do good jobs ever leave room for outside artistic pursuits, coffee wars, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Do good jobs ever leave room for outside artistic pursuits?

I’m currently studying theater and business in college, with the intention of going on to a masters in arts administration and a career in the arts nonprofit world. I feel pretty good about my job prospects once I graduate. However, I’m feeling kind of heartbroken at the prospect of giving up acting, the thing I love more than pretty much anything. I’m realistic about the struggles of being a full-time actor so I’m not going down that route, but is there any chance of finding a job that will also allow me to occasionally devote some time to acting? I know you’ve mentioned that jobs worth having often require some availability outside a 9-5 schedule, which would make attending rehearsals and auditions difficult. Is there a realistic possibility of finding a good job that would, for example, let me leave exactly at 5 o’clock and be unavailable over weekends for a few weeks at a time couple times a year so I can rehearse? Or does having a career mean that you can’t have major commitments of that nature? I’m not planning to quit and become famous or anything, just to act in a few shows a year while also holding down a steady career.

There are lots of jobs that will allow you to do that! There are lots of jobs where you do leave reliably at the same time every day, or where there’s only an occasional need to stay late and it’s rare enough that it wouldn’t interfere with what you’re describing. There also are lots of jobs where you might need to deal with some additional work in the evening but you could do it at night at home after you’re back from a rehearsal.

You’d just want to be sure to explore the norms of the field you’re going into to make sure they’re aligned with what you want. This wouldn’t work in political campaigns, for example, or in certain types of communications jobs. But you’ll probably be able to make it work in arts nonprofits, although there will be variation from job to job so you’ll still want to make sure to research and talk to people.

2. How do I show soft skills on my resume?

You’ve posted plenty of times that job-seekers should not have a list of soft skills on a resume, and instead to identify performance results which show the skills. So, how does one address this on a resume when the job description asks for them? Example, this job states qualifiers as integrity, professionalism, excellent judgement, dependability, attention to detail, and (your personal favorite) excellent communication skills. If the job description lists them but my resume does not, I’m afraid I won’t be considered “high attentive to detail” or as having “excellent Microsoft Word abilities.”

They’re not expecting your resume to address every soft skill they list. Some of it is just there to convey to you what’s important for the role, and to give you a sense of what they’ll be assessing you on throughout the interview process (not just in the resume screen). That said, ideally you’d still look for ways to talk about work accomplishments that show those things. For example, for “integrity,” you might be able to talk about how you handled large volumes of confidential information with tact and discretion. For “attention to detail,” you could mention that you were lauded for unusual accuracy in processing case files, or that your error rate was the lowest on your team. In other words, show don’t tell. But you won’t always have easy examples like that, and that’s okay. Many of these soft skills aren’t things they’re going to assess you on as they interact with you and interview you.

(Microsoft Word, though, is a hard skill and I’d list that somewhere if they’d specifically asked for it. (Generally I don’t suggest listing basic computer programs, just specialized ones, but if they’re specifically asking for it, you might as well cover all your bases.)

3. Whose coffee was this?

-Company owns and purchased the coffee maker.
-Company allows use of the coffee maker in break room, but does not purchase the coffee or condiments for the coffee.
-Shop employees purchase the coffee and are responsible for cleaning and re-stocking coffee supplies they want as needed.

If a pot of coffee is brewed with company machine, using employees’ coffee, is the resulting brewed coffee the company’s or the employees’?

Recently an employee who did not participate in the coffee fund enjoyed a cup of coffee, and a coffee fund participant made a big deal accusing the employee of stealing.

It sounds like the coffee belongs to the people who purchased it and so technically the person took coffee that didn’t belong to them. But making a big deal over a single cup of coffee sounds strangely petty, so I wonder if there’s some other context to this that explains the reaction. (Has it been an ongoing thing, rather than a one-time instance? Has the person really ostentatiously refused to chip in, insisting they’d never drink coffee? That sort of thing is the only explanation that would make sense.)

4. “Do you have friends here?”

I am currently a senior in college, and am searching for post-graduation jobs. I recently applied for a job with a mid-stage tech start-up in a major city; I had a phone screen with their HR director first, and then moved on to a phone interview with the department director.

Both phone calls were fairly straightforward, but the department director asked one question that tripped me up — “Do you have friends who are moving to this city after graduation?” I answered, truthfully, that friends’ post-graduation plans are still being fleshed out, but that my college has a fairly large alumni network in the city.

It didn’t seem overly out of the ordinary, but I am curious – what is the “right” answer to a question like that? Was the interviewer hoping to hear that I have lots of friends in the city, meaning that I might be more excited to relocate? Or does saying that you have friends in the city make it sound like you are less interested in that particular company, and more interested in moving somewhere with college pals? Was the interviewer just trying to make small talk?

Most likely, the interviewer was trying to figure out if you’d have a support network in the city — a reason to move there, and something that would help you adjust to living there. When hiring candidates who would need to relocate, a lot of people worry about how well they’ll adjust to the move (or whether they’ll be unhappy and end up moving back home in six months). But it’s also possible that it was just small talk.

Your answer was good — it was honest, and citing the large alumni network implied you’d have some social connections right away.

5. Taking a job with a company that’s already laid me off once

The other day, I unexpectedly heard from a former employer that they’d like to hire me back. Two years ago, they laid me off due to the economy. The business itself was new, though I’d worked with this same employer for 10 years (through a few different company names).
When I was laid off, along with my coworker, we were the last to be laid off, leaving just two people at this company — the two directors.

Two years later, they have refined their business model and seem to have a better vision going forward. The job itself is something I’d like to return to. I’ve grown and learned a lot in the past couple of years, and I think it would be a good fit for me.

My biggest qualm, though, is job security. I currently have a secure, well-paying job, but I’m not really challenged and there isn’t a lot of room for growth or advancement. This new job would provide a challenge, but also with the added benefit of it being somewhat of a known commodity. It doesn’t, however, have the benefits that my current job does, nor the security. I have two young kids, so job security is definitely a consideration. And I can’t help thinking that they laid me off once, and it could happen again.

Is it ever okay to ask for a minimum severance clause in an employment contract, to provide myself that security? For what it’s worth, they’ve asked me to come back before putting the job out to market.

Because they laid you off previously, it’s a reasonable thing to raise now. You could frame it as, “I’m really interested in coming back. My biggest hesitation would be job security; I wouldn’t want to return and then face another layoff if circumstances change. I understand that these things can’t be predicted, of course, so would you be open to agreeing now on what severance would look like if that did happen? That would allow me to feel confident about moving forward.”

If you’re in the U.S., you probably won’t have an employment contract (most U.S. workers don’t), but you could create a written agreement covering this.

{ 668 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    #3, I’m really curious about the context for this. I can’t see how anyone can claim that the coffee belongs to the company, since all of the supplies come from the staff. So, it seems odd that anyone would push back on the fuss using this argument. But it’s also extremely weird to make a fuss an accuse people of stealing over a cup of coffee out of a pot.

    So, I’m with Alison, wondering if there’s a bigger deal going on here.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah; I found this a little puzzling (both the making a fuss and that anyone would think it’s “company coffee” under these terms). I’m really curious to see if OP can help flesh out the rationales for both folks, as that may help illuminate the potential underlying bigger deal.

      1. LouiseM*

        If it’s a big enough company and the coffee fund is more of a word-of-mouth thing, it may be that people aren’t aware of the arrangement.

        1. Curious Cat*

          That’s what I was thinking, that the person who took a cup of coffee didn’t realize that it was being funded by employees.

        2. Noah*

          I don’t think it IS being funded by employees — at least not with money. I think by “coffee fund” OP is referring to the store of coffee that the employees have purchased and brought in.

      2. Wintermute*

        I can see the “company coffee” route a little because it does seem a bit odd to make a big deal of it. For instance, I found a restaurant supply place that sells 1-liter bottles of flavor syrups for coffee for like 4 bucks, I went ahead and got half a dozen or so and put them in the back of the office. Everyone on my shift drinks coffee more or less, I wouldn’t begrudge someone from another department using them, as long as it wasn’t causing excessive use.

        Same goes for my double-caffeine coffee, because sometimes it’s one of those days when you work in network operations, it’s very much a “in case of severe outage, break cardboard, make coffee” kind of thing.

        Maybe we’re unusually tight-knit? I don’t know, but unless it became excessive enough to the point it was more than 20 bucks every few months, I personally don’t think it’s worth sweating.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yes, but as a rule you’re allowed to be generous with your own things. You’re not allowed to be generous with other peoples’ things. I’m the same way with my own things, but I wouldn’t think of touching something that 1) wasn’t offered, or 2) I wasn’t sure was free to take.

          Taking coffee that someone else purchased just because it’s in company-owned carafes is like taking a mug of coffee that someone just poured off the break room table because it’s in a company-owned mug!

          1. LKW*

            You’ve also set a personal limit of $20 bucks. For all you know, this person is drinking a cup a day of some of that monkey scat coffee.

            The LW says the person had a cup and some one got upset – but maybe this person’s limit is $2. Which, if the coffee is their one splurge, may be the proverbial straw.

            1. Noah*

              Then they shouldn’t be leaving a pot full of coffee in a communal pot. If all of it was just for that one person, they should get a big thermos or something. If you leave it out in the pot, people are going to drink it. And they have the right to because they have no other way to get coffee because your coffee is in the pot. This complaint is like getting angry because somebody takes out your clothes that you left in the dryer. That’s on you.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Why are you assuming there’s only one pot/carafe? There are exactly zero references to the supply of those items you claim are being hogged. I’ve taken clothes out of a dryer after they’ve sat there a while when I lived in an apt. with a laundry room, so I agree with you on the acceptable behavior with regard to the laundry, but I never had to use their clothes or their quarters to do so.

                1. Noah*

                  Why am I assuming there is only one? From this: “-Company owns and purchased THE coffee maker.” Not many coffee makers. One.

                  I’ve had to use other people’s quarters lots of times in two different contexts:

                  1. People who put their money and clothes in, but don’t activate the machine. Sorry you didn’t run the dryer, but I’m not going to run it for you and wait an entire cycle for my dry clothes.

                  2. I lived in a place where you could put the money in for multiple loads, but you had to restart it at each load. It led to funded, but not running machines.

                  And, as when somebody is hogging the coffee machine, I was totally justified in doing that.

              2. Luna*

                Usually whenever a club member makes coffee they are supposed to make a full pot, so that others who are members of the club can then drink it. It is not meant to be for anyone who is not in the club. Each person is not making an individual pot of coffee. If employees want to drink that coffee then they have to join the club and pay for it.

                1. Noah*

                  What if I don’t want to be in the club because the club buys terrible coffee? Why does this special club have exclusive rights to the coffee maker?

          2. Eye of Sauron*

            I would put it in the category of the break room fridge. The company provides the fridge, that doesn’t mean that Hungry Harry can eat the food that’s in there brought by other people.*

            *We know that Hungry Harrys and Henriettas exist in offices anywhere, so while it’s not the best example it’s the most relevant to the situation.

            1. Noah*

              No, it’s more like this: The company provides a break room fridge. You filled the entire fridge with your stuff so nobody else can use it. People eat your stuff because they can’t bring their own cold things to work.

              1. Need Coffee*

                Totally agree. How is that second person supposed to make his own coffee? Assuming he’s bringing in his own supplies. However, it seems easier just to go get a Starbuck’s.

              2. Safetykats*

                This is such a typical arrangement that I’m surprised people are confused. The company-purchased coffee maker is usually a restaurant-style (multi-pot) machine. The coffee pool can be employees taking turns bringing the coffee or people contributing money and one employee designated to buy the coffee. Either way, if you want coffee but don’t want to be in the pool you typically bring your own machine. Our office has three coffee machines – the big, company purchased coffee pool one, a Keurig that a few folks went in on and have let everyone know is for general use, and a one-pot machine that belongs a to a small group of people who use it exclusively. If you put up a some signage it’s not that hard to figure out.

          3. INTP*

            Exactly. You don’t get to decide how much other people should be willing to give you, take it without permission, and then get irate when they call you out on stealing it because it was a reasonable amount to steal.

            Let’s say a cup of coffee is $.50. Not a huge amount, but if you were $.50 short for the vending machine, you wouldn’t take two quarters from your coworker’s wallet, or take a yogurt cup from their lunch, and then act like they’re unreasonable when they get mad at you for stealing. There’s no reason not to ask first unless you just don’t want to risk being told no or asked to pay for what you drink.

          4. Not a Morning Person*

            I’m on the side of the coffee belonging to the employees who purchased the coffee. Calling it the company’s coffee because the coffee pot was provided by the company would be like saying that lunches stored in a company-provided refrigerator belong to anyone and are up for grabs and not personal property. In the absence of other information that indicated the coffee-stealer was thumbing his nose at the coffee club, then I’d probably assume he didn’t know it was purchased by coworkers and that to take a cup of coffee he needs to contribute. Just use your words and say something like, “Hey, you probably didn’t know, but the coffee is on an honor system and only those who contribute are supposed to take some. Do you want to participate for regular access to coffee?” Or just say, “Sorry, coffee is not provided to those outside the group.”

      3. LBK*

        I assume because the company bought the coffee machine? But that just means anyone at the company is free to use the machine itself. That doesn’t entitle you to what it produces. It’s basically a vending machine where you insert coffee beans instead of money – just because the company purchased the vending machine doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to someone else’s soda that they bought from it.

        1. Noah*

          No, in this scenario, only one person is allowed to use the machine. They have filled the machine and now nobody else is able to make coffee until they’ve had all their coffee. If you don’t want others to drink your coffee, you need to make the machine accessible to others, or be okay if they dump your coffee to make their own.

          1. LBK*

            It doesn’t sound to me like each person is bringing in their own coffee, but that people are pooling money to buy communal beans/grounds. So this isn’t an issue.

            1. Noah*

              What if the Thief doesn’t want to be in on that. He brings his own coffee. He goes to make coffee and finds he can’t because the machine is full. Then what?

              I actually had that situation at a job. But I didn’t like the coffee the other people were making. It was a very small office, so I checked to make sure everyone had the coffee they wanted, then I dumped it. Maybe Thief is in that situation, but he doesn’t want to waste the coffee.

              I mean, look, the person is probably just a coffee mooch. But it’s certainly possible that he is not.

              1. Someone else*

                To me, the scenario in the LW office sounds like the office-coffee-maker wasn’t provided so that your hypthetical he could do that? So while it may be a bummer for him not to be able to use it because it’s already full of coffee-club’s coffee, it sounds like it was put there so coffee-club could exist, not so individuals could all make individual pots of their own brew. I get that you’ve got a personal history that gives you a horse in this race, but none of the hypotheticals you cite make sense with the letter’s seemed implication that Alleged-Thief made some sort of “but the machine is communal so this is fine” claim. If the gripe were “I wanted to use my own but this was there and I wasn’t going to dump it so I took some” I don’t think the office in question would have appreciated that either? But that angle doesn’t make any sense with the letter so it’s a moot point anyway.

              2. Safetykats*

                Yeah, that’s not okay. If the company machine is a coffee pool machine, then you need to join the coffee pool or get your own machine. You don’t get to dump out coffee that other people paid for to make your own special coffee. You can certainly wait until the carafe is empty and then make your own special coffee, but I would say that you don’t then get to be upset if someone mistakes it for the coffee pool, since it’s on the company machine.

              3. Traffic_Spiral*

                What if a pig flew in the window and told the Thief it was ok to drink the coffee? Then we might have a different situation, but there’s no reason to believe that it’s the situation we have now.

          2. Someone else*

            I don’t think it’s an “everyone bring your own and use the machine as needed/available” situation. I think it’s a “if you want to use the coffee in the break room, you need to pay into the pool that purchases it for communal use by people who paid in” situation. It might not have been clearly communicated and caused confusion, but it’s a “buy in or do not use” sitch.

            1. Starbuck*

              Wait, why wouldn’t it be? The employees didn’t pay for the machine, only the coffee. So I’d assume anyone should be able to use the machine with their own coffee, “club” member or not.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      I can see why it’s a bit of a grey area because the staff couldn’t make coffee without the machine, which is the more expensive part of the equation. So I think the company would not be unreasonable to claim an occasional cup of coffee for a visitor, for example. However, the company is not obliged to place all of the things it owns at the automatic disposal of every staff member all of the time, so a staff member who choses not to contribute to the coffee is not entitled to a cup of it just because the machine is company property.

      1. LKW*

        The machine is not the most expensive part of the equation at all! Let’s say that they go with a high end $500 machine. Divide by 52 weeks -it “costs” a little less than $10 per week for that machine. Get two years out of it and it goes down to roughly $4 per week.

        Let’s say a bag of coffee beans is $10. A bag of beans will get you roughly 40 cups. Average person 2 cups (I drink 4 but let’s play nice). So 20 people can have 2 cups from that bag. Let’s say 10 people are in the pool. So they need 2.5 bags of coffee a week or $25 a week to supply coffee. That doesn’t change – it goes up as the price of coffee goes up.

        1. Noah*

          In this scenario, by monopolizing the coffee machine, the upset employee is imposing the cost of a separate coffee machine on the person who “stole” the coffee. So either Upset Employee can lose $0.50/day, or the “Thief” can lose at least say $30 to buy a cheap Mr. Coffee. Since Upset Employee has created this situation by monopolizing the machine, I would impose that cost on them.

          1. Doreen*

            You don’t seem to understand the letter – perhaps because you’ve never encountered the situation . It’s not that one employee brings her own coffee and monopolizes the machine. It’s a group of employees who together buy the coffee and supplies and a person who has chosen not to participate in this club took a cup of coffee although they didn’t contribute. Typically , in places I’ve worked it’s usually about 2/3 of the employees who participate in the coffee club and I’ve never seen a place where it wasn’t open to everyone.
            If it occurs on a daily basis, the choices are not limited to the Upset Employee(s) losing .50 a day or the “thief” buying their own Mr. Coffee. There are at least 2 other choices. The “thief” can join the coffee club and participate or the “thief” can throw .50 into the kitty when she takes a cup of coffee. It would be very strange for someone to get upset over a single person taking a single cup of coffee, so there must be something else going on. Maybe this person doesn’t contribute because “I’m only here twice a week” , but drinks a cup of coffee every time she’s there. Maybe she’s not the only person who’s done this and all the coffee fund participants are tired of paying for people who won’t contribute. Maybe when she was approached about participating, she swore up and down that she never drinks coffee – but IME , if a person takes a cup one time, no one calls them a thief. They will just be reminded that the coffee bought by the club participants and participating cost $X per month.

