired otherwise long ago. If you have no part in the design of the show, looking bad is because of others. This given house electrician you also were not able to fulfill your role in helping them fit their design into your space. If you are designing and falling back on it’s what they wanted than your role as designer is being handed to someone else given your defense of what they wanted.

Of most question here is do you agree with the manager in the show looking bad, or did you see the artistic intent of the renters, and you producing what they wished for bringing out a product that artistically did have the look needed, but is out of step with the norm for the hall it’s in? Remember also that often the renters without their own designer will be on stage during the show and not watching it. What looks good in those few times they get to the audience or looks good from the stage is different.

Diplomacy, especially if it’s dance shows you are designing is very to an extreme difficult at times especially if you are trying to do it on the fly and don’t know the show as well as those you are designing for. Artists are artists and know what look they want, but often don’t realize the other more subtile details in pulling it off. Were they to realize that other than a down light or wash of light from one direction, they also needed supplemental lighting, they would be the designer for the show and you would be just playing the ME role. Pre-production as with all design is absolutely needed. Perhaps in setting up your design for the renters, you ask your manager for some pre-production/load in time much less videos so that you have time to do the job as a designer as opposed to less designer and more placing lights where told to do so. I hope these differences help in that it sounds like while the management expects you to design, that you have not been given much of a chance to do so and instead have to rely upon the renters to design and you to place equipment instead.

And so other details. Get everything in writing even if only by you in keeping notes. Should it be necessary to follow to the letter the directions of a renter, go home at night and as if a stage manager type your notes of the day into something that after the production can be presented to your manager in proving that your lighting problems extend from them. But as said, be ready for the concept that yes you should give them what they want, but also be as designer able to still produce good lighting design. This proof than is only useful for something that failed and you agree failed artistically, in removing your fault for the scene but not show.

Getting really organized now at this job is something to do anyway. Between taking notes of every direction you are given, and even just nots on bids to your top ten wish list for things you would like to get done at the theater. Proposals for stuff like how much it will cost to add another lineset or a few more fixtures and cable. Your punch list for stuff to get done both today and in the next five year plan. If you supervise the space, keeping track of the last time the fixtures were maintained and when it’s needed again takes organization.

Given this tech part of your job is something you also must become, how much time does the management allow, or do you make to maintain the system in preventing problems? How much have you made this theater your own home in having set up an office sufficient that should you need to buy a roll of gaff tape for a show, you already know how much it will cost. Much less if a renter is willing to pay for a new lineset to be installed, have you already done a ball park estimate of what parts you will need and part numbers, and approximate price for both materials and labor? If this is your home, and given you constantly have to replace some thumb screw for a Leko, or simply need ferrules, do you have them in stock sufficient for a day or three’s necessity or are you simply coming to work and doing what you are told to do? Given your status, I would expect that part of your position is in maintaining the equipment. While new to this career it might be hard to fight for even getting spare parts you don’t need now but will eventually and at the last moment, it’s going to be necessary in making this place your home. Asking for such gear as a thirty drawer organizer to store parts is even difficult when new because you have not quite built up a trust in that you would not ask if you did not both realize budget, but still need. How much does operating budget play a factor anyway in what you want, wish for, must have or want based upon goals.

Have you developed goals for your job yet in making it your home yet? Are these detailed plans and wish lists known and on paper to those that do the budget? These factors, design and production wise are especially difficult to do without slowly feeling as if you are hitting your head against a wall in getting what you need or working out the kinks both artistically and maintenance wise with the management. Every house person will have to have their own tactics based upon their personality also. As long as you are more organized than as a stage hand you need to be this job can be a great job for you. This also as long as it’s your design or advice about your space, as opposed to just a cog in the machine and trapped there between the artists and the management.

My advice on a personal sense, think hard about what will be necessary to make you happy. Not what others will do for you in making you have better conditions, but what you can do in changing things and taking the bull by the horns. Management should almost never have to comment to you about anything but what you have kicked butt on if you are doing your job correctly. And when you do screw up or have a brain fart, them talking to you about it should be in perfect agreement with them about the mistake. But in doing this you have to have the no-guts, no glory attitude in making your home, your home. Take on this theater as your space and make it your’s both design wise, and technically. Would you come to see some of the shows the renters are forcing you to design for them? These changes you implement cannot be day and night either. You must have goals, and they need to be thought out in what’s realistic to achieve in addition to what is not but ready to go should it come up. Artistically, you are the designer for the show. Your goals as a designer, just like while in college is to work with the director in producing a good lighting design. At times you will go to batt with the management about art, at others and perhaps more frequently it’s going to be more than giving them what they want, but also in paying you design, having you make their show look good and have that statement they wish for.

All around it takes lots of tact, guts, goals and to some extent a strong wall in stepping on people’s toes, and not becoming offended when professionally there is a better option. Tunnel vision is something only organization can fight. You have others preventing you from going on a buying spree, and while you should support the show, you also have to keep in mind that artistic merit of what is technically necessary to both achieve the look and make them in the look artistic.