      2. INTP*

        I don’t know what’s objectively fair here, but I feel like if a company is too cheap to supply their employees with free coffee (which is like a bare minimum standard at for profit companies IME, the cheapest company I worked for only supplied free coffee and the others also had fancy teas, free sodas, and/or a nespresso – maybe this is different in other sectors) yet wants to take advantage of the coffee supply that employees are paying for to please visitors and avoid looking cheap to outsiders, they’re setting themselves up for some very angry employees. They should still throw in a few bucks a month or keep a special visitor coffee supply if they don’t want to demoralize the staff.

        1. bookish*

          My wife works for the federal government, and her office doesn’t provide them with coffee or even a water cooler because of the good old “my taxpayer dollars are going to this??” problem. I think people will do a “water cooler club” or “coffee club” where they chip in money with a group of people to have these things. But yeah, sometimes employers aren’t allowed to use company money to provide things like coffee for their employees, and people have to figure it out for themselves and pay for it.

            1. Basia, also a Fed*

              Yes, I work for the federal government, and they test the water in your building to find out if is drinkable. If it is, they won’t pay for water. Ours is, but doesn’t taste great, so we have a water cooler club. Everyone who wants to drink the water pays a monthly fee – I think it is around $4.00. It changes, because it is based on how much water we drink.

              Someone donated a Keurig machine and people bring in their own cups, so we don’t have a coffee club. However, there was a brouhaha when it was discovered that some people were using the water from the water cooler to refill the Keurig machine. There was some discussion that everyone who used the Keurig machine would then be required to join (and pay for) the water club since they were using the water in their coffee. I don’t know how that played out since I don’t drink coffee and I try to avoid office drama.

              I don’t have a problem with a visitor to the office drinking the water from the cooler. I feel like we should be offering water to anyone who comes here for a meeting, but not everyone feels that way.

            2. INTP*

              Yes, but tap water counts unless for some reason the tap water in your area is unsafe to drink. They aren’t required to provide bottled water to suit taste preferences or anything like that.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I’m public sector as well. I’ve never worked anywhere that provided free coffee or water cooler service. They’ll buy the coffee maker and sometimes the actual water cooler machine, but staff pay for the coffee and the water bottles for the cooler.

          2. unhelpfulyeoman*

            Yeah, state government here, and the office won’t pay for the coffee machine or the coffee. There are local companies that provide “coffee service” (i.e., they provide one of those restaurant-style machines that have multiple hot plates so you can brew a pot of decaf while keeping the regular coffee hot) but you have to use their coffee, and it’s funded 100% by the staff.

            Our office also won’t buy facial tissue. It’s considered a “personal comfort item”. The only exception is the receptionist’s desk – and those are kept in a locked cabinet in the supply room. Thank goodness they haven’t decided the same thing for toilet paper.

          3. Gatomon*

            Yes, at my old state job you had to contribute to have access to the coffee or the water cooler. Otherwise you could drink tap water or bring your own. I knew some people would fill one of the spare carafes with tap water, heat it up on the coffee burners and then pour themselves hot water to avoid the fee to use the hot water from the cooler. There was also a big chart labeled COFFEE FUND above the coffee pots showing who paid for what in the office, and who was current and who wasn’t.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah, I always thought that an employer that doesn’t supply some basic water and coffee is a real jerk and just begging for trouble like this.

    3. KAZ2Y5*

      I would imagine that the only person who thinks it is “company coffee” is whoever took the coffee without paying anything for it.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I noticed that the employee “enjoyed” the coffee instead of taking it. The employee took a cup of coffee. And yes, taking something you didn’t pay for is technically stealing.
        I wonder what “make a big deal” looked like? Different people have different viewpoints on what that means. It could be anything from “Hey! Stop that!” to loudly complaining and going to the employees manager.

        1. ioethe*

          Attitude is everything. If someone asked me if they could have a cup of my coffee? Absolutely no problem. If someone “enjoyed” a cup of my coffee and then tried to imply it somehow wasn’t mine? I’d make a big deal of it too.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            “I took the tea bag from your drawer, iothe, BUT I took the water and 2 minutes in the microwave from the company. So really it was more company tea.”

                1. Gatomon*

                  or c) too cheap to buy a tea kettle because you don’t drink tea that much. Though usually I nuke the water then add the tea bag….

          2. Anion*

            I can’t imagine sitting there “enjoying” a cup of coffee from the breakroom when someone comes up to me to point out that the employees had to pay for that and I didn’t pay, and my response being “No, it’s company coffee,” and not, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize. How can I chip in for that?”

            Company Coffee sounds like a bit of a selfish jerk.

            (I don’t drink coffee, myself, except on very rare occasions, so I *can* see myself honestly thinking it’s company-provided and that it was okay to have some. But I have also seen some of the coffee wars and sometimes-justified stinginess with coffee at workplaces, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that people said something to Company Coffee. I wonder if they made it worse by not making a fresh pot and leaving just the dregs behind?)

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              Yeah, this seems like a very easy “sorry, I didn’t know – let me fix that” situation.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I noticed that the employee “enjoyed” the coffee instead of taking it.

          That’s telling, isn’t it? And that a coffee fund participant made a big deal accusing the employee of stealing. I think it’s pretty obvious what side the OP is on.

          1. Samiratou*

            I’m assuming the OP is the one who enjoyed the coffee and got called on it. Possibly not for the first time.

              1. Seriously?*

                I was actually thinking it might be a group letter trying to anonymously get a moderator.

                1. Someone else*

                  It also read that way to me. They’ve been internally debating it and everyone is deadlocked and wanted Alison to make a ruling. That’show it struck me.

        3. Noah*

          “taking something you didn’t pay for is technically stealing”

          Not really. The crime of stealing requires the intent to steal. If you think it’s communal, which Thief may have reasonably thought, it is technically not stealing.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            This is untrue. Intent has nothing to do with it.
            Intent only matters in sentencing. So a judge may choose to waive the penalty. But the person still stole.

              1. Safetykats*

                While legally (if you’re being charged in a court of law) that is true, I think you will find that even if you thought the office supplies were communal property you can still be fired for taking them home.

                1. TrixM*

                  That’s not the same, because office supplies that are not self-purchased are obviously intended to be consumed in the office.

                  So deliberately taking them out of the office for personal use does actually denote intent.

    4. Engineer Girl*

      I can see accusations flying if the money collected doesn’t cover the amount of coffee used. Especially if it happened week after week.

      But really. The coffee belongs to the people that paid for it. Many companies provide the machines to keep happy employees. And the nice commercial coffee makers hold up way better than the home machines.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah we had a snack club that people could pay into monthly. The snacks, coffee, tea, waters, and code creamer/sugars were good. And we TOTALLY had people stealing from it, who hadn’t paid into it. ‘Oh hey, thanks guys, I was feeling a bit peckish and the vending machine is all the way down the hall.’ It definitely caused strife and ill will. They knew it wasn’t their food, they all just thought they could get away with it. (Which, mostly, they did.)

        1. Queen Esmerelda*

          I worked at couple of places that also had a “coffee fund” and in each place it turned into a nightmare because of those who didn’t pay in but would take coffee, creamer, etc. Each person who “stole” coffee didn’t see the big deal over one cup; but when that one cup was multiplied by a dozen people or more every couple of weeks, it added up. Lots of yelling and fighting; one person had the stolen cup of coffee knocked from their hand.

          It made me eternally grateful that I don’t drink coffee.

          1. LouiseM*

            You said it! I wrote below that the drama over the coffee pot at ToxicOldJob was just unreal. It actually caused the breakup of one workplace romance. One half of the couple paid for the fund and their partner did not. When the partner who paid realized the partner who didn’t was taking coffee using the logic that the partner had basically already paid for them, the paying partner was horrified and realized they could never combine finances or even sign a prenup with someone who played so fast and loose with morals and office rules. It sounds silly but it was the final straw, one of those “what else is he capable of?” moments.

            1. rldk*

              Seems like one of those times where you’re glad you learned this about your partner over a relatively trivial issue! I definitely understand the impact of that mismatch of one partner assuming this is fine versus the other assuming of course this is NOT fine.

            2. Anion*

              Doesn’t sound silly to me. That kind of thing is important to know about a potential spouse or partner: Do they take what isn’t theirs and blame me? Do they cavalierly assume I’ll cover their costs without asking?

              Especially if they expect generosity but display none in other ways, this is a big red flag.

            3. jo*

              Good lord. Reading these comments, I’m starting to think that if I worked at a place that didn’t provide coffee, I’d stretch my personal budget to buy coffee for my entire office just to AVOID this coffee fund drama! And I would call it money well spent.

              (I am not trying to say everyone should or could do this, but as Captain Awkward says, sometimes it’s easier/cheaper to pay with money when the alternative method is huge amounts of emotional energy.)

              1. Free Meerkats*

                Then you’d be responsible for the other coffee dramas. Jill only likes french roast, but Jack won’t drink anything darker than a light city roast, and Little Boy Blue won’t drink anything unless it’s Fair Trade, while Jack Sprat refuses to drink flavored coffee, and Peter Peter will only drink pumpkin spice, Mother Hubbard needs decaf, Mary Mary wants Death Wish for the extra caffeine, and Marjorie Daw and Doctor Foster have almost come to blows over Stumptown vs Starbucks, and everyone fights over how strong to brew the coffee.

                1. whingedrinking*

                  I take a medication that means I have to monitor my caffeine intake. My employer bought a Keurig and I asked if we could maybe have some herbal teas or hot chocolate so I could use it too. Employer agreed – and then everybody was drinking the herbal teas and hot chocolate and I still didn’t get a drink. So I took to keeping one or two pods in my desk in case of emergency, and was subsequently accused by a coworker of hoarding. Fun times.

                2. TrixM*

                  So presumably the employer was paying to replenish the coffee supplies? Why were they not replenishing all the supplies at the rate they were used?

          2. Seriously?*

            One place I worked had a great way to deal with this. Regular coffee drinkers paid a certain amount into the fund on a regular basis (I think it was biweekly). Anyone else who wanted coffee could contribute $0.50 per cup into the can by the coffee maker. This allowed the occasional coffee drinkers to have some when they wanted it without the regular coffee drinkers footing the bill.

              1. Smol Cinnamon Roll*

                When I was in training for work, the training office (off site) that had not only coffee and tea, but sodas and snack goods priced at 50 cents per item and it was posted clear as day. I think if there’s a communal pot, there should be a communal pricing.

            1. JeanB in NC*

              Yes, this is exactly what I was coming here to say – just have a tin next to the coffee maker with a sign that says if you’re not in the coffee club, it’s .50 per cup.

            2. INTP*

              This is the fair way to handle it IMO, and I feel like anyone who isn’t looking to mooch would OFFER when they wanted the occasional cup of coffee. I wouldn’t ask my coworker for some of their lunch or a dollar for the vending machine. Why would I ask them for coffee they’ve paid for without offering to pitch in?

            3. ket*

              Agree this is the sensible thing, and I’ve seen it done successfully.

              Another model: for mathematicians, caffeine seems to be pretty important. Several math institutes (receiving a lot of university or federal funding) make the coffee free, but for espresso there’s a designated receptionist who sells pods for a small sum. Yes, it’s weird for it to be part of someone’s job, but it’s important :)

            4. elwm73*

              We do this with the company supplied coffee. Allows us to have higher end stuff than the company budget allows.

            5. Happy Lurker*

              We had this setup at oldjob. It was always amazing how disproportionately the high ranking people would come in, take a cup and skip the paying. It drove the “office supplier” nuts.

              1. nothanks132*

                This doesn’t even remotely surprise me. To give them minimal credit, typically executives are used to having everything provided for them by the company. So they may just not think about it.

              2. cookie monster*

                Is it possible they just pay weekly or monthly though? I’m a VP and drink coffee everyday but throw money in on Friday’s. Technically, I over pay for what I drink every week, but I bet it looks like I just don’t care/don’t pay.

          3. Turquoisecow*

            My current company has a k-cup machine with different varieties of pods, and a basket or bowl in which, via the honor system, you’re expected to contribute if you take a pod. I imagine that people sometimes don’t have cash and maybe give money another day, or that visitors who don’t know the system take pods without realizing it. And maybe sometimes people steal. We’re also a retailer, so it’s possible the coffee is procured at a lower cost.

            It hasn’t created any drama that I’ve seen, but I don’t drink coffee.

            1. EddieSherbert*

              Yeah, as bad as K-cups are for the environment, that was the solution at my previous job as well. You can keep your Kcups at your desk and not share at all, or you can put some in the “community bin” just to be nice and it’s the honors system that someone taking from there contributes.

              It worked well.

          4. Ann O'Nemity*

            Yes, when I was in academia we had a coffee fund and it was a nightmare!! It was outrageously expensive for the small quantity of coffee I consumed (maybe 1 cup a day, if that), because some people drank a pot a day (no joke) and many people who did not pay at all took a cup every once in awhile (because hey, one cup doesn’t make a difference).

            People starting bringing in their own coffee then would inevitably get angry when other people stole it. Then, there would be issues when someone wanted to use the machine with their own grinds, but there was still a half pot in the carafe. At one point, the office coordinator, who used a label maker to label every drawer and cabinet in the supply room, put a small label on the coffee maker that read, “TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS.” I shit you not.

            As far as I know, they never found a system that worked. Personally, I opted out during my first year and stayed far, far away from that whole fiasco.

            1. Admin of Sys*

              The label is hysterical!
              Shared but not complimentary resources seem to be a center for drama in any place. We went from funded coffee, to unfunded coffee makers, to a keurig with a central managed k-cup fund, to folks hoarding the kcups at their desk (because people weren’t paying into the fund, so folks bought their own and didn’t share). For a while, I was just making pour-over coffee, but then the fight started over the cream as well, and I decided the coffee shop across the street was worth the cost for the avoidance of drama.

              1. Happy Lurker*

                I have forced my self to enjoy black coffee. It has made my life so much more simple, and it’s so bracing in the morning!

              2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                I don’t think buying your own coffee pods for yourself and not sharing is hoarding. In our office the company buys a basic store brand coffee, but people buy their own specific brand or specialty flavors and keep it to themselves. If a coworker asked to use some of my coffee I would say of course but I would not like it if they called me a hoarder for keeping it to myself most of the time.

                1. Admin of Sys*

                  The ‘hoarding’ label was more for the person that had nearly an entire bookshelf full, because they shopped at costco, not because they weren’t sharing. He would buy pallet-size quantities.

              3. Coffee is Srs Bsns.*

                Our company pays for coffee but only provides powdered creamer, and some of the departments have creamer clubs. I’m not at all interested in getting involved in that drama, so I make my coffee at home in the AM and run out for a cup if I need a midday boost.

            2. EddieSherbert*

              I also thought right away… but what if there’s half a pot of someone else’s coffee there? Can you drink it? Pour it out to make your own? What’s the protocol!!?

            3. Traffic_Spiral*

              This shit is why I have my own beans and french press. I’ll buy fresh milk for everyone (hey, it’d go bad before I used it all, anyways) but otherwise I stay out of it.

          5. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I was the administrator over a coffee club for faculty and staff who wished to participate. I collected $20 from each person whenever the supply was low and purchased a variety of k-cups. The k-cups lived in a file drawer of my desk, so the coffee club people had to retrieve a k-cup from my desk drawer while I watched them. I knew who was supposed to have access, so there was never any drama over it. I didn’t relish having the duty of buying and tracking it, but it was fairly low drama as far as coffee clubs go.

            Another department I was in had an inner circle/interloper aspect to their club: the inner circle folks actively contributed to buying the supplies and drank their individual cups of coffee for “free” each day. They also maintained a kitty where coffee “interlopers” could purchase coffee for 50 cents per cup. I don’t know if they ever got into how large that cup could be, but I never heard any problems about that. I think some people who used a lot of creamer or had a large mug contributed a $1 per cup due to their own consciences and others didn’t, and it all seemed to work out somehow*.

            *I realize that things “working out somehow” only works until it DOESN’T, so there’s that . . .

          6. AnonRightNow*

            This makes me think of one of my first big deal corporate jobs. We used to have regular potlucks, and we had some great cooks in that group, so everyone wanted in but didn’t either bring a dish or contribute money/plates/cups/etc. After a few times catching folks red-handed stealing food, one of our team members designated herself the food monitor, and did knock a plate of food out of someone’s hand. It was so amazing that we didn’t even mind cleaning it up. The scofflaws mostly stayed away or chipped in after that.

        2. Luna*

          Yeah in my experience there are two main groups of people in these situations- the group who pays into the fund and not only contributes financially but also makes the effort to go out and buy the coffee to keep supplies well-stocked; and the other group who contributes nothing but still feels entitled to waltz over and help themselves whenever they please, and act all la te da what’s the big deal if called out on it.

          Also IME these two groups will NEVER get along and I can totally see someone getting mad over this even if there is no more backstory than just this one occurrence.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            … and then they will break into a Jets and Sharks dance number a la West Side Story.

    5. Marzipan*

      The fact that the company owns the coffee machine is a matter of supreme irrelevance. My company owns the fridge I store my lunch in – and I would not respond well to the argument that said lunch is therefore available for anyone who feels hungry to go ahead and eat it. The coffee belongs to the people who bought it; they get to decide what happens to it.

        1. Falling Diphthong*


          Did an employee get dragged out of an icy pond, and someone gave them coffee to try and raise their body temperature? If the need was even a smidgen less than in that scenario, then you don’t touch the coffee (doughnuts, creamer, etc) without paying into the fund.

      1. Mookie*

        Yeah, reading the letter I didn’t really understand why it matters who supplied the machine. If the machine’s community property for shop members as defined by management, people who don’t contribute to the coffee fund can brew themselves some hot water or their own private stash when the machine’s not otherwise in use.

        This could be a one-off for the LW’s workplace, but if it isn’t, continuing to drink other people’s coffee will probably elicit additional pushback. Eventually that machine’s going to be regarded as divisive or disruptive if this becomes a pattern. The solution is to succinctly and publicly clarify the rules and then open up the fund for the next batch to anyone else who wants in. That way no one can later claim confusion.

        1. Specialk9*

          I am guessing because OP was the one who took other people’s coffee, or is friends with the justifying low-grade thief.

          1. Seriously?*

            I would actually assume that they are trying to relay the argument that the person who took the coffee made, not that they are endorsing it.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I agree with Specialk9 because of the way the scenario was described. The coffee drinker didn’t take a cup of coffee, they “enjoyed” it. And the member of the coffee club “made a big deal” of it.

              1. anon for this*

                I would characterize someone having a meltdown and accusing someone of stealing as “making a big deal,” even if I disagreed with someone taking from the coffee club.

                That said … is there any chance that the coffee drinker didn’t know about the coffee club? I could see someone just assuming that the coffee stuff was supplied by the company. Honestly, if I were new or worked in a different part of the building, that’s what I would assume unless someone told me otherwise.

                1. Seriously?*

                  That is an important distinction. If it could be an honest mistake, then the coworker way over reacted. If the coffee taker knew and just thought it shouldn’t matter, I have a lot less sympathy.

                2. Anion*

                  But if it was an honest mistake, the answer to that is, “Oh, man, I’m sorry! I didn’t know. How much do I owe you guys?” And not, “No, it’s company coffee so I’m entitled to it.”

                  I think it could have been an honest mistake, too, but the response doesn’t speak well of the coffee-taker.

              2. Observer*

                I’m not sure I agree with this. I DO agree that the person should not have taken the coffee. But calling someone a thief IS making a big deal – and it IS one cup of coffee. If it were a pattern that had been called out already, that would be different. Still a big deal – but a response to a potentially big problem.

              3. BeautifulVoid*

                See, I thought the LW was on the side of the coffee club because I interpreted the “enjoyed” as slightly snarky. Like no, Fergus didn’t just grab a cup of coffee out of a desperate need for caffeine, or just didn’t know about the coffee club, and then doubled down. He ENJOYED that cup of coffee, sitting there in the break room with a smug look upon his face, knowing he didn’t contribute anything but was still drinking coffee.

                (I might need a little more coffee.)

        2. essEss*

          Agreed. My office has a toaster in the kitchen for us to use. If I bring in a bagel and put it in the toaster, no one has any right to walk up and eat my bagel because it was “company provided” because it was in the toaster.

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          My blood is approximately 90% coffee so I would definitely be a member of the club just because I would want unfettered access.

          That said, what if the coffee club members at this particular business keep the pot full all the time (as they should!) so that there is never really a chance for an occasional drinker to make their own pot?

          In fairness yes the coffee belongs to the club members no doubt — but as the machine belongs to the company doesn’t it follow that all employees, occasional coffee ‘enjoyers’ as well as the cool kids in the club should have access to it occasionally?

      2. hbc*

        The only way I see it mattering is that it makes it more likely that someone was confused and had a cup or ten before they were called out. And then if the first they hear about it is not “That’s for club members, sorry that wasn’t clear” and instead “You are a Thieving Thief!!!”, I know a few people who would react defensively by latching onto the first argument they could think of, no matter how tenuous.

        But yeah, my coffee brewed in the company machine, my tchotchke sitting on a company desk, and my umbrella in the company umbrella stand do not become community property simply based on location.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I like how, once the coffee has been brewed, it’s just an antelope perched on the savannah, fair game for any doughty hunters who wander past and have the skill to bring it to ground.

        2. Allison*

          Absolutely. People don’t typically like being accused of stuff, whether they knowingly did a bad thing or really did make a mistake, but good people will respond well to being informed (jerks will still get defensive).

          1. RUKiddingMe*


            If I did something like this not realizing it wasn’t communal and someone called me a thief (!!!!) when it was in fact a misunderstanding, I might get a bit defensive as well.

            I may also be a jerk but that’s just incidental. (•.•)

        3. Traffic_Spiral*

          I dunno. Seems to me that if the person really didn’t know, all s/he had to say was “sorry, I didn’t know.”

    6. Fiennes*

      Yeah, there’s got to be more to it. I could see a new/temporary employee innocently making this mistake, or even an employee who only very rarely drinks coffee. So there’s some negative energy at work that’s not shown in the letter—whether from coffee-taker, coffee-buyer, or both.

      1. CityMouse*

        I am guessing someone who paid for the coffee has come in one too many times and had the pot be empty because this guy “enjoyed” his or her share of the pot.

        Coffee thief sounds like a tool. He is clearly in the wrong here and the idea of “company coffee” is absurd. There would not be a club otherwise. I am passive aggressive enough that I would bring in my own machine, but I am also cranky when I miss my morning coffee.

        1. anon for this*

          But I think the point is that they may have *assumed* is was company coffee and not been aware of the club. Maybe I’m lucky (and also not a coffee drinker), but every office I’ve ever been in had company supplied tea and coffee. There were people who were into specialty things — like certain kinds of tea blends or special blends of coffee — but those were usually labeled and separate from the, um, company coffee.

    7. Not Australian*

      Wouldn’t one solution be simply to put a notice next to the machine to the effect that if you’re not a member of the coffee fund the coffee is X amount per cup, please give the money to Jane? Don’t accuse a person of stealing, in other words, just ask them to pay for what they’ve had. (If, after that, they take it without paying, the accusation has rather more validity.)

      1. Glowcat*

        Next to our machine we have a sign saying “This machine is intended for members of Teapot Science Centre only”, but guests and occasionally people from other departments enjoy a cup. Considering the price of a single cup of coffee I also am wondering if there is something else going on; maybe the Stealer of Coffee is also Stealer of Pens and Toilet Paper?

        1. not really a lurker anymore*

          My workplace has one of those signs too. In our case, the building supervisor would come in, take the bag of coffee to the room where there was a meeting going on and make a 30 cup pot of coffee. His defense was usually “someone forgot to bring/buy the coffee”

          Coffee here is paid for by a monthly fee. We actually provide bread, butter, peanut butter, milk and assorted spices and condiments. Coffee drinkers pay $10 a month, tea drinkers pay $5 a month and some people opt out completely. But we run 24/7/365 with mandates and doubleshifts sometimes.

          And we don’t grudge the visitor the occasional cup of coffee. When we get short term coverage (usually someone for a couple of weeks to months), we direct them to their supervisor or the team that manages the coffee fund to figure out what is fair for them to pay.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        I think this is a great solution on the off chance that the coffee fund system isn’t well known.

        But ultimately I don’t think it matters who “owns” the coffee. (Does a half-drunk cup of coffee not belong to the drinker due to the “I licked it, it’s mine” rule?) It doesn’t matter if the company buys coffee every month and asks employees to chip in, or if Wakeen bought the coffee maker and the coffee beans and the mugs…The point is the employee took a cup of coffee without contributing to the coffee fund, as is the rule. It’s not “complimentary company coffee”. And if the employee wants to have the coffee, the employee should pay for it.

        1. Nita*

          Yep. FWIW, I have never worked in a place where the coffee was not company-provided. The quality of that company coffee is another story, but hey, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth… Anyway, I can see a new employee or someone who normally doesn’t drink coffee getting confused. If it was a mistake made in good faith, the sign should take care of that.

      3. CityMouse*

        I have worked a few places that had a water fund where they bought big bottles of water for the office and you had to pay to use the water. Every place that had a club like that, if you were caught taking from the water cooler and weren’t part of the club, you would be charged monthly dues. I don’t think that is unreasonable.

      4. Crater*

        I heartily second this suggestion! The presence of a coffee club probably makes it difficult for anyone who is not in the club to find an opening to make a cup of coffee in the company-owned machine. Especially if it’s one of those “if you take the last cup make a new pot” arrangements. For people who might want an occasional cup of coffee (twice a month or whatever) it probably doesn’t make sense to join the club and pay the same as people who drink two cups a day. A designated price per individual cup could go a long way toward resolving the issue.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          This! And what if there is one group who prefers a certain type of coffee (Fair Trade Organic!) and then a rival coffee club gets started by a group who has different coffee standards (Folgers!) and both are there vying for use of the communal coffee maker. Then super special Sue comes in and wants to make decaf and its just a powder keg waiting to blow.

          This is probably why single serve machines were invented.

          1. Samata*

            I worked at a place that started a coffee club. It fell apart in 6 months.

            It turned into a competition between 2 guys to see who could make the strongest coffee, which sometimes tripled the amount of grinds actually needed. No one else would drink it because, well, it was too strong.

            Towards the end they were making something like 6 pots a day (walk away, mild and decaf)for 10 people, but throwing half that away. We only had 10 employees in the club, 15 total employees.

            We were going through coffee so fast and it got so expensive most of us just bailed and starting walking to the coffee shop downstairs and buying a $2 cup – which wasn’t any more expensive than the club had become.

            We did have a 50 cent jar, though, for the one-offs who weren’t in the club.

            1. leukothea*

              I once worked at a place where we did have a company coffee pot, and company-provided grounds and supplies, and a coworker ADDED CINNAMON TO THE GROUNDS because he liked cinnamon coffee, and then explained to the rest of us that it was healthier that way. Even if that’s true, I don’t want nonconsensual cinnamon in my morning cup. >:(

      5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Agreed, I like this.

        Coffee clubs are great, but I think it needs to be made evident in some way that this is coffee club coffee and not free-for-all.

        1. Seriously?*

          And preferably a way for occasional coffee drinkers to get a cup to remove temptation. If you are told it is $X per cup or $Y per month for unlimited, you are unlikely to think “I just want one cup. They won’t care if I just take it and don’t pay.”

      6. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        Yeah – I like this approach (if something like this is not already in place).

        I’ve never worked somewhere that did not provide, at the very least, coffee, coffee supplies and water. I guess it’s an industry thing (or maybe industry within my region thing), but it’s so common/expected that if it came up within an interview that the company didn’t provide that stuff it would be an immediate deal breaker because it’s so out of the norm. Pre-AAM I didn’t even understand that this was a thing that could happen, let alone be fairly common.

        So – if I ended up somewhere that did not provide this stuff it would not even occur to me ask about the coffee system before taking a cup of coffee. Obviously if I did know that there’s a coffee fund (or they ask for a small charge per cup) I would never ever take a cup without contributing, but it would not even cross my mind that the company might not be providing the supplies unless very explicitly told or marked in some way. Then – I also would probably not react very well if someone flew off the handle at me and called me a thief for accidentally taking a cup of coffee. I don’t think I’d double down on an asinine argument like “but the company provided the machine”, but I might not be entirely rational about it.

        Anyway – my question is (and I’m wondering if this might be the real question here) – how do you professionally handle a situation where someone continues to drink the coffee fund coffee after it has been explicitly explained that they need to contribute to the coffee fund for it? Is this something you can bring up to their boss or HR or something (I would guess no)? Do the coffee fund participants take turn surveilling the thief (bc now that’s a fair term if they’ve definitely been told about the coffee situation) and swooping in before they pour?

        1. Luna*

          I don’t think there is a clear cut way to handle it, which is why these situations can quickly become a hot mess of petty infighting among employees. HR/management probably wouldn’t want to be involved; the club members can try to get the thief to stop by yelling/shaming/social isolation. But some people just have no shame, so what then?

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          It depends on the workplace — in my office, if that came up we would probably have one of the coffee club members keep the carafe of coffee club coffee at their desk. Sure, it’s a company carafe, but no one else can use it while we’re using it anyway, and actually that probably makes it more likely it would get rinsed as soon as it was empty.

          This is why I bring in my own coffee, filters, and cone filter and make my own cup myself. Well, that, and I didn’t like being the only one to make coffee and clean the carafes. This is much less work, and I get to have whatever coffee I want.

    8. Alter_ego*

      Only a little related, but I’m sharing because it still annoys me. My last job would buy us dinner if we worked later than 7, a relatively common occurrence. Usually, we’d just pick a place to get delivery from, and everyone would order their own meal, one person would pay, and expense it. A lot of times, there would be leftovers, so you stick them in the fridge to eat for lunch the next day. We had one coworker who would scope out the fridge in the morning (Not having worked late the night before) and eat people’s leftovers for breakfast, arguing that because the company paid, it belonged to anyone working for the company, and not the individual who had ordered it. That’s just…not how it works, right?!

      1. Mookie*

        It belonged to the people who earned it! It’s their compensation! Your co-workers’s wages and benefits aren’t yours either just because you share an employer! Argh!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I would love to see him negotiating this as a condition of his next job. “Each morning, I need first dibs on any leftover food ordered for other teams that I might want to eat. Here is a list of preferred pasta sauces they should ask for.”

      2. Wintermute*

        Well, if you want to get extremely technical then they’re right, in the most legalistic sense, but that’s not the rules of etiquette in any place I have ever worked, could imagine working or have ever heard of existing.

        In the most technical sense it’s no different than when they cater a vendor meeting and stick the leftovers in the break room, but there’s a sense of proprietary ownership because YOU ordered it, for YOURSELF prepared how you want it, and it was compensation for YOUR work that makes it feel really really odd to treat it the same way as some leftover Qdoba chips and queso from a vendor meet.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, this is a little weird to be picking through someone’s personally ordered meal. It would be one thing if someone wrapped up the last 2 slices of pizza intending to have it for lunch the next day – still kind of crappy to take it, but I’d be less sure that that person has a right to call dibs on what was already a shared meal.

          Although either way I’d still say only people who actually worked the night before would be entitled to snatch those leftovers – if you didn’t stay, you definitely don’t get that perk.

        2. LawLady*

          I think it’s more akin to, like, office supplies in my office. My firm bought the pens, highlighters, and sticky notes. I brought them from the supply closet to my office and keep them in a pen cup/drawer. If a coworker walked in and took them, I would think it was incredibly inappropriate, even though I’d agree they’re technically “owned” by the firm.

          1. namenamename*

            Ugh, my office had a resident physician/intern who refused to understand that this is the norm in offices, and regularly tried to grab pens and pencils from my officemate’s desk when he wasn’t even in a hurry. I work on a several studies about terrible physician behavior and how it has toxic effects on medical outcomes, so this rudeness drove me extra bonkers. Walk down to the supply closet like everyone else, it takes 30 seconds!

      3. CityMouse*

        That also just sounds really gross. Eho wants to eat other people’s half eaten dinner food for breakfast? Sounds like a recipe for heartburn and for getting other people’s colds. Yuck.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            I used to work at a restaurant where one of the other waitresses not only kept other people’s leftovers to eat herelf, but took them home to her kids. And she was not poor, I knew tbis because her ex paid her entire rent and I remember being so jealous of that because I got no child support. She was just super frugal type.

            1. Nita*

              OMG. I can only hope none of the people whose leftovers she took were sick. I get frugal… but that crosses from frugal to unsanitary.

            2. AnonRightNow*

              One of my first jobs out of college allowed our team to work tons of overtime because they had a big goal to meet, and at first tried to solve the issue of folks working late by supplying sandwiches for the OT folks. They put a woman in charge who thought that if she could lie to everyone and say that the sandwiches were gone, she could take the whole lot home to her family. After a number of complaints, management just ended up giving the OT workers $6/day for dinner. That lady was pissed when they started giving everyone cash. I’m sure she would’ve tried to steal that too.

      4. Julia*

        That’s obnoxious. Since there was only one person doing it, you can probably be sure that their opinion was not mainstream.

      5. Turquoisecow*

        Someone else pointed out that it’s kind of like when the leftovers of a catered lunch are left out for others to enjoy when the lunch is over. The only thing separating that scenario from the leftover delivery food scenario is the passage of time.

        In my mind, if the original eaters (/orderers) of the food want their leftovers, they should either label them (making the clear to the thief that they are NOT company property, at which point he/she is clear on the ownership), or take them home with them after their shift.

        Or are the post 7pm people staying until the following morning (when the thief comes in), intending to have their food for dinner or lunch the following day?

        1. Seriously?*

          I think the difference is ordering individual meals vs a tray. If I get a hamburger and eat half of it, I can reasonable expect the other half to be mine. My meal does not convert from mine to not mine simply because of the passage of time. A communal tray of sandwiches however was never mine. I was simply allowed to take what I wanted. In that situation, anyone should be able to take the leftovers.

      6. AsItIs*

        @Alter_ego, I worked with someone just like that, except he did it with leftovers from communal lunches that colleagues (and he) paid for. He’d eat it for dinner, at his desk, in front of those same colleagues. People stopped inviting him to lunch.

    9. Bagpuss*

      I’d guess there is a bigger deal, too – either that the person who took the coffee has a track record of doing so, so it’s not just a single cup of coffee,. or else there has been an ongoing problem with other people taking the coffee but not participating in the fund, and the person who took a single cup was just the final straw, and got the pent up irritation !

      Where I work, coffee and tea are provided, together with milk, sugar and sweetener, but if you want anything fancy you can buy & bring in your own.(for instance, I bring my own tea bags in because I prefer Darjeeling, but the company provides ‘normal’ tea bags) For the coffee machine, pods are provided but the rule is the the company will only buy the ‘one pod per mug’ pods. If you want the fancier ones where you need 2 pods per cup, you need to bring your own. Which as they are roughly twice the cost, doesn’t seem like an unreasonable compromise.

    10. Antilles*

      But it’s also extremely weird to make a fuss an accuse people of stealing over a cup of coffee out of a pot.
      I’m pretty sure there’s something else feeding into it. Based on experience with similar issues both at work and with roommates, it wasn’t just a standalone one person taking one cup once. Instead, the real issue was one of the following items:
      1.) It’s very frequent. If it was just one cup the very first time or even once in a great while, then it’s probably something to just wave off, but if it’s happening once a week, then yeah, it’d be definitely fair to get irritated. that they’re freeloading. Especially if you keep doing it after the first time I see you and politely remind you that it’s not free – what part of “we pay for this ourselves, so please stop drinking our coffee, unless you’d like to pay in to join” was unclear?
      2.) It happens enough that the coffee runs out way too fast, so I’m not even close to getting my $5 worth or whatever. Or, in the worst case scenario, I’m not getting any coffee at all because we ran out before I got mine.
      3.) The coffee thief is also leaving a mess in other ways. So not only do I walk in there and find that people have been taking the coffee, I also have to wipe the counter because you couldn’t be bothered to clean up your spill.
      4.) The coffee thief was a jerk in other ways that made them super-annoying and hypocritical – boldly announcing how coffee is unhealthy, telling us how we’re wasting money paying for coffee when the water fountain is free, something of that sort.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        #2 is key — if people don’t pay, you have a tragedy of the commons, where no one feels individually responsible, so no one takes responsibility. Or, in this case, people drop out of the coffee pool because of the freeloaders causing situation #2, and so eventually it implodes (financially speaking). As people get frustrated and bail out, it gets worse for those who stay.

        tl;dr version: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

      2. Observer*

        All of these are interesting scenarios. The problem is that the OP doesn’t give us a clue as to which, if any, of these scenarios, is going on.