This can be a great job for you. You have a home theater or space to become a part of in having a home. You know each speck of dust as it were in, much less are able to make into your own. Once also you do get more a handle on your balance in job verses production it might just become this and your boss will be your buddie perhaps.

Otherwise, if you can’t make it your home, either by way of not being ready to take control of it and give everyone what they want, it might be necessary to go elsewhere - in being perfectly honest that you are not ready for this balance yet and perhaps are not the best for them. Right out of school, it’s tough to have so many people standing over you and not have it easy for you to do what you think right. Some time elsewhere in learning your role, than perhaps some day coming back to this place while you still do have fond memories might be better than for the day you can take control of your theater and your designs. I’m thinking that this is more what the managers are expecting of you. If they complain or warn you, they have a hope you will get it together and do both art and politics. Give it a chance with the next show. Talk with your boss’s, perhaps seek advice in a other than hurt feelings way about an honest and technical what was done wrong type of way. Only way they can help is to hurt at this point, don’t take it personally especially if as possible, you should agree that it’s not art you produced. Than ask friends, or the boss’ friends for advice in advancing your own style of getting done what needs to get done without ever saying NO! But still getting done what still needs to get done.

I do hope it helps. People with their hart in their efforts are worth the effort. Question still remains if your hart was in being that go between hired hand forced between two opposing parties or if you hart was that of a designer and tech person at her home theater?

This is hopefully your career (in a scared straight way). Yea, at times you are going to come home at night and be upset or pissed about things that happen or words said to you. You will also be pissed that some terse response was not on the tip of your tongue and ready to go. As a woman, you will also have to at times have to fight the demur of being more artistic in a softer way when people walk all over you in being nice and more sensitive in taking things to hart more at times. This is a great and important thing, but also at some point there has to be a separation of what is said or done in a professional verses personal setting no matter guy or girl, verses what overall need or stupidness for it was. Some people - all people need to have a wall up, not for protection from others hurting your sense of being, but in defense of you taking things personally above what is just a part of the job that can be fixed. What’s worse, someone you will never talk to again because they are mean (in taking it back to even a primary example) or realizing the intent benevolent or not by that of the other person given the intent on the specific thing said? Some real jerks out there, some that are only out for themselves, but even a lie has a grain of truth in it. It’s more a analysis of what was said in that reality that’s useful than lingering upon the hurt of how or why it was said. I hope you take this advice to hart. If I don’t get yelled at or make a mistake once a week at least, I’m not doing my job, nor would I wish to live in a vacuum of a perfect world on my part or in dealing with others effecting it. This is part of the career. Don’t take it personally, instead use what’s said in reflection of what did go wrong. Recognition of this should help not hurt.

While very private in response, I do hope that it’s useful advice to others in presenting it. We all have troubles at work. Sometimes it’s better finding work elsewhere in finally finding that home for us, other times, it’s more a question of you in making it your home than in others that just don’t understand. Once you get to the point of they need you more than you need them mode, and in a real sense over the long term career, you have made your space and job your career and home. For the moment, it’s a job. Preform at it until changed or it becomes something that you live for in more than just fun at times and change in an average day. Is that theater your’s or somewhere you work? Until it is yours, either by efforts in making it so on your part, it is a job you can either advance in or find a replacement for. Once it becomes a career in becoming a part of you, it’s much harder to leave. But never mistake blood given to the alter of the job for that career where more than not is rosy, because by the time that first job that still just does not work out for you becomes a part of you, you will be more experienced in choosing the next one that will as an end result.
Okay, I've only read chunks of what you've said but am going to respond to a few things and then read the rest in a bit.

It’s also something of a question of how involved with the productions your managers are. Are they more front office paper pusher types that have limited production experience or is your direct boss more of an old man of the theater type that has a presence in the theater and years of experience in doing what you are doing? One can also find that even a paper pusher by job has also had years of experience in at least seeing shows, and while they might not know the details of either the group renting or intent, they often can spot a actor in the dark or something similar.

My supervisor has no experience outside of the casino. In fact, he worked in banquets before tranferring departments, so he was trained by the department. My manager has very little other experience in theatres. Neither of them are paper pushers (both hate paperwork) and yet neither have a lot of outside experience.

Chances are, doing what the client wants is not producing great art your manager’s standards expect

Neither does my manager want great art. In fact, the last show was too "theatre like" for him (we mainly do rock-like concerts). There were not enough blinky lights.

How much do those asking you to do their lighting know what they want anyway?

The shows coming in are really good about what they want/expect in their lighting. They tend to be clearier than the internal shows.

Of most question here is do you agree with the manager in the show looking bad, or did you see the artistic intent of the renters, and you producing what they wished for bringing out a product that artistically did have the look needed, but is out of step with the norm for the hall it’s in?

I do see the artistic intent of the show and while I may not agree with what they want and realize that it is not the norm, I see how good it looks and get compliments from the road crew (including the sound guys).

Given this tech part of your job is something you also must become, how much time does the management allow, or do you make to maintain the system in preventing problems?