      3. Teal*

        It must be one of these.

        My guess is the thief was “caught” for the first time today, but coffee has been disappearing for a while, and the thief is demanding it be treated like a 1-cup offense.

    11. Millennial Lawyer*

      This is common in government offices. For example, I was in an office where there was a “birthday fund” so that people could have plastic knives, forks, and treats etc. I was an unpaid intern and I was admonished for using a plastic fork without paying into the birthday fund. It was $5, so I did it, but no one had told me about it, and I was an UNPAID intern. In another office there was a water cooler fund, because individuals had to pay for their water. People get really touchy about this stuff and consider those who don’t participate as freeloaders.

      1. The Other Geyn*

        Unpaid internships in government offices can be an interesting experience re: office dynamic. When I was doing an unpaid internship at a government office in law school, the office had a tradition where they went out to lunch mid week and invited the interns. Unfortunately, they gave very mixed signals on whether the unpaid interns were expected to pay into this mid week lunch fund (I always offered to pay my portion, just in case).

        1. Millennial Lawyer*

          Yeah, that’s a weird one because it’s like, well someone has to pay for the food, so would employees have to? That’s not right either.

          I was in a government office where they did once a month all staff lunch meetings. No one told us until near the end of our internship.

      2. Antilles*

        I get why you (hopefully) would never respond this way, but I’d be seriously tempted to swing by a fast food place, grab a plastic fork from their little tub and make sure I was clearly seen ‘refunding’ the fork at work.
        Hey, I know I took a fork yesterday, so I wanted to bring one by to square things. We’re good now, right?

      3. jo*

        Ugh. I work in book publishing, where there are a lot of unpaid internships, but I’ve been lucky to work at several places where the interns were paid at least a small amount. Whenever there’s some kind of communal treat at these places, the interns are the first people who get called over to enjoy it. Almost all of us had to start out as interns, and we know how much drudgery they take care of for us. (For example, an intern was probably the one to order/pick up the treat being enjoyed.)

      4. Nerdling*

        I work in government, and I’d be seriously annoyed with a fellow employee who acted like that to one of our interns – and we pay them! It’s a learning experience for the intern that these sorts of things exist, but it’s also a moment for the employee to remember back to when they first started or did their own internship and pay forward generosity they’ve received. (Also I remember being an intern in DC and being grateful for cheap but filling salad fixings in the office cafeteria because everything else was so daggone expensive and we weren’t getting paid that much.)

    12. RoadsLady*

      At my place we have a similar arrangement, though also in place is a donation request. People donate cash or bring stuff. The donation asks you to consider what you’re drinking to be fair, but at the end of the day it’s an honor system with little fuss.

    13. Foxtrot*

      I was on the side of the coffee stealer being a jerk, but context might be key here.
      I used to drink milk when I had a roommate and always consumed more than a half gallon but less than a full gallon. She was free to use the milk, especially as she only used it for cooking and baking, requiring tablespoons here and there. Pettiness would be making her go buy her own pint so we could glower at each other every Saturday as we poured curdled milk down the drain ensuring we didn’t touch one another’s stuff.
      If the coffee club has a strict no caffeine rule after 2pm, and you walk in on Overworked Ophelia pouring a luke warm mug at 1:58pm because she just got assigned to work late (again!) and really needs the caffeine…ehhh, that might be petty. You’re literally walking in to throw it out and clean things up. The company coffee pot argument could just be a way to get someone to take a deep breath and let it go.
      I’m all for shaming the heck out of Entiltled Ernie though who comes in fairly regularly at 7:05am to get his piping hot cup of coffee and thinks everyone should just let it go. People like Ernie rarely confine this attitude to coffee, too.

    14. smoke tree*

      You’re fortunate if you haven’t been caught up in petty office coffee wars. I had a coworker who worked by the kitchen and would track everyone’s use of all of the coffee supplies and complain to others about them. Although the supplies were bought by employees, I don’t think the nosy coworker ever personally bought any.

      1. Coffee is Srs Bsns.*

        Someone upthread was talking about how they locked everything in a cabinet in their office and kept a mental list of who was allowed to use it and my jaw actually dropped to see that described as drama-free.

    15. Peter the Bubblehead*

      I’m thinking the coffee supplies are purchased by the lower-level employees and it sounds like some company exec may have come in, helped themselves, and when confronted tried to say, “This coffee belongs to the company because it was brewed in our machine!”

      That’s the only way the situation as described makes sense in my mind.

    16. nothanks132*

      I understand that it is just a cup of coffee, but it really is a big deal. It’s not much different than taking one of the apples off my desk and eating it without my permission. I would be unhappy. And I would get very unhappy at buying coffee for other people. That said, the coffee should be clearly labeled that it isn’t for public consumption, and also unless this is a repeat offender, there shouldn’t be a big deal made out of it.

  2. Thlayli*

    OP5 you could also consider negotiating for better benefits while you are negotiating severance pay.

    1. OP#5*

      OP #5 here: One of the problems about returning to that job would be, as such a small company, they don’t offer any benefits. There would be a small bump in compensation to account for that, but the benefits I enjoy at my current job are really good. Medical/dental, group life, short/long-term disability, AD&D. I’m loath to give those up!

      1. Eye of Sauron*

        It sounds like there aren’t too many advantages to going back to the old company. Can you stay at the current company while you look for another job with more advancement and similar benefits?

        1. Seriously?*

          Worse benefits and less stability does sound like a big ask unless you really hate your current job.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        That would be a dealbreaker for me. From what I understand, getting medical coverage on the open market compared to what a company can offer, is way more expensive for and for a not so great plan. For example, the premium my company pays for myself amd one dependent is like $1300/mo, but I only have to contribute $146/mo out of my paycheck. And the plan has low copays, etc. whereas that same plan in the open market, (from what I understand from friends, but haven’t actually gotten a quote) would be hundreds of dollars more. So you’d need a pretty large bump in pay to make up for that.

      3. jo*

        I had a really awesome job at a company of 3 people (I was the third) and they provided good medical insurance and retirement. Just because they weren’t legally required to do that didn’t mean they wouldn’t or couldn’t! So you could still try talking to the old company about introducing certain crucial benefits as a way to sweeten the deal and retain talent.

        It sounds like your current job is more practical, but the old one is calling to you on a deeper level. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t give up without talking through every possibility that could make it work for you.

        1. zora*

          It’s even more common now, with all of the startups there are multiple companies that actually provide benefits support to small companies as their entire business model. I don’t think there’s an excuse for NOT providing medical benefits at this point. That would be a deal breaker for me.

      4. Anonymoose*

        My mother, who is thisclose to retirement, just had a huuuuuge bid between her old employer and her current. Old employer basically ended up doubling her salary when all was said and done (to make up for lack of 401k, longer PTO days, etc), and her current company was able to match something just under that. If the old employer really wants you and feels that the market can’t provide an equitable equivalent of your skills, they will do whatever they can financially to get you back. I’m just suggesting this because benefits aren’t the only thing to consider. If they can super-boost your salary, and provide something that helps alleviate your security fears, I don’t think this opportunity should be ignored. Just something to consider. :)

  3. LouiseM*

    #3: Ohhh, the oldoffice coffee wars! At ToxicOldJob you would not believe the problems it led to. A manager ended up selling the coffee maker on eBay because it was causing so many disputes–you can’t make this stuff up!

    I agree with Alison that it is ridiculous to make such a big deal out of one cup of coffee and it may be that there is a larger issue than you realize. I’m curious what your role in this is, OP. If you are one of the coffee fund “members,” could you perhaps make a more prominent sign indicating how people can buy into the “coffee club”? It may be that several people assume that the coffee is for everyone (which, in many or most offices would be a reasonable assumption). Just DON’T do what my old boss did and bring the coffee maker into your office, then move it back to the kitchen, then take it to the dumpster, then change your mind then auction it off to the highest bidder!

    1. sacados*

      Yikes, that’s nuts!
      I completely agree re: OP3 tho. I think calling it “stealing” is going a bit over the top, but I completely understand being annoyed by a coworker who refuses to contribute to the coffee fund but wants to drink the coffee anyway.
      I also am curious about who OP is in this situation — the hypothetical, “so I have this friend…” nature of the letter definitely makes me think OP is someone involved in the debate on one side or the other, and not an outside observer.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I once had a temporary job for a company which did a coffee kitty for the department I was in. Since I was only there for a month, I was told I could be included without paying anything, but I contributed a pack of coffee anyway to add to supplies.

        1. MCL*

          Yeah, we have a communal candy dish in our front office that I’ll often nab a piece from. It’s not “company candy,” it’s brought in by people as they have leftover candy or if they want to give everyone a treat. I make sure to contribute to it because I definitely partake! It’s only polite.

      2. Yvette*

        #3, at my first professional job, I was the new person who got stuck with collecting money for the “coffee club” every month. And seriously, it was not a lot of money ($5 for unlimited coffee, the upstairs cafe charged $0.75/cup, not to mention the bother of having to go get it). And if it was, (because you never know what a person’s financial situation was) you did not have to participate. I hated coffee so I didn’t and it was no big deal. There was one guy (isn’t there always?) who drank coffee all day long but always tried to get out of paying with one lame excuse or another, one of his favorites being, “All I have is a $50”. He would eventually pay up, but always had to be chased down for it and I was tired of that. One month I was ready for him “That’s OK, I have change of a $50”. You should have seen the look on his face.

          1. Julia*

            I actually did that at my last job. The co-worker in charge of it (who of course also tried to foist the job on me) always complained that she could never restock because people weren’t paying on time, so I paid for a full year at once. (I was also only 5 bucks a month, for coffee which I didn’t drink, tea bags and six bottles of water per month.)

          1. I Love Thrawn*

            My caffeine fix comes in the form of sweet iced tea. Without which I can’t function in the mornings.

          2. Oxford Coma*

            I hate the taste. I drink it anyway, because snorting Smarties at my desk is frowned upon.

            1. Cruciatus*

              Same. I want to like it. But I’ve tried it every way and I just don’t care for it. And as a kid I didn’t understand acquiring a taste for it–why would you want to acquire a taste for something you don’t like!? Don’t even really care for desserts with coffee in them. Someone will say “but I only used a teaspoon! How can you taste that?” I just…can.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Ugh! I want to say “If I only put a teaspoon of onion in your chocolate pudding, do you think you’d be able to taste it?”

              2. Frank Doyle*

                Yeah, this one dude at work sometimes brings in brownies that his girlfriend has baked, but she puts coffee in them, and I didn’t realize the first time (and forgot the second time), and just . . . no. Ew. Warn a person about that sort of thing! Especially since we happen to be an exclusively tea-drinking office . . .

              3. A.N. O'Nyme*

                If you’re not expecting people to be able to taste it, why are you putting it into the food?

                1. Lisa*

                  Because adding coffee to chocolate, as in the case of the brownies, results in a deeper, more rich chocolate flavour, for those who are used to drinking coffee.

                2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  @Lisa- Even for most people who don’t drink coffee it tends to work. I think it probably depends on how much sugar/milk/etc is in the dessert though- chocolate and coffee are both very bitter and if your balance is off I can imagine being able to taste a small amount of coffee in a chocolate dessert. I’m not particularly a coffee person (I’ll have it for the caffeine when it’s free with lots of milk and sugar, but don’t really like it), but I do find a teaspoon of espresso powder enhances the flavor of my chocolate cake recipe.

              4. Anion*

                I hate the fashion for adding a little coffee to chocolate desserts to “intensify the chocolate flavor.” No, it does not intensify the chocolate flavor. It just makes the dessert taste faintly of coffee. And I dislike mocha.

                (I do love tiramisu, though. Can’t eat it often because soooo many calories, but I love it.)

                1. Anion*

                  (Sorry, Lisa, that wasn’t a direct response to you. I didn’t know it was supposed to intensify the chocolate flavor only for people who drink coffee, though, or that it only works for people who drink coffee. No wonder it never worked for me.)

              5. Canadian Teapots*

                It really did take me until my early 20s before I started actually liking coffee. And even then, only in the mornings. But it’s a nice accompaniment to breakfast now.

            2. Yvette*

              Me too!! I used to smell a cup, think how good it smelled, get all excited, pour it, add milk and sugar, take two sips and dump it. (this was after I joined the coffee club because it started including tea and hot chocolate)

          3. SparklingStars*

            I’ve never acquired a taste for coffee. Even if I put a ton of milk and sugar in it. Earl Grey tea is my drink of choice.

            1. Canadian Teapots*

              Milk in coffee is unspeakably gross. As soon as I switched to coffee cream or half and half it’s been a marvel of taste.

          4. Frank Doyle*

            Uh, yeah. It’s gross. I’ve never had a cup in my life, just a sip or two here or there to confirm that I dislike the taste as much as the smell. (Also I have no desire to develop a chemical addiction to caffeine.)

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Supertaster here, on the low end of that scale. I do not like coffee or beer. Love sweets. When we were young and poor my husband learned that the answer to “Can you actually taste a difference?” was “yes” and I would pass any blind taste test. (Now we have more money, and I do the cooking, so it works out.)

              2. Nita*

                Hey, me too! I’ve given up on beer, the color, taste and smell don’t remind me of anything good. Coffee is iffy too, it’s OK if it’s fresh, but if it’s sat in a coffee pot for a while I have to pour a lot of milk on it or it tastes, I don’t know, burnt? Like cigarettes?

            1. Humble Schoolmarm*

              It took me a while to get to like all of the “adult” beverages (tea, coffee, wine, alcohol in general) and it’s really only been in the last year (I’m in my 30s) that I’ve come to actually enjoy a cup of coffee. Beer is the last thing on the list, but I hate it so intensely that I’ve decided that it’s worth the social awkwardness to avoid it (Canadians loving beer and timmies is a pretty accurate stereotype). .

          5. Anion*

            I like it okay, but I don’t like hot drinks at all, so I rarely drink it. Every once in a while I’ll get an iced coffee with just a splash of milk (or splurge for one of those thousand-calorie coffee milkshakes with whipped cream and caramel–frappucinos?–but those are maybe once or twice a year tops), but usually I’d rather just have a Coke or something; it’s cheaper and I’ll enjoy it more.

            Even when it’s cold, when I make my girls hot chocolate after school, I’ll have only a few sips and then want something cold to drink.

      3. Specialk9*

        It really is stealing though. And it sounds like stealing with a side of brazen justification.

        I had a college roommate steal ice cream from the freezer, then claim she was allowed to because she was the one who rented the mini fridge.

        A better analogy is a lunch stealer who claims it’s ok because the company provides the fridge so the lunches must be communal property.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In The Joy Luck Club, what finally brings a relationship to a close is when her mother asks why she owes her boyfriend money for ice cream (per a note on the fridge) when she never eats ice cream. Something he never noticed over the years he meticulously charged her for ever half gallon of ice cream he purchased and consumed.

          It’s the little ongoing abrasions.

          1. LouiseM*

            Yes, I wrote above that the coffee wars actually ended a long-standing relationship at ToxicOldJob. Sometimes the little things actually aren’t little–they raise much bigger questions about character.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yep, it is stealing, if it was done intentionally. And if the person who took the coffee was aware that the coffee was paid for by a group of which he was not a part, then maybe saying that it was stealing is what it would take to get him to realize he needs to cut it out. There’s not enough info here to know for sure–usually the best route is to start with something more diplomatic. But if this person was pushing back, then pointing out that it’s technically stealing is not, to me, unreasonable. I would never start there with one of my coworkers, but I could see myself ending up there.

          1. Seriously?*

            Yep. Assume ignorance and explain that they need to contribute to the fund or not drink the coffee. That is usually enough to make someone stop even if they did know because now they know it is noticed and yes their coworkers do care. If that has already happened, I can see how someone would get very angry.

    2. Ugh*

      Coffee clubs are why I spend the GDP of a small country at Starbucks so I can get qn extra shot, hold the drama. Let’s face it, no work place is made up of adults who can participate in coffee or water clubs.

      1. BadWolf*

        Yes, I stopped being part of our coffee club for awhile because we kept getting nag notes about signing up for coffee shifts (we have someone dedicated to making and cleaning up the coffee stuff (multiple coffee pots) for 2 hours in the morning). And people would complain at the slightest thing (but not participate in the coffee making).

        Drama free coffee is worth the price.

    3. Oxford Coma*

      I worked a summer job at the county court office as a high school student, and was merrily pouring coffee down my throat for almost a week before an admin grumpily told me that it was a pay-in system. I was mortified and immediately emptied my purse.

      Looking back, I almost admire the naiveté of my seventeen-year-old self, assuming that the government was paying for coffee.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Similar, when I was freshly kicked out of the nest and trying to get by, no one told me that the coffee in the break room at my retail job was BYO, and I took a cup every time I was asked to stay over my shift to try and keep myself full till I could get home. I was mortified when I finally got caught and informed by a very frosty coworker that that was her coffee I was drinking.

      2. Seriously?*

        That seems like a common situation at a new job. It is hard to determine if the company is paying for the coffee or if it is a buy in system.

        1. Half-Caf Latte*

          Reason #48584 why I love our admin: she made sure to let me know during my first week that kcups would often run out in the break room, but here’s my department’s secret backup stash, and to let her know if there was a specific flavor/type I wanted and she would order from their supplier.

          You may be surprised to learn I asked to half caf.

      3. Eye of Sauron*

        Why don’t people include that on the tour when people start. Seems weird to get grumpy if nobody said anything upfront.

        I’m the type of person who would just throw in to the kitty right off the bat regardless if I used whatever was being purchased. Seems like a good way to start off on the right foot.

        1. Nerdling*

          It really should be included – and if it’s not, there should be significant signage. Our office is small and we all know it’s buy your own (with exceptions made for guests). The main office we report to, however, is considerably larger, and everything is clearly marked so that I knew right away on my first visit how much I’d need to throw in for a cup of coffee, how much for a bottle of water, etc. It was such a relief not to have to either guess or ask someone I barely knew what the deal was.

      4. Millennial Lawyer*

        Same with me re a “birthday club” as an unpaid intern in the government office. I was given a stern talking to for using a plastic fork without paying in. I also felt naive assuming it was government supplies open to everyone – but then again as a professional now, I’m against asking unpaid interns to pay into a system when they do not earn anything and will only be there temporarily. Sigh.

  4. Diamond*

    I work in a legal nonprofit. My weekends are my own and I can leave at 4.30pm on the dot every day. I’m sure similar jobs exist in the arts nonprofit world :)

    1. Girassol*

      Wow, that’s a dream! I have a different experience with legal nonprofits (in a non-US country however).

    2. CityMouse*

      I am in public interest legal and as long as you get your assigned work done (this can vary but once you get used to the job, 100% doable in 40 a week) do 80 hours in the biweek, you are fine. My boss once a year takes a whole month off to travel and is not required to check in during that time.

    3. Sapphire*

      I’ve found that the people and theater companies I’ve worked with are very flexible in regards to day job schedules. Many people find ways to make a day job and theater work for them, and you should be able to as well.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      My husband works a lot of evenings and weekends, but it’s usually up to him to manage the exact timing. For decades he has left early one day a week half the year for a sport. Only business travel quashes this, so that would be the thing to watch out for when evaluating jobs. (Also, he’s a really good employee and they want to keep him happy.)

    5. Specialk9*

      Me too. I’m a project manager. Most days I leave work in time, and my weekends are pretty much always my own. The only exception is when I worked on proposals (trying to win new work) – those were very long hours and weekends too. Otherwise, I know lots of people who do theater, sports, kid stuff, etc.

      As an aside, though, OP, if your passion is acting, it’s ok to take a corporate business job to pay for your acting. Nonprofit theatres don’t generally pay awesome, I believe, and you don’t just have to stay in one world. Sometimes we get stuck in ruts and don’t realize the other options.

      1. Specialk9*

        Oh, but my friend who worked in fundraising for an orchestra lost every single Saturday, without getting a week day back. It was ‘go to the orchestra and schmooze donors’ every weekend. It wouldn’t shock me if working in theatre management meant something similar, if there are weekend shows.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I was coming here to comment something like this. Arts management often does involve a lot of nights and weekends. I’m a freelance musician but I have a day job which is completely unrelated, because although I’d probably be a good fit for a musical group’s office staff, I don’t want to do that at all since it would probably involve a lot of nights and weekends. My day job interferes with my current freelance music career exactly zero percent, except on the rare occasions that I am offered a day gig and take PTO.

          YMMV, but I also find that it’s very nice to spend my days doing something unrelated to music and then I can really enjoy the music time I do get. If I were involved with a musical organization, I might become really jaded. So, OP1, I would recommend thinking about a day job that is unrelated to your theater pursuits. Just a thought.

      2. GG Two shoes*

        Hey Special k9, can I pick your brain about being a project manager when the open thread hits? I want to move into a role like that, but I’m not sure how.

      3. Connie-Lynne*

        OP#1, I have an Engineering degree and a Tech Theatre degree, and even though my day job requires on call shifts and the occasional night or weekend, I still manage to fit in Stage Managing.

        Mostly, it’s about setting clear boundaries with both roles. Good luck!

    6. Beehoppy*

      I have a core group of friends who all have day jobs to support their professional theater involvement-they are in a variety of industries-I will say many of them are in administrative positions which generally allow more of a 9-5 schedule, but not all of them. It definitely can be done!

    7. Tod Brody*

      As someone who’s blended a career as an arts administrator with a significant performance career, I’d say it can very much be done. At enlightened nonprofits, it could even be seen as a plus that you are an active participant, not just an administrator. I’ve worked at both kinds — at some it was seen as an inconvenience, something the org had to put up with to have my services. That’s an important thing, though — I was up-front about my determination to continue my performance activity from day one, so they knew they were getting that. In my current position (executive director of a medium-sized performance nonprofit) it’s actually written into my contract that I will be continuing to be an active performer, and everyone here accepts that there will be times when I go off to rehearsal in the afternoon, or leave early to drive to a performance. The muscles around accurate effective calendaring and prioritizing need to be well-developed, and I do sometimes need to say no to a performance opportunity because it conflicts with a requirement of my main job. It helps that my own performance activity (classical flutist) is in the exact same realm as the organization I’m leading (regional symphony orchestra) and it’s clear to everyone here that my identity and activity as a performer inform and enhance my administrative work. I know a great many people in my field who combine performance at a high level with other work, frequently arts administration. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do that.

      1. Angelina*

        LW #1 here – thank you so much for that perspective! I’ve definitely observed a lot of arts admin jobs that don’t allow for much a of a life outside of work, so it’s really great to here that’s not all there is. Can I ask if you have any suggestions for someone who wants to go down a similar path? Was it mostly a matter of establishing yourself as a performer and being clear with potential employers about what you wanted?

        1. Tod Brody*

          I did have an established career as a performer before I held top jobs as an administrator. I held that out as a positive to potential employers (as, with appropriate prioritizing, I truly believe it to be). I have, as I noted above, had the experience of getting a job in spite of that organization maybe wishing that they had 100% of my services, and also the experience (in my current position) of having my performing career celebrated and respected by my organization. I’ve also been able to use those skills for the organization’s benefit, donating performances to various events and functions. The question certainly came up in interviews: “How do you balance your performance activity with the needs of a full-time, high-responsibility position?” and I was prepared with the answer (which you would need to modify with a shorter resume than I had) that the skills of balancing many competing interests and a complicated calendar were ones I’d been developing and using successfully for a long time. They also needed to be reassured, before hiring me, that the organization would be my top priority, and as I noted above, that has certainly led me to saying no to some performance opportunities. The “saying no” muscle is also one that active performers get to develop along the way; I’ve frequently had to sort out multiple performance opportunities and decide which to accept and which to let go. That’s more the luxury of an established career though; early on, I’d try to do as many things as I can. Hope that’s helpful.

        2. Anna*

          Arts administrator here, who studied technical theater and worked professionally in that role before becoming an admin person. As others have said, there are arts nonprofits that will expect all of your time, and others that will not. I know some people working for performing arts orgs where they do have a lot of performance-hours commitments, who love working in those roles because you get to be really close to the work – not just at performances to schmooze donors or whatever, but also to see the production process, rehearsals, and otherwise get an up-close view of a show in development. That makes up for the fact that they aren’t pursuing a career as a performer themselves. I, personally, have found a better balance working for an arts-related organization that doesn’t actually produce or present work – I do work that I like and is related to what I studied, but I still get my evenings and weekends I I have managed to develop other hobbies (something I never had time for before), and I still gig as an electrician. So check out jobs or career paths along the lines of consultants/research, local arts agencies, arts education organizations, or even museums or other arts orgs.

        3. GovSysadmin*

          Lots of people have chimed in already, but I figured I’d throw in my perspective as someone who came at it from the other direction, and discovered performing pretty late in life. I’ve been been working in IT for about 18 years now, and my degrees are in Computer Science, but six years ago, I took an improv class (thinking it would be the only time I did it), and well, I never stopped. I have since gone through several year-long classes at various improv theaters in Chicago, and have played on a number of improv teams. I’m currently performing regularly with an improvised Shakespeare troupe (although not the really well known one in Chicago), and just finished a sixteen week musical improv program.

          That said, there are caveats. For one thing, while I don’t know how the jobs you’re looking at are structured in terms of payment and hours, I will say that it’s a lot easier to do if you are salaried and have a somewhat flexible schedule – there have been days where I’ve told my boss I had to duck out early because of a show, but that I would be working late the next day to make up for it. I also am single and don’t have kids, which would make juggling work and performing MUCH harder. And while I have mostly been able to schedule shows and rehearsals on weekends, one of the reasons I’m not doing the musical improv program now is that it was a little too much, and I found I was getting burned out and needed more downtime.

          So yes, it’s certainly doable, but you’ll need to learn how to juggle work and performing, figure out which priorities are the most important, and be honest with yourself about how much you can reasonably commit to without burning out.

      2. PhyllisB*

        At our local community theater, we all kinds of professional folks that trod the boards. A bunch of lawyers, a few judges, school teachers, ect. It always works out for them. Most of them only do one production a season and they know when their busy time is and plan accordingly.

        And for #4, the recruiter may have been making small talk, or possibly he was wondering if any of your classmates were looking for work and would be interested in their company? Of course, if that was the case, the sensible thing would have been to just ask that, but people are not always straight-forward.

    8. Secretary*

      Yeah I work in Admin for a construction company and I come in early and leave early. Meaning 3:30 or 4:30.

      My husband and I both have projects we work on outside of work, and both of us looked for work that we could reliably leave no later than 5/5:30 and wouldn’t stay later without knowing in advance.

      I asked about this at the offer stage of my interviews, I was very honest that I had unrelated commitments/projects in the evenings and was looking for a job that allowed a good “work life balance”. There are plenty of them.

    9. Clorinda*

      I play in a semipro orchestra. We’re all paid, but nowhere near enough to live on, so everyone has a job. The schedule is very predictable and solid, and I’ve never seen anyone miss a rehearsal because of work, so it’s not at all a weird thing to have your art life as well as your work life. Keep on acting!

    10. pope suburban*

      Yup. I have one. I work for a special district’s cultural division, and I cap out at 30 hours/week. A lot of my coworkers do too, but choose irregular schedules (As opposed to mine which is set 8:30-3:30 M-F) so they can do freelance jobs in theatre tech, graphic design, and acting. I feel like someone who is pursuing an arts administration career is fairly likely to find a job like this, from my experience and from what I’ve heard from my more tenured colleagues here. That’s the relative upside of a lot of public arts positions being relegated to part-time status by funding; people who want that free time can enjoy it while still having a steady paycheck.

    11. MM*

      Yup. One of my roommates does marketing for an arts nonprofit and in her spare time she:

      – Plays in an orchestra
      – Runs a small business putting on a music series in a different state
      – Volunteers with a group that puts on free shows in our city

      So she’s basically done exactly what OP is thinking about here–continuing to do the art she loves while also working in arts marketing as her full-time job.

  5. Al Lo*

    #1: I have an MFA in Producing (Theater) and have a career in arts administration, so I can speak to this from a knowledgeable perspective, at least as far as it affects my colleagues and me!

    Yes, it’s definitely doable to work and still pursue artistic endeavours! It may look different depending on your day job and your theatrical goals, but there are lots of ways to do it. In my experience, the difference between taking theatre roles in community theatre and taking smaller professional roles can mean the difference between rehearsals on evenings and weekends, and the possibility of having daytime rehearsals. Amateur theatre, in my city at least, is more likely to rehearse outside of 9-5 job times, whereas a professional/contract/honorarium-based show (not necessarily Equity) may have daytime rehearsals. Of course, once you get into tech and show run, it’s all very similar in terms of time commitment.

    I work at an arts organization, which has pros and cons for this kind of extracurricular work. At my org, there’s lots of flexibility for artists to work on other projects, because the best artists on our team are ones who are cross-pollinating with other artistic organizations and working with lots of other artists. However, because we’re in the same industry, there’s also a fair bit of overlap with the busy times, so it can take some wrangling, finding people to cover for you, and otherwise making it work. Having said that, I’d rather be doing my administrative work in the arts than in another industry (but that’s me — the work of producing is incredibly satisfying for me!), even with the scheduling challenges.

    Other ways I see of being successful at balancing the artistic and administrative work include taking roles for smaller projects (i.e. performing in one- or two-night fundraisers), taking on a design role or backstage role in a show, leading or participating in workshops, developing their own gig-based performance opportunities, or working within my organization to develop a program that scratches an itch but is within the mandate of what we do on a larger scale (and allows them to do something different than their day-to-day work but with a bit more flexibility).

    There are so many kinds of jobs in arts admin that range from 9-5 day jobs to hands-on work with programs where your schedule follows your org’s programming. But! If you want to make a living in the arts, doing it in arts admin is a pretty stable ways to do it. Most full-time actors, musicians, choreographers, etc. are working on a bunch of contracts and are constantly selling themselves and living with a certain amount of uncertainty. It’s doable (I have so many colleagues [and a spouse!] who are incredibly busy, satisfied, and making a living), but working in arts admin is a great way to stay in the sector and have a permanent, full-time position. And at its best, it’s a way to build your own network, meet people who are hiring those contracts, develop a great reputation, and be able to be picky about what you take on, since you have stability, too.

    (And if it’s important to you, there are lots of arts admin jobs that include creative thinking and an artistic sensibility as part of the work — I’m part of the artistic development team of my organzation, so even though I’m not onstage myself, I’m developing programming, working with designers, making creative decisions, putting shows together, and exercising those muscles in conjunction with the business side.)

    Good luck!

    1. Recently Diagnosed*

      Just jumping in, OP #1, I work full time as a salaried-type person, and am also a member of the Arts Board for my local theater. I’m currently cast in a role for the running play, and am actually also directing later on in the year. Yes, you absolutely CAN find jobs that balance these things.

      1. PB*

        I agree! I majored in music, and then made a left turn into academia. My evening commitments are minimal and can be planned around, so participating in performing ensembles in the evening or weekend is completely manageable.

        With arts administration, you might need to consider the demands of specific positions, so this can cover a range of responsibilities. Some jobs can be more standard 9-5, but others might need you around in the evening to greet performers, oversee performances, and so forth. Usually, this will be clear in the job posting. If not, it’s something you can ask about in an interview.

        1. Recently Diagnosed*

          And many times, directors doing certain shows will want to rehearse just a few times a week and can work around your schedule. Our current cast for Neil Simon’s Fools has a lot of folks who can’t work Sundays and Wednesdays (church choir directors), I’m out of commission on Thursdays, so we rehearse Mondays, Tuesdays, and some Saturdays. With the right time between auditions and show dates, this can work very well!

    2. JennyAnn*

      I’ve worked with several people involved in theater at different jobs. One works as a host at a restaurant and works with the city opera, and one has a 9-5 in construction and does local theater groups. Both have different ways of making their schedule work but are able to be very involved in the arts with a full-time schedule, so there are definite options available.

    3. Alex*

      Someone I went to school with is the manager of her department, is an adjunct instructor, and performs in local theater. I personally wouldn’t want to be that busy, but it can certainly be done.

    4. lalalindz22*

      Fellow arts admin person here, just in music, in a very large city. At my previous job, a fellow full-time employee had his own small music organization, which performed shows, so it was almost like a second job for him. He was extremely busy, but he made it work. I also served on a board while at the job, which is the case with lots of people in the arts in my city. At all of my arts jobs we will have a busy period (like right before a concert or fundraising event), where it’s all hands on deck day and night for a few weeks, then a small lull afterwards, where I could have a more normal life and make plans with friends immediately after work. It would be the same in most fields! You can make it work, you just need to be organized and dedicated enough to be willing to put in the extra hours at one or the other.

    5. Mud-slinger*

      I’m chiming in here too. I have a BFA in ceramics, and I taught/ made and sold art/ worked retail after graduation. Being so stressed about my paycheck and lack of a stable schedule really sapped my creativity. I went to grad school and got a masters in Museum Studies, and now I work in membership/development. I make twice what I used to, and having a steady schedule means I now have the time and money to make what I want artistically without the financial and schedule pressures I had before. I can be much more choosy about the projects I choose to take on.
      I’ll echo what some folks have said previously, you’ll need to find an employer that is willing to be flexible. Twice a week I come in early so I can leave early to hit the studio. My manager is 100% supportive of my artistic endeavors, and has never made limitations on time off requests “its your PTO, use it!”
      Finding a full-time admin job in an organization adjacent to your artistic interests will help your bosses to be more understanding of your needs. Many of my colleagues are also artists, and its so great to see how supportive administration is of their artistic pursuits. We even go to each other’s gallery openings.
      Its completely possible to have a 9-5 and be an artist. I think the art world romanticizes “the struggle,” but I love having a retirement account and PTO. It makes me a better artist.
      Best of luck!

    6. Murfle*

      Chiming in here as well: My SIL works as a volunteer manager at a health non-profit, and she also has a thriving artistic life. She’s acted in and directed several plays and has even founded her own theatre production company on the side. And all this with a 3-year-old kid!

      Obviously, she’s got some serious time-management chops, but it is COMPLETELY doable if you have some time to plan.

    7. Lilly*

      Just another voice of encouragement: I have a consulting job and I sing, you can 100% balance it, and be a better worker/happier person for it.
      I have a good friend who’s a prosecutor for the local Justice department and his busy times at work are opposite to the Broadway-style community theatre he does (acting, some producing, writing his first one now!) It’s a really nice balance. Yes, sometimes he’s working straight through weekends to prepare documents for the government, but then his boss doesn’t mind in the least if he takes off at 3 o’clock in the summer to go run errands and set up rehearsals. It takes some juggling and very clear communication, staying on top of work, but it’s totally doable.
      You’re going to be great, OP! Good luck in your career and acting.

    8. CmdrShepard4ever*

      OP #1 Just jumping on this thread. All this info varies highly by region/city you are in so YMMV. I don’t want to servery discourage you from going into Arts Management/Admin but make sure you do your research. My partner got a Masters in Arts Management, while she does not regret getting her Masters and thinks it was the right path for her she will agree it is not necessary or right for everyone. The resulting job market/prospects were not what she was expecting. We have friends that she graduated with that still do not have jobs in the field 3 years after graduation. She currently works as a membership manager at a museum in a large city and works with several people at, above, and below her level who do not have a Masters in Arts Admin and have worked their way up. She usually works 9 to 5 and almost no weekends, but she will have about 2 to 3 events per month that she will have to work outside the M-F/9-5 day. The events usually start at 6pm and can go to 9/10pm sometimes even 11am. In the city where we live the good jobs with great organizations seem to only open up every so often. Some not so good jobs or jobs with not so great organizations are open pretty frequently because of high turn over. My partner definitely went into her Masters program thinking the job prospects would be a lot better then they actually were. Again I don’t want to severely discourage you, I just want you to have as much information as possible. My partner would still get her masters if she had to do it all again.

      Please anyone else chime in with what job prospects are in your field where you are located.

      1. synchrojo*

        My partner has a bachelors in arts admin, and has had a similar experience of a tough job market in a large city known for its theater scene. She has been working in the service industry and is starting coursework for a second bachelors in a STEM field because the available positions are so thin on the ground, and getting to a level that makes a stable living wage requires putting in years of entry-level low-wage grunt work, and hoping the people in management roles (who tend to be pretty young themselves, there appears to have been a big hiring spree 5 or so years ago…) move on to a different position. I don’t think she regrets her degree either, but has definitely found that its not enough to find a stable position that would have the flexibility to do creative things on the side.

    9. Tina*

      Yes! 100% doable. I was a dancer.

      I had a 9-5 nonprofit admin job and was able to take dance class almost every night, rehearse on the evenings and on weekends and perform. It wasn’t like I was in a top tier professional dance company, but I was able to work on my craft, rehearse with peers and perform on stage with a professional troupe in professional spaces. Sometimes there was pay, sometimes there wasn’t. But I was able to have a performance career and a nonprofit one, too. My nonprofit colleagues would often come to performances. It was really one of the happiest most fulfilling times of my life! Good luck!

    10. Greengirl*

      OP #1, I work in arts admin and was a stage manager. I found that when I was entry level and an administrative assistant, it was totally doable (so long as I was okay without sleeping or much of a social life). When I left that job and became a development associate at a small theater company, it really became not doable. A lot of that had to do with the level of responsibility at my job. There wasn’t any one to cover for me and my theater went through two years of crisis. I also discovered I just couldn’t work on 4 hours of sleep anymore and that I wanted to see my fiance more than once a week so I quit stage managing. I didn’t feel like I was doing a good job as a development associate or as a stage manager so something had to give. Now, being a stage manager is a lot more time intensive than being an actor so you might find acting with a career in arts admin more feasible.

      I do think it is doable to act and have a 9 to 5 job. You just have to make sure it stays a 9 to 5 job! Friends of mine who were actors wound up leaving the field because their day jobs kept promoting them and so they had to spend more time at work. So that is a thing to be careful of. You mostly just have to be careful about what day job you take. Fundraising frequently requires a lot of hours outside 9 to 5. Smaller organizations usually have one person to do a job so there isn’t anyone to cover for you if you are out. Organizations that put on performances have more outside 9 to 5 hour requirements than organizations that say, work with kids doing arts like my first job which had few outside hour requirements.

      To talk about finding a job in arts admin, I would say do internships and start building your network now. Similarly to CmdrShepard4ever’s partner, I find that your job prospects depend a lot on the arts market you are in. I am currently working on my masters in arts management but have been able to build a career without one so far just by working my way up. I know others in my program had trouble getting jobs without the masters and so are getting one now. One of the major issues with arts admin as a field is that entry level is unpaid internships so know that going in.

    11. allthearts*

      Jumping in as someone who’s balancing arts management and arts making (I graduated in 2014 and immediately started working in both)–it wasn’t AS possible my first couple of years due to the role I was in, but especially in my area there are a lot of part-time arts admin jobs if you want them. Right now I work “remotely” (in that there’s no office) as the Managing Director for a non-profit dance company: this started as a grant-funded position and has expanded from that, but it’s still about 20 hours a week (and the lack of office means generally flexible hours), which means I have the flexibility for daytime rehearsals when they’re necessary. Right now I perform in 2-3 shows per year and produce/create 1-2 shows independently–all while maintaining a pretty exciting “stable” career. It’s a lot, but it’s a good kind of a lot.

      I will also note that you do sometimes have weird hours in arts management–galas and donor dinners and opening nights and tech week and tours and such–but those are things you generally know well ahead of time and can plan for.

    12. Sparkle Shoes*

      I can’t even suggest this enough: do NOT get an arts admin Master’s right out of undergrad. Move to your choice location, do some work, get a feel for things, and then (if you can’t get to the next stage in your career without it) go ahead and get that degree. I worked in arts admin for 10+ years in a major city before going back to school (part-time) and only one of my current co-workers has a graduate degree. I hire people now and, at least from my past experience, I can guarantee that you don’t need an MA. Again, it may help you later and be a great experience, but I’m a fierce proponent of the wait-and-see strategy.

      Side note: having a day job can actually be awesome for you as an artist. If you’re not 100% reliant on acting to pay the bills, you can be picky about projects. You can relax and enjoy making art. You can have a day job that stimulates different parts of your brain. Day jobs FTW.

    13. Angelina*

      OP#1 here – I don’t have time to reply to everyone, but I wanted to say thank you, both to Alison for responding so quickly and all the comments for their perspective. I’m feeling so much better about things, and rest assured I’ve read and appreciated your comment even if I haven’t responded.

      1. Gadget Hackwrench*

        My degree is in Electronic Media Arts, and I work in Tech Support, not a scripted outsource call center, those are horrible and will suck your soul out, but a legit employed-by-the-same-company-as-the-people-I-help. I roll in at the start of my shift, pop on my headset and start answering the phone and fixing computers. No deadlines or projects. Just hours I have to work. Pretty much no matter what, when 3:30 rolls around, or whenever I finish with the user that was already on the phone with me at 3:30… it’s second shift’s problem and I’m off to do whatever artistic whims I please. My Husband has both the same degree I have, and also one in Physics. He works as a Physics teacher. His hours are all over the place during the school year, but because we’re a dual income household, he doesn’t have to take a summer job, so he can spend three straight months a year on his artistic en-devours. Funnily enough neither of us is really into graphic arts anymore. We’re both very much into theatre. Both of us act. He’s into set design and I’m into scenic painting, by extension of those we also both wind up as carpenters’ minions a lot (can’t paint it till it’s built!) Outside of that he’s mostly a filmmaker, with a decent YouTube subscription base and I mostly illustrate… the old fashioned way… with physical media. Anyway those are two different ways of getting enough time to do arts. :D

    14. Anon for this*

      I need to jump in here too. I would actually recommend doing anything other than an arts admin job if you also want to be a performer!

      I have a degree in Opera Performance and a degree in Theatre and I work in marketing/design for an opera company. I’m expected to be on site for shows and to do lots of weekend and after hours events. I also work very long days and often evenings. The demands of the job basically mean that I can’t be a performer – the shows at work happen at the same time as anything else I’m cast in, so it’s a no go, and I’m working backstage so much that I don’t have time to step on one myself. Also, the pay is low and not enough to be able to afford the things I need (new headshots, classes, professional development, etc.). The only way I’ve seen it work for anyone is if they go part time or are doing lower level work and even then…it’s not very workable.

      If you’re really interested in doing arts admin itself, that’s totally fine, but if you’re doing it as a way to get into the industry as a performer, I’d really think again. If you get known as an administrator, it can often be difficult to be known for anything else. Sure, you’re connected to the scene, but I actually find it to be torture. I’m sitting behind a desk doing something that I don’t love doing while listening/watching people do the thing I love. I’m connected, but I’m not seen as an artist. I’m seen as an administrator.

      What would I recommend? Find stable work that pays well. If it’s a work from home situation, something with flex time available, or if you can freelance – all the better. Some of the people I’ve seen be the most successful as a performer do things like web design, graphic design, photography, dog walking, technical writing etc. as a day job. They have flexible hours, can demand high hourly rates, and can flex their jobs around their performing commitments. Alternatively, you could get involved in another industry that values personal lives and pays well. I actually found great success in the outdoor industry, as personal passions were valued, I was paid well, and work-life balance was important to everyone.

      1. ALSO anon for this!*

        I have to echo what Anon for this says above. I have an MFA in Theater Management and I’ve been fortunate to have multiple jobs in my field since graduation.

        OP, I really want to encourage you, and it’s definitely true that if you find the right arts admin job and the right organization to work for, this can work out. But I’ve also seen it go far the other way, where colleagues who kept trying to do acting just couldn’t make it work with the demands of an arts admin job (company management, development, communications, etc.). I’ve also seen many people who’ve been interviewed or hired in arts nonprofits where it was obvious they just really wanted to be performing, and that’s not great. Even if they were given some schedule flexibility to devote to their artist projects, they’d still struggle to stay on top of their work and coworkers would resent them if it seemed like they were picking up the slack.

        Nonprofits are short-staffed with really limited resources, and in the arts there are always some evenings and weekends involved (depending on your specific job usually, but there are definitely times when it’s all hands on deck and everyone working full time for the org is expected to pitch in outside of 9-5 hours; it’s very much not a 9-5 business).

        So if you end up in arts administration, be VERY up-front about needing a flexible schedule and your outside artistic pursuits during the interview process, to maximize your chances of landing in an organization where this will work.

        Also, be really honest with yourself about performing vs admin, and where your ultimate goals are. If you want to be an active artist, you probably will need to stick to lower-level roles in nonprofit arts administration. In most orgs, you really couldn’t be at the Dept Director level in a specifically non-performer job and still be on stage yourself in your off hours – there’s just not time.

        As Anon for this recommends above, if you want to focus on a performance career with the safety of a full time day job, finding stable work in a non-arts environment (nonprofit or otherwise) might be your best bet. I’ve worked with many awesome artists who’ve done that.

        Bottom line, you can make it work, just be really honest with your employer and yourself about your goals and commitments – there are arts organizations that would be really supportive of your artistic side gigs, and others that definitely wouldn’t be.

        Also since you’re at this stage, CmdrShepard4ever made some great points upthread about whether you really need to go for that Masters Degree. I’m not sorry I got my MFA right after undergrad, but almost no one I graduated with ended up actually working in arts administration. And I’ve worked with a ton of excellent arts managers who didn’t have a Masters. Point is, you can proceed either way, and having that degree (or not) is really not predictive of whether you’ll have a successful arts management career. Good luck!

    15. Insert Clever Handle Here*

      OP, I have a very good job completely unrelated to the arts writing contracts for a public utility (my BA is in history). I leave work at the same time almost every day and do not have to work weekends or late nights 99% of the time (occasionally I have to work nights/weekends if a major weather event impacts my utility’s service territory). My manager would absolutely work with me if I had a commitment outside of work, and has in the past. You would have no difficulty attending nightly rehearsals if you had my job. They exist — even outside of the arts!

    16. KatieK*

      Adding another voice to the mix! I have two degrees in music and have pursued theatre professionally and amateurly, worked in arts admin, and work in the private sector.

      My personal experience has been that working in arts admin made it MUCH more difficult to pursue performance, even as a side thing. The schedule was far more rigid, with more “cannot miss” commitments outside my regular hours. As a commenter mentioned above, it also paid less, making it harder to cover the extra expenses.

      Working in the private sector in an industry where many of our clients are arts orgs, I have a ton of colleagues who have arts backgrounds or who are actively pursuing side careers in the arts. They’ve been ultra flexible and accommodating, including times when I’ve taken leave for an out of town gig or completely rearranged my schedule to make daytime rehearsals. I think there are a few key factors:

      1. I am a reliably high performer and trusted to make it work
      2. I was asking for these special perks while in a lower level role (I wasn’t the ultimate/only person doing the type of work I do)
      3. Many of my managers and coworkers have their own creative projects going on as well
      4. I work in an industry (tech) that is generally more casual and flexible

      So, all of that to say, depending on the job/industry/people you may have a wildly different experience, but for me the non-arts 9-5 was the way to go.

      I’ll add one side note: if you have the skill/interest freelance & contract work can work very well as you can make your own hours and take on more work at slower artistic times. I worked as a freelance copywriter for a while and it worked pretty well but I ultimately wanted more stability than that.

    17. Holly Flax*

      I have a friend who works for a theater supply company and they are very supportive of employees doing shows outside of work. I think my friend has been in at least 3 shows with night/weekend rehearsal schedules since they started working there last year. Another perk of working there is the ability to purchase tickets to shows at our local performing arts center before they go on sale to the general public. Hoping friend is still employed there when Hamilton tickets go on sale for next year!

    18. Alienor*

      I’ve done community theater both as a performer and a stage crew member while working a 9-5 job, so at least at that level it’s very doable; you just have to be honest about your work-related conflicts when you’re auditioning/before you accept a role, and be sure you can commit to being there for tech week and all the performances. That said, it is basically the same as having a second job that you go to after your first job–I was going straight from my office to the theater and not getting home until 10:30 or 11 at night–and having no downtime can get rough even if you’re doing something you love. (Plus, it’s hard to squeeze in things like laundry and cleaning the bathroom and eating food that’s not takeout.)

  6. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    Coffee Wars would make an excellent Open Thread/Free for All. First Prize for the best story is a Keurig. Without thinking hard I recall the co-worker who made herself a fresh pot every morning then dumped the contents so no one else could have any. The co-worker who charged people for coffee the company supplied (she kept the money). The coffee pot that got moldy because no one would clean it. Right now I’m dealing with people who put double coffee grinds in the machine because they like to drink mud….

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I would be the loser of this competition — all the offices I’ve worked in have been very mellow about coffee, possibly because the coffee was provided by the company and everyone knew it. The only borderline exception is the time the espresso machine at the cafe in our building broke down. Then a lot of people were really, really sad. Not angry, though. Just sad.

      1. Violet Fox*

        Same. My workplace provides coffee. A few people have their own Nespresso machines as well, water kettles, etc and everyone is really chill about it.

      1. rldk*

        I’d guess she just went around saying “collections for coffee fund, everyone’s gotta contribute” and as long as it didn’t spread enough to reach the person who did the company purchasing, it was a common enough request that folks went along.

        1. Bryce*

          It’s a classic scam along with other things like charging for the free WiFi password. As long as you make it sound plausible and cheap enough to not raise flags, nobody makes a fuss. Even just a quarter a time adds up in high traffic situations.

      2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        She was the admin person, had been there forever and was in charge of the coffee fund. Everyone else in the office had started after the coffee fund was established and didn’t know the company paid for the coffee because as the admin she controlled the money for it. Since no one else was interested in taking over the responsibility of ordering coffee, cream, milk etc she had free reign. When she finally retired her successor realized what had been going on.

    2. Jen Erik*

      My dh had a tale of a Machiavellian manoeuvre during infighting over the reorganization
      of office space, that resulted in the coffee machine being installed in a particular coworkers office. The coworker was being obnoxious (allegedly) about needing to not share an office, so they got him to agree to take the coffee machine instead.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Wait your coworker wanted to have the coffee machine in their office? That sounds like a punishment/nightmare.

        1. Eye of Sauron*

          I posted somewhere else on this topic that circumstances found me with the only coffee maker in my office. It wasn’t as intrusive as it sounds. Mostly people just wandered in grabbed coffee and sorted of nodded as the did it.

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      There was the Tea Fund Wars at my old place – Willow who was responsible for the tea fund had been hearing lots of people moaning and groaning about the quality of biscuits provided. Eventually she got so fed up of it that she secretly decided that the next person to complain about the biscuits would have to take on the responsibility of the tea fund. So the day came around, Anya moaned about the biscuits and Willow promptly stuck the tea money jar on her desk and told her she was taking over and they argued in the office. Anya appealed to Buffy the manager who said that she agreed that Anya didn’t have time to take it on, but didn’t intervene any further than that. Eventually Xander agreed he would take it over to keep the peace, but it went on for a few weeks.

    4. Science!*

      Our coffee battles look quite different because it is coffee from the company cafeteria purchased by departmental funds for specific meetings. My department has a couple standing weekly meetings for different groups within the department. These meetings are usually in the morning so the department admin has the cafeteria provide 1-3 pumpers of coffee and often bagels using departmental funds. We rarely drink or eat everything so after the meeting we will bring the leftovers to the break area so the people in the department who did not go to the meeting can have coffee and a bagel as well. But there are people who wait for the leftovers with their big mugs. And then I’m not sure if, as a meeting participant who already had a cup, can I take a second if I feel like it?

      It’s not really a war, my department is very collegial, but it is funny to come out of a meeting and see a couple people waiting with their mugs.

    5. Mookie*

      I worked in a greenhouse where the first year of our tea trolley club was also its last. The idea was that every month a different member would be given funding to bring us a single day’s worth of something spectacular or beautifully weird (super premium grades or interesting single varieties or their own scratch blends or something they picked up abroad, et al) along with filling the trolley with sweets and savory bites they thought paired well with the tea or offered up a useful contrast. So you’d’ve thought there’d be some kind of bitter internecine nerd-off that broke up the band (nine times out of ten it isn’t the elitists you have to watch out for but the earl grey types, they’re as bad as people who carry around very aggrieved monologues in their head about why gin is not just flavored vodka*) but no, one morning a few month’s in some guy who wasn’t a member broke into the stash reserved for the following day and started pilfering and badly mishandling some very choice pekoes and it was all anybody could do not to grind him into human fanning himself. People cried, the plants were sadder than usual, and nobody pinched the stock blocks for about a week.

      *only joking

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Okay, but Earl Grey is terrible, so I feel like your joke is entirely fair and reasonable.

        1. AnotherJill*

          The spousal unit and I were at a party once and the hostess kept exclaiming “Have some tea! It’s Earl Grey, the best kind available!”. Years later, every time we see some Earl Grey, it’s a race to say “It’s Earl Grey, the best kind available!”.

          1. Mookie*

            I love this. I’m going to borrow it and hopefully the airquotes will only be discerned by fellow grey-loathers.

        2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

          I’ve tried so hard to like Earl Grey* and I.just.can’t. The scent of bergamot is lovely, but the taste triggers my gag reflex. :|

          * I grew up watching ST:TNG.

        3. Mookie*

          No argument from me there. I love bergamot and all bitter things, but it’s vile on and to my palate.

      2. Queen of Cans & Jars*

        This is the most beautifully British thing I’ve read & I love it! (I’m not sure if you are from the UK, but if you are in the States, please let me know so I can go work there. :))

        1. Mookie*

          This was in California! But the club membership was one-third sensible ex-pats of tea-enthusiast nations and two-thirds precious Americans (you can guess who did most of the sobbing when the villainry was uncovered). It doesn’t operate, anymore, sadly (bought out by a multinational and then shuttered), but we sub-specialized in South African bulbs, so if you know the trade you may be able to guess our name. :)

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          The west coast of America has a pretty decent tea culture, actually. It’s all the Japanese/Chinese heritage, I think. I was actually kinda disappointed when I went to England for the first time. I mean, yeah, everyone drinks tea, but they mainly just live on crappy tea – whereas in west coast USA, you generally live on coffee and just have the tea for the taste.

      3. Free Meerkats*

        they’re as bad as people who carry around very aggrieved monologues in their head about why gin is not just flavored vodka

        All liquors are basically flavored vodka.

        And I really like the brown, flavored vodkas from the Highlands.

    6. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

      A piece on Coffee Wars that resulted from a post on “tell me your coffee stories” would likely get Alison her highest page views ever.

      I am a normally reasonable person who goes batshit ballistic over the rudeness of Some People and office coffee. (It is not HARD, take the last cup, make a new pot, not HARD people. ) I get crazed and foam at the mouth. :D

      1. Julia*

        Inconsiderate people are one of the few things that make me really angry as well. It’s not about the small thing per se, it’s about considering those around you.

      2. JanetM*

        I have occasionally wanted to post a passive-aggressive sign in my previous office: “This is a picture of the CIO making a pot of coffee.”

      3. PB*

        YES! My office doesn’t even make coffee. We just have a hot water machine for tea. If it’s empty, all you have to do is pour water in it and walk away. So why is it always empty? Why?!

      4. Seriously?*

        I actually prefer to be the one to brew coffee. That way I get to determine how strong it is :)

      5. Evie K*

        Our CEO will chase you down & “speak to you” if you don’t rinse & refill the pot when you are the one who empties it. He refills when he empties it.
        I think this is why the kitchen is clean in general- the very top demonstrates that everyone should pitch in & enforces it. You also get told this during orientation. Company provides coffee & basic fixin’s.

      6. DecorativeCacti*

        I don’t drink the company coffee, but I have witnessed the below situation multiple times:

        CW1: [Checks pot one, empty. Checks pot two, barely squeezes out half a cup. Mutters while walking away.]

        CW2: [Checks pot one, empty. Checks pot two, empty.] “Who doesn’t make more coffee when they used the last of it?!” [Walks away without refilling.]

        1. EddieSherbert*

          So many times! There are passive-aggressive signs about refilling the pots that went up recently by the coffee pots in my office….

          (I also don’t drink our coffee; don’t like the taste of this brand)

    7. Irene Adler*

      I brought in three specialty coffees for the Christmas season. They were for co-workers to prepare for the daily coffee pot(s).
      (I don’t partake in any coffee, but wanted to treat my co-workers to something a little special).

      An hour after I’d brought them in, one goes missing. The office klepto took the bag home.

      1. WellRed*

        I bet they regifted the coffee. Next time scrawl on them with sharpie “For my coworkers at Coffeepots Inc.”

    8. Sapphire*

      I’m fairly certain the main reason OldJob switched to single cup brewing was because of complaints about pota of coffee, and there was disagreement on how strong a pot should be.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        Hahaha! I recently had this out with my husband. I like one or two good strong cups so I wake up fast, he likes to sip weak coffee all day. I finally put my foot down and told him he had to start making real coffee, because he can dilute it to make it weaker but there’s no way to make weak coffee stronger.

    9. Annie Moose*

      We have five different coffee-brewing methods in the breakroom at this very moment.

      I don’t want to talk about it (but absolutely could be induced to do so if you start a thread about it in the open thread today ;)).

      1. Mookie*

        Do it! I know nothing about coffee and want to learn the five ways and why each is obviously superior to all others.

    10. Guacamole Bob*

      Can we add water club wars? They may be specific to government offices in the US (since most other companies provide water coolers if their tap water is gross), but wow are people nuts about them.

      The water club in my old department was disbanded after a long email fight over whether the water from the cooler could be used to water plants. It got ugly.

        1. Eye of Sauron*

          Depends on the quality of water. My office has high radium levels in the tap water and is brutal on plants.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          Location, mostly. The bathroom sinks here aren’t great for filling up big water bottles or jugs and so it’s the water cooler very close to the plants, several very slow trips to the water fountain down the hall, or going to a different floor with a kitchen sink.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Can there be an honourable mention for post-meeting buffet gannets as many of us seem to work with them please?

    11. LBG*

      We had a bug problem in our office (everywhere, they would sometimes crawl out of the file folders and desk drawers). One morning, someone went to make the coffee and found a roach in the filter basket. I hadn’t been drinking coffee from that pot for a while because the biggest issue for me was always that the first person in made the coffee and liked it very weak. I like strong coffee. So I had dropped out of the coffee club and brought in my own Nespresso.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Yeah, roaches seem to have a thing for coffee in my experience (which is a thing I really never wanted to learn from experience.)

      2. EddieSherbert*


        …Drinking filtered dead bug. Just… I have no words. AAHHH. *shudder*

    12. Deus Cee*

      OP#3: The idea that the company might own the coffee is nonsense. The one-off cost of a coffeepot doesn’t begin to compare to the ongoing financial contribution that the employees are making. It’s their coffee, and your friend should contribute or head for the nearest Starbucks.

      OP#1: I’m fulltime non-profit (heritage) and my work stops at 5pm with no overtime. I’m a musician, and before I had parental responsibilities I was doing 4 or 5 rehearsals a week with various ensembles, and 12-15 concerts a year. None of this ate into my work time at all, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find something that will work for you too.

    13. Eye of Sauron*

      Hah… I finally got sick of the crappy coffee makers, cheap bad coffee that my office supplied (coffee maker was purchased by my cheap boss at the time and the coffee was bought by the 1 person in the office who didn’t drink coffee), and the strong vs. weak coffee wars. So I bought a Keurig and brought it in.

      Well suddenly my cheap boss became very interested and asked if he could use it. I said no. He then asked if he could use it if he bought the coffee for it. I’m not a genius, but I quickly realized that I would be getting the better end of that particular deal. So I agreed under the condition the Keurig stayed in my office and only distilled/bottled water was used. (my office has terrible tap water that kills off coffee makers with impunity).

      The result, I more than made back the cost of the Keurig in office supplied coffee, darn convenient to keep it my office, and soon the break room coffee maker was put out to pasture. I think this arrangement continued for several years before someone bought a bigger unit for the break room. Some of our visitors were a bit confused why they had to come in my office for coffee, but for the most part it worked.

    14. LBK*

      I know Keurigs/other single-serving coffee machines are a blight on the environment and the coffee they produce tends to be lacking, but I’m so glad we have them at my office so we can avoid all these dramatics. At most, someone has to empty the bin that holds the used pods/packets, which takes 10 seconds has never caused an issue in 6 years of being here.

      1. ggg*

        Yes, Keurigs solve a lot of problems, and I am glad our workplace has one.

        I know someone who used to go to the cafeteria and put about two sips of coffee in a cup. He would then approach the cashier and say, “Oh, you’re not going to charge me for that little bit of coffee, are you?” And they wouldn’t, and he would amble around, drinking his tiny bit of coffee. Repeat N times where N is the number of different cashiers on duty that day.

        Now he just drinks coffee from someone’s office pot without paying, but we really have better things to do than worry about whether he put his quarter in.

      2. Half-Caf Latte*

        Until the office cheapskate (or cheapskate visitor) dumps a box of pods into a bag to take home….

    15. SusanIvanova*

      The manager who put half-caf in the caf pot, because he didn’t think anyone should drink full-caf. He wouldn’t dump out a pot, thankfully, but if was empty that’s how he’d refill it. People were *really* good about not leaving it empty just to avoid that.

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        I feel obligated to vigorously defend my honor. This was not me and I support your right to fully caffeinate whenever and wherever!

        (I love coffee but I also love sleep and I’m remarkably sensitive to caffeine).

    16. Free Meerkats*

      I work in a government office where the City provides the coffee maker, but the supplies are on us. Currently a four person office, has been as high as seven. When we get low on coffee, someone goes out and buys a bag. If one uses additions, one purchases their own. A pot gets made by the first person in and poured into the airpot for storage; when that’s empty, the call, “Does anyone want more coffee?” goes out and they make it if the answer is yes. Guests are welcome to a cup or two. The one person who likes weaker coffee just runs a second brewing cycle through the grounds and he’s good with that – he has his own airpot.

      When the new (and now departed) grandboss moved up to her position, she blessed us with a new coffee maker. The box arrived with no notice. Here’s a photo: The old one was >30 years old and was getting cranky, sometimes making a full pot, sometimes not. She and her predecessor came by nearly every Friday morning for coffee and a weekly check in with us, so she knew the problems.

      I have nothing to contribute to the coffee wars from this job. Navy carrier engine room coffee is another matter…

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        I see your “most interesting man in the world” meme prodding people to make a new pot

    17. Tricksy Hobbitses*

      My office does the same thing. They supply a Keurig and a Britta Filter. The rule is if you empty the water reserve you fill it up. Also, everyone labels their food/coffee items, so everyone knows who brought what. I really recommend this system as it cuts down on the coffee drama.

    18. Phoenix Programmer*

      Intern on his first day poured water into the vent system (ours was actually joined to plumbing to auto pull water). It had an auto vent system in case this happened and so it dumped boiling hot liquid into my waterproof coat trapping the water to boil my arm.

      Kid was super nice and brought me a gift basket for that.

      Other than that no interesting coffee stories. Every office I have worked on that likes double grounds for example simply marked that one with a filter labeled “strong” etc.

  7. Wendy Darling*

    My dentist, of all people, was very active in local theater and also did bit parts in TV shows that filmed in the area. He actually recently retired from dentistry but I think he’s still going with the acting.

    1. Agnes*

      We have a local semi-professional musical theater group. One of the guys who always has a lead is a lawyer. I always think, he has the life. (A lot of the other people have day jobs as well, but they tend to be less well-paid, music teachers, etc.)

      1. Julia*

        Being in musical theater is my life’s dream. I really hope when I’m done with grad school (which has musical groups, but I don’t have time ;_;) I can join one, and I’m really considering that when picking the next city to move to.

    2. mooocow*

      My dentist is an artist – his whole practice is full of his paintings, as is the practice of his wife who is also a dentist! Seems like he has been very productive with his art throughout his career…

      1. ggg*

        My dentist sold his practice to focus on his real estate business. He still comes in for some specialty dental work sometimes though.

  8. Taryn*

    #1, I can actually comment on this as someone who has worked in administrative side of professional theatre for about five years. Theatre administration generally is definitely /not/ a great choice for life/work balance, leaving at 5pm on the dot, and ignoring your emails on the weekends. By its nature, you’re doing administrative work for things that are happening after work hours, and staying late and being reachable in the evenings and weekends is very much the norm. That said, there are certainly differing levels to this, and I’ve known people who have worked in arts admin in different capacities who also participated in things like community theatre to scratch their acting bug a bit. (I understand! I also have an acting bug. I sadly have not gotten to scratch it in some time.)

    I’ll be honest: one of the worries of hiring people in arts admin is that they’re just applying for a security job while they audition. But if you’re seriously pursuing arts admin, especially to the point of going for your Masters, I think it’ll be pretty clear that you’re not going to jump ship at the first sign of a booked gig. But I think it’s worth it just to state it up-front. Arts admin is a funny business for actors, because the administrators know enough to both be supportive/understanding but also wary.

    All in all, it might be worth bringing up at the offer stage. “While I am definitely not pursuing acting professionally, I do like to be able to do a show now and then that would involve rehearsals outside business hours. Do you think it would be an issue having a few time periods a year when I’d need to leave work right on time and be offline over the weekend?”

    1. Al Lo*

      As with so many things, it’s also a know-your-company thing! My org has had some people spend a few years in admin while building performance careers, and they’ve moved on at some point with no hard feelings and even some support from the organization. But it does require cognizance of your priorities, and evaluating how they shift.

    2. Greengirl*

      THIS. I think there are careers in arts admin that could support you being able to act but maybe not working in theater admin. There are just a ton of out of 9 to 5 hours required. When I worked for a small theater company I would work every weekend for weeks at a time plus one late evening a week plus staying late to get things done.

      I currently work for a university’s arts department and I still have many weekend and evening events and more work than can be finished in 40 hours a week but the expectation is much more “have a life outside of work and we’ll figure it out” versus “you need to figure out how to get this work done and work is your life.”

    3. autophage*

      These concerns were a major factor for me in not pursuing an arts degree or working professionally in the arts. Plenty of organizations can make this work, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be at the mercy of whoever happened to have openings at the time I was looking.

      A bit more than a decade after making that choice, I’m working at a career that I love and compensates me very well – and on evenings and weekends, I’m executive producing and directing a video series, with the autonomy of being able to self-fund the project. Plus, I’m learning valuable leadership skills that have benefited me significantly in my day job.

      If art matters to you, you’ll find a way to do it whether that’s how you keep a roof over your head or not. I don’t intend this to discourage people from studying for careers in the arts per se, but there are other ways.

  9. Detective Rosa Diaz*

    Letter writer 1: if you love acting so much and feel sad about giving it up, my one tiny piece of advice is to give it a go for one year.

    I feel like directly after school you can do this and not seem flighty to potential employers.
    If after 1 year of working as a server or a lighter role and auditioning and acting every chance you get, you feel ready to pack it in, then you can even say in interviews that you have a passion for acting and have experienced all sides of the stage but that now it’s a hobby.

    Just my two cents, hate to see someone so you g nixing a dream. (I made this mistake and now I’m pursuing it at 36! Never happier though)

    1. Al Lo*

      And if you do that, OP 1, an arts admin background will serve you well in an acting career, too. Acting is a business, and the more you know about how the industry runs, the better-equipped you’ll be.

      Not for nothing, so many people start producing because they wanted a space to do their work, and when no one provided the right niche, they did it themselves. If you ever end up there, a background in arts admin will put you ahead of the game as an artist/entrepreneur.

    2. Thlayli*

      Yeah this is a good idea. You never know, you might find that you can make enough money to survive. And it’s good to try that out before you have all the outgoings people tend to accumulate as they go through life (mortgage, childcare etc). Would be much harder to try it for a year whe you’re 20 years into a career.

    3. Angelina*

      LW here – I’ve definitely considered this! An additional factor I didn’t mention in my letter is that I’m on the older side for the whole finishing college/starting a career thing. I’m almost 25 and have about two years left at college, which might mean I’m pushing myself too hard to have everything figured out to compensate for being a little behind most people. Do you think a taking a year to do this at 26 or 27 is going to look worse to employers than doing it at a younger age would? I’m very (maybe overly) conscious of playing catch up with my peers.

  10. Dan*


    I’m going to go off on a tangent and say that those types of requirements are conveyed poorly. What does “excellent communication skills” mean? In my field, it’s usually expressed as “able to explain technical material to non-technical audiences.” The subtext, which takes some time to figure out, is that if you’re a technical person and hate dealing with non-technical people, this job ain’t for you.

    But my favorites are really along the lines of “excellent MS Word skills” or something like that. What may be basic (or common) computer programs really have a lot of advanced features, most of which many people never use. I’ve been using Office products for 20 years, and people who get paid half of what I do have more in depth knowledge of them than me. For Pete’s sake, please tell me what skills you need me to have, or need me to get familiar with ASAP. Do “excellent” skills mean you want me to be a VBA programmer, or not?

    1. T3k*

      I think for the communication skill, it pertains to the specific job and field. For instance, the one I’m in, it’d mean being comfortable relaying info to all levels of management (even if you’re entry level, it’s common to interact with senior positions) and being able to translate info between departments (artists over here need technical designers to do X, audio needs marketing to do Y, etc.)

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        And in my field (translation/interpretation) communication skills mean being able to relay the exact same message in your target language in a way that sounds natural and in a manner that is adequate to the topic and the audience (it’s not the same to translate a medical text than a contract; and it’s not the same to translate a text for Latin America than one for Europe, for example).

    2. Yvette*

      In my field, tech, “excellent communication skills” is usually code for “must have a command of the English language”.

      1. JaneB*

        In academia it tends to mean supernatural levels of patience, skin thickness a rhino would envy, and the ability to clearly repeat simple instructions many many times to very smart idiots, some of whom are also forgetful and arrogant…

      2. Parenthetically*

        Yep, and in mine, teaching, it means “must be able to get recalcitrant teenagers to understand Shakespeare/multivariate equations/mitosis/Latin conjugation/whatever, and talk worked-up parents down.”

    3. Cousin Itt*

      I usually put down that I have ‘excellent MS Word skills’ because even if I don’t know how to do something, I know how to google it and find a tutorial without any fuss.

    4. CoffeeLover*

      This reminds me of a recent post asking why employers say they need someone that can work in a “fast paced environment” when they actually move like molasses. I think a lot of managers and employers are bad at: 1) knowing what they need, 2) knowing how to communicate that effectively, 3) knowing how to evaluate candidates based on that.

      I think there’s also a massive amount of inflating going on. For some reason, no one wants to say “ability to write a professional sounding email” instead it’s “needs excellent communication skills, proficiency in Outlook, interpersonal skills, etc.”

      1. Mad Baggins*

        “Must be able to work with diverse personnel from different cultures and backgrounds.”
        And then the company is all white…

      2. Mookie*

        As you say, apart from not knowing what they’re looking for or why, nervous hiring managers often list obligatory stock phrases that serve no purpose other than filler. And that leads to confusion, because “interpersonal skills” could mean “halp just be a human being okay?” or “you’re going to need to know how to grease palms and swallow bullshit.” It’s like they forget that part of what makes a successful listing truly functional is that it helps wavering and potentially unsuitable would-be applicants self-select themselves out of applying because you’ve described what a good fit looks like in plain terms and they recognize it isn’t them. But this is just inefficient and makes everyone involved seem a little disassociated.

        1. Parenthetically*

          “it helps wavering and potentially unsuitable would-be applicants self-select themselves out of applying because you’ve described what a good fit looks like in plain terms and they recognize it isn’t them”

          Gods, if only all job listings were like this!

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      What I find interesting is that the last 3 skills you could arguably self-select out of applying for the job–you hate nit picking the details, you hate lengthy back and forths slowly noodling toward a consensus, you value flexibility. But who views themselves as having terrible judgment, no professionalism, and a complete lack of integrity? Even if those are true in the view of third parties, they aren’t self-describers.

    6. Poster#2*

      #2 here
      Thanks for all the feedback. I was wondering about the effectiveness of listing qualities such as those, and everyone’s input backed up my opinion. With that being said, I appreciate all of your various interpretations based on your fields. I’ll keep pluggin’ away at sending out resumes, and simply note this (lack of professionalism) as a potential red flag to pay attention to in further communications with the organization.

  11. Mr. Cholmondley-Warner*

    #1 I know several people who have normal full time jobs ( by “normal” I mean things like engineer, accountant, small business manager etc.) who also play rugby or cricket for local clubs. They find the time to go to practice and for matches. I don’t know much about playing sports or acting, but I’m guessing if people can work and play sports, you should be able to find time for acting. If it’s something you enjoy, do it anyway, even if it’s just as a hobby. There’s no reason not to

    1. Mad Baggins*

      I know a local government official who was also a professional blind soccer player. He participated in international tournaments and the office was really proud to let him go to Paris and so on for events. He didn’t work a lot of overtime. He also had a young child to care for. I’m not sure what special arrangements let him do all that (and sleep!) but it’s definitely a thing people can do and have 9-5 jobs!

    2. Thlayli*

      Lots of people do amateur dramatics / community theatre in all sorts of jobs. Most of those drama groups have evening / weekend rehearsals because their members work full time.

    3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      Yeah – I work in an industry that traditionally calls for pretty long hours and flexibility in terms of overtime, but I still have co-workers that have their own hobbies or side pursuits (some artistic, some athletic). It definitely depends on the company culture, but its easy enough to find a place that will allow for that. Usually it just means finding a company that encourages colleagues/depts to be generous in helping each other out or covering each other and that will embrace creative solutions to coverage issues (eg: allowing work to be done from home, after rehearsal or allowing the employee to come in early the following morning to finish the work before the start of business)

      The one thing I’d say, at least for my industry – it might be tougher to find that sort of arrangement early on. Like for the first 2-3 years out of school. The most jr employee(s) is(are) generally expected to be the most flexible. Not 100% flexible – if it’s something really serious or really major, a more sr. employee might stay late to let the jr. employee leave on time, but its just expected that that will happen less often for a jr employee than for a sr. employee. So maybe keep that in mind – maybe you will need to put acting on hold (or just be less involved that you’d ultimately like) for the short term, but the further along you get in your career (aside from pretty specific industries like Alison mentioned) the easier it generally tends to be to get the sort of flexibility you would need.

    4. Rock Prof*

      Even in a field where the work/life boundary is really blurred, you can manage extracurricular activities. I’m in academia and married to a K-12 teacher, but we both manage to be competitive amateur athletes. Out of other science faculty I know at my school, one plays in a hockey league, one is a sponsored runner, one plays in a soccer league, one does community theater, one is really involved in local politics, one is really into gardening (though he’s an ecologist, so maybe that’s an extension of work?), etc. There are certainly the professors/scientists who eat, breathe, and sleep their work, but lots of people balance this stuff even outside of 9-5 jobs.

  12. OperaArt*

    OP1, it’s possible to have a regular job and also do some acting. I’ve been doing it for over 10 years. It helps if the job has a little flexibility so you can make up work time later in the evenings or on weekends.

    I’m a software developer. I’ve also worked everything from background roles in big films to large speaking roles in crime re-enactment TV shows. Training videos, music videos, regional commercials.

    You could do community theater, you could do paid work. You could look into voiceover—some of that can be done from home. Self-taped auditions are becoming more common. So are Skype-based auditions.

    You can find acting opportunities in the most unexpected places. Training hospitals need actors to be standardized patients. Law enforcement detective training uses actors to be interviewed as witnesses, victims, and suspects.

    You’ll be able to do both. Have fun.

    1. AnitaJ*

      I was coming here to say all of this! It’s 100% possible to do a full-time day job and a semi-full time theater schedule. It can be tough, though. It means commute to the office, 8-5 job, commute to rehearsal, 7-10 rehearsal, commute home. The time constraints aside, it can be difficult to work a full day and then show up with energy and focus for rehearsal. But for me, it’s worth it. (Just know that during the run of a show, you may not have time to go to the gym/see your partner/snuggle your pet/do laundry.)

      As long as you work hard in your day job and prove loyalty and dedication, you can find a company to give you a lot of leeway. I once got a big gig and immediately took two weeks off and adjusted my day schedule for months–because I’d been there for 4 years reliably.

      TL;DR: It can be done. Break a leg!

    2. mskyle*

      I’m another software developer, and I’m also a serious amateur choral singer. I have to take time off for it several times a year (for touring, occasional daytime rehearsals or concerts, etc.), and it’s never been a problem. My chorus includes some professional singers, and most of them have office or teaching day jobs in addition to their performing gigs (and some of the younger ones work retail or food service).

      At least two of my software-company coworkers are serious visual artists, and they take time off to pursue those endeavors.

      It is totally possible to have a professional career and a creative career, in all kinds of different combinations! It’s all about finding a balance and figuring out how much time/energy you can devote to the different aspects of your life (money-making, creative, personal, etc.).

  13. Becky*

    OP1: It might also depend on the type of theater/acting you are interested in doing. I’ve known a number of people who have done local/community theater with regular 9-5 jobs because those programs often work auditions/rehearsal schedules/performances around 9-5 jobs because most of the people who are participating also hold down full time jobs. A lot of the time if they held out for someone with a more flexible schedule it would be hard to get all they people they need to participate.

  14. Lb*

    #1–definitely, there are many jobs which allow or even encourage outside passions! I’ve worked in several different industries and I’ve never had an employer expect 100% of my time. And in most of my jobs where more-than-normal hours were necessary, they were planned or at least expected far in advance; the couple months leading up to a big case filing, or the three big events per year, or whatever.

    And sometimes you can even combine them! At one government law job, one of the senior partners wrote and designed a musical every year to be performed at the agency’s anniversary party. (I had a solo at the Mary Poppins themed show!)

    Look for established organizations (not startups) with more or less predictable schedules. Ask about work/life balance in interviews. Stay away from certain types of consulting firms or traveling sales jobs. This is definitely doable!

  15. Betty*

    #1: YES YOU CAN. Loads of people in arts admin do this. You’d want to bring it up at interview but if you can offer flexibility to your employer in exchange for flexibility on their end, it could work out very well. For example, you work every evening one week when they have a big deal thing on then take afternoons off next week in lieu. The thing you want to be careful about is looking at their events schedule – are they so regular that you’d struggle to take any time off in a decent block? Or is there a crunch time where you can work overtime and then do a show in quieter periods? Also consider your specific area of arts admin and whether you’re likely to need to be on call or whether it’s more officey. Print marketing and events-based fundraising, for example, will be different.

  16. Liza*

    LW1, I’m a member of a high-standard amateur dramatics company, and most of our members have full time jobs. Because of this, they acknowledge that people will have to work, and they are willing to arrange rehearsals around people’s schedules (particularly if they really want you for a show). The last show I was in, we had two people with regular evening work commitments, but we worked around it when we could and read in for them when we couldn’t. A lot of people say they find full time work and doing a play an exhausting combination, and might take some time off from work during the run, but this is going to depend very much on your own energy levels and circumstances. There are times when I’ve had to turn down roles due to work pressures during very busy times, but mostly it’s been possible to juggle both. What WOULD have been a challenge was if I was still working shifts – now that really DID leave no time free for hobbies – but a 9-5 with occasional evening overtime would be a breeze in comparison.

  17. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    LW3 – my first thought was “bloody hell, it’s a cup of coffee”.

    A gentle reminder to people how the coffee club works should be all that’s needed here.

    1. Tardigrade*

      Yeah, I can’t see that one person, once, having one cup of coffee warrants being labeled a thief (although it’s technically true)….which makes me think something else must be going on.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Unless the one mug coffee drinker is regularly helping themselves and just happened to get caught for once.

        Thank goodness for pod machines!

    2. Jennifer*

      As a person who hates coffee, I can’t believe all the damn drama there always is over some hot caffeinated beverage.

  18. Djuna*

    I know that trepidation. I was let go from a job I loved at a much bigger company, and when they reached out to me a little over a year later to ask if I’d like to come back I was nervous about it.

    I had a lot of people telling me I was crazy to even consider it because there was “no loyalty” there. But I figured loyalty is an odd concept in business terms, and it was good of them to keep me in mind and reach out to me. I’ve been through layoffs in a bunch of industries, they happen and there’s no guarantee that a layoff won’t ever happen again (even where you are now).

    For me, it came down to the people, the benefits, and how much I enjoyed the job itself. I came back in a different role, but after a year was back doing what I did before the layoffs. I work with some great people, and that is something that matters hugely to me. I think you need to figure out what matters most to you, and go with what works best for you.

    On severance, I know if I had been laid off again within a certain time period I would not have gotten a second severance payment. So, like Alison says, it’s definitely worth asking about that, and seeing what assurances they can give you. They know they’re asking you to take a chance on them, and if they want to work with you again they should be willing to address that. Be as matter-of-fact about it as you can, and see how their answers line up with what you need.

    Whatever you decide, I’m rooting for you. I know how hard decisions like this one can be.

    1. OP#5*

      Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment. I’ve really struggled with the decision. Another reason it’s been so difficult is because in the 2-year interim I’m already on my second job. The first one turned out not to be the right fit for me and I left when my current job was offered to me. I remember the relief I felt, and now I’m thinking about leaving just over a year in.
      Another part that I left out in my letter to Alison was that, upon return from my second maternity leave, this old employer of mine made it really difficult for me to return, and left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
      Two years provides some ‘time heals all wounds’ salve, but it’s also in the back of my mind that returning to this employer would feel somehow…hypocritical.
      At the end of the day, I guess it’ll be a gut decision.
      Thanks for your thoughts!! I really appreciate the outside perspective.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I am not in your shoes, but your second update here about your return from Maternity leave sealed it for me. I know what my gut says.

        Unless you hate your current job…I wish you all the best.

      2. Djuna*

        Oh no, really? That’s terrible! That and the lack of benefits would push me towards a “thanks for thinking of me but no thanks” – but that’s me.
        Trusting your gut is a pretty good call here.

      3. Macedon*

        Honestly, if they put you through one bad antecedent, sure, time heals a lot of things, give them a pass. But it sounds as if they did poorly by you twice now, at which point, I’d say no.

      4. Traffic_Spiral*

        I’d say that more job stability on your resume is also important. Even if it’s not your fault, too many short-term positions don’t look good.

  19. Mom MD*

    If someone drinks a cup of coffee no one should go ballistic. Simply inform said coffee drinker to throw a few bucks into the coffee fund. Or buy some sugar or creamer.

    1. CityMouse*

      I have a feeling this is not the first time or an eating crackers situation based on past behavior. The argument coworker is making is so obviously bs that I would guess this person might have taken other stuff before.

    2. Temperance*

      Call it a hunch, but I’m thinking that the person who took the coffee after not contributing is one of the types who refuses to contribute because they shouldn’t have to pay for coffee at work, and who makes a stink about it, and who Does Not Drink That Coffee. That’s why it’s a big deal.

      1. CityMouse*

        It’s never just about one cup of coffee. The excuse is absurd to the point of entitlement.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Or takes ‘just one’ cup of coffee every day, and is always first in line when there is free food..

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Waving off small losses as too petty to complain about is distinct from waving off small gains as too petty for other people to complain about. Ideally everyone waves off small losses and society functions smoothly–but this only works if the small losses are evenly distributed amongst everyone, and there is policing and punishment of any free-loaders. Usually done through public shaming for being free loaders.

        (Also, reminded of a scene on Mad Men where Don decided that Peggy bailing his drunk ass out of jail was an awkward subject of which they would not speak, and Peggy decided that you know what, that was a lot of money for her, and they were going to speak of it and he was going to pay her back.)

  20. Sara*

    Op#1 – I am on the board of a community theater and I believe most in my area operate the same way. Our shows are on weekend and rehearsals start around 7. You’re given the dates of the shows far enough in advance to clear them with your work. It’s unpaid work but if that’s the level of acting you’re looking for, I’ve never seen it raise serious conflicts with performers in our group

  21. K. A.*

    The coffee story sounds straight out of a Man In The Box skit. See “Coffee Club” episode.

  22. Kat*

    Job security and benefits will matter A LOT more than “a challenge” if a layoff happens again. I’ve seen this situation with friends over and over. And, in the US, the company can make plenty of promises and give loads of assurance that they won’t legally be held accountable for. You may want to keep that in mind.

    1. OP#5*

      That’s very true – I did question whether a severance clause in an employment contract would hold up if push came to shove.
      I’m in Canada, for what it’s worth, but the same holds true.
      There would be an employment agreement, which may or may not be the same as it would be in the U.S. but I’m not entirely sure.
      Thanks for your thoughts.

  23. PrincessShrek*

    Wait… US workers don’t have employment contracts? Someone help this dense European wrap their minds around this. I’m just kind of astonished since your contract is, in my experience, your best shield against any nonsense your employer tries to pull. How do things… work? How is it not just chaos? I’m not being facetious, I’m genuinely mind-boggled.

    1. Jemima Bond*

      I was flabbergasted by this too at first (I’m in the UK) and my understanding from this blog and comments is that there is some paperwork e.g. an offer letter setting out pay and benefits, job title etc. Then I gather companies often have employee handbooks setting out the rules of the workplace. In theory yes they can fire you because they don’t like the look on your face that day but a good and reasonable employer won’t do that because it’s bad for business and for recruitment. There are anti-discrimination laws preventing firing for protected characteristics like gender, disability, religion (not sure about sexuality though?) but otherwise unfair dismissal as we know it in Britain is not a thing.
      It’s not all horrors though; apparently a lot of them get free stuff at work like coffee and gifts for long service :-)
      Is that about right, US commenters?

      1. Sled dog mama*

        Sexuality and I believe gender identity as a protected class are still state by state, the others are federally protected classes.

        I’ve lived in the US my whole life and
        the only place I’ve ever had a contract was when I worked as a teacher at a private school (can’t speak to public schools). Even then it specifically said I could be fired for pretty much anything.

        1. deets*

          Correct – my state is unfortunately one of the ones with no protection for sexual orientation or gender identity, so it’s completely legal to fire someone for being gay (or trans, bi, etc). It sucks.

      2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        I’ve always had an employment contract but I’m a physician in the US. In fact, it’s not always to my benefit – one had a 90 day notice clause. I’ve heard of other doctors have a noncompete clause based on physical distance – so if you don’t like your job, you can’t work as a doctor within 100 miles because you might be “stealing” patients for a certain amount of time lik years.

        So even if there is a contract, it often favors the employer and means you need to pay $$ to have a lawyer advocate on your behalf.

      3. Annie Moose*

        re: paperwork and offer letters: yeah that’s about right. Generally speaking, whatever’s in your employee handbook and offer letter are not going to be dramatically changed without warning. I have a set number of vacation days a year, for example; it would be extremely unusual for my employers to lower that. There also are certain jobs that do have contracts, such as freelancers and unionized jobs.

        For all the scary stuff about workers being exploited, I would venture to say most people who aren’t in minimum/low wage positions usually aren’t being treated dishonestly by their employers, for exactly the reason you mention: it’s bad business. We might be being exploited and mistreated by the system as a whole… but that’s a separate discussion. ;)

      4. Iris Eyes*

        Rather than individual agreements there tends to be overarching agreements at varying levels. So there are State and Federal (and sometimes City and County) labor laws. Various government entities that oversee various aspects of the work environment or processes i.e. OSHA. Then there are things like employee handbooks which set the standards company wide. Then there are things like non-compete agreements and other things at the individual level.

        I think it works because by and large the only thing that the other party can do is discontinue the relationship and possibly smear the other party. The employee can just get up and walk out and that would be bad for most businesses. It seems that overall the unemployment rate in the US is generally lower than the EU so that plays to the advantage of the worker, they can usually find another job to put food on the table at least. I also get the impression that some unionized environments can make it difficult to go out and find a job on your own.

        Also even though for some strange reason coorporations are considered persons in the eyes of the law they actually aren’t. Employment decisions are mostly made by someone you have a personal relationship with who has similar fears and values. They don’t want to have to fire people, they don’t want to be fired. They don’t want to have to tell people they got a demotion or benefits taken away or whatever else. That’s why there are consultants that are brought in just to fire people in some cases. Basic human decency will only take you so far but it does generally keep things from getting too far out of hand (presuming there isn’t someone who is a sociopath involved which is a real concern in the business world)

    2. pleaset*

      “I’m just kind of astonished since your contract is, in my experience, your best shield against any nonsense your employer tries to pull.”

      That’s the point – our US legal/political structure is designed to favor business over labor.

      Jemima Bond describes the result pretty well.

      1. CityMouse*

        This is accurate. Life is generally better if you are in government (a government job is considered property under the 14th amendment so you have due process rights) or a union (which many states have gutted and the Supreme Court may be about to gut even more). Discrimination laws can apply but the reality is that the process to invoke them is long, difficult, and costly. US labor law sucks.

    3. Myrin*

      Coincidentally, there was a letter about exactly this topic just last week: Go two pages back, it’s the fourth question of the short-answers-post from 5th April. There’s a comprehensive answer by Alison and lots of discussion in the comments.

    4. martina*

      It bothers me how ever time this topic comes up (stuff like employee contracts or lack of maternity leave laws in America) people from Europe post about how shocked and flabbergasted they are at the lack of protection for American workers.

      We all know this. American workers are aware of this. We don’t need it brought up every. single. time. It feels like just another way non-Americans rub it in. “What do you mean Americans don’t have X at work? Here in Europe we have…”

      It’s been brought up over and over and over on here. I don’t see why there is a need to revisit how superior European employment law is compared to us poor Americans.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Come on now, let’s just take her at her word that she hadn’t known about the difference…I didn’t see her comment on the thread