Management expects things to be done as they are thinking of them. I've come into a place that has never really been taking care of, even just basic upkeep of the equipment (for example, everyone who has been there longer than myself is pretty sure that no one has gone through the gels in at least the last 5 years if not longer, so there are a lot of burned out/faded gel that just kept getting used until I started going through things). There also rarely seems to be a plan and most of the time, we are making it up as we go along, doing things half-way or just "good enough" for now and wait until it breaks down completely to fix it.

I need to finish reading the rest of your response. One thing that I should also add is that we only do about 2 shows a month. The rest of the time we set up AV for meetings. My manager has called me the "lowest of the low" and a "glorified AV monkey". Doesn't exactly motivate one to work in that environment. He also then said that I was still to do the work of an LD (and implied that I'd get all of the blame when something went wrong) but that I was nothing more than a general tech. There is no job definition and HR doesn't really care how well we do our job, so long as people come to the shows and gamble before/after them.
Given the source, it's certainly nothing to take personally in being lowest of the low. It would seem instead that your opinion of this manager is a reality and thus more bad joke of a manager than someone to take to hart in insulting you.
In the end, tell him he would be better served in a job as a used car lot manager, than publish to his bosses upon leaving why you are doing so.

Very interestin job description in response. Certainlly in part for not burning bridges, don't mention where. Much less if you choose to leave, be real in that part of your own shortfalls in also mentioning that of your boss's in being other than supportive to say the least. Do not intend to make a point by your leaving should you do so, instead be the vocal part of a rapid turn around I'm sure the place has had given the manager that will instead reflect upoin him once gone. Your finding greener pastures if possible once you find them, should not be intendant upon revenge or in getting a job back, just warning to others and to his boss. Don't burn bridges, but never expect to go back home.

Your description of a manager seems that of a movie strip club manager.

While many have found careers in designing for such places and even in an extent there of in cruise ships, this description of intent or intregrity of the business verses the art still has a role in your descision as to the value of getting what you need in a home if it can be worked out, verses what is the intent of glamor intended for the space.

Not sounding good, and it sounds like you in defense of why you are on the fense have lots more justification for why not to stick around, but still it's perhaps what effort you put in as your career verses that of a bad experience perhaps. Bands are rough. Yep, often or frequently at least they will know what they want, but in some ways that balance of what is good is still valid.

Allot to take upon yourself. Hope that personalization of this effort does not weigh too high upon your own intregrity in your own goals and solutions. It would seem the upper managament should they support a more artistic show verses that of the expressed, might be a tactic, but only to seek to replace this boss with a current one in staying in your position. Stage hands pat on the back and support is nice, but in the end not enough.

What are your goals, and will this place work out for you. As opposed to my own experiences where those on staff were thinking of the theater and it's art in addition to business, those directly being jerks or attempting to pigion hole you to a un-thinking role of dog to kick have a different intent. This can change but would be difficult.

Hope it's of help, what are your goals, and will this place realistically be worth your effort?
My goals are to be in a theatre doing theatre. The rock shows (though there are a lot of comedians and other performers who aren't rock musicians) are a nice change, I know it isn't permenant. I'd like to stay through the move into the new space that they are building for us. It does get harder everyday to wait it out. They are suppose to break ground sometime this spring.

I've talked with the assistant to the director and she thinks that talking with the director might at least give me a clearier idea of what my job is. Unless I find something that pays the same or more, I'm finanically stuck, though I am still looking at what's out there. I could always blay the gender card, but I hate doing that.

You've been a great help. I'm planning on printing out your first response so that I can read it (never been one to read a lot on the computer).

It might be worth my effort because I've never been anywhere for more than 9 months between school and summer jobs, so to keep it and show that I can work somewhere for a while might be worthwhile, I think.
Could be, I either do about 9 months, or five years. Nine months is about a sufficient amount of time to learn what you must than decide if you wish to continue one way or another.

I do hope it's helpful even if not specific enough for your situation. Perhaps a few good ideas in there that can be useful still. Lighting a variety of shows can give you lots of chances for design, but perhaps the rep. plot might be useful for band or single performer in achieving that look necessary - even if only at say 25% at times. Than having specials for the performers and scenes.

Anyway, let us know about the current space and the new one. Not alot of people have been to theaters such as yours and getting a feel for both what it's like to work in one, and what you have to play with or how it's set up could be of interest.

Still it's probably wise for you and all tech people to keep your animinity as a tech person wall between emplyoee at a specific place and tech person on-line so there is not problems later. Good you have not yet mentioned the place. I recommend keeping it that way just as I do.
One thing I have seen and heard about casino operations, they tend to hire from with-in. While your current position may not be the best match for your talents, the potential for you to get hired to new facilities or get a new managers is there.
As for dealing wiht your current supervisor. Check to see how long the last guy was there and see if you can outlast them. Food and beverage guys tend to turn over real fast.
As for the your job, learn as much as you can. The friendly compliments from the visiting road crew can turn into job offers later on. One time while I was worried about my job reviews, I got the visiting staff to write notes concerning my work with them. While it never really made any real difference, I had proof of my performance on the job. While rock may not fit you bill right now, you can transition between rock, and theater. Knowledge is the key, experience is the selling point.
I've gone from rock, to theater, to coperate, and now teaching. What a long strange trip its been.

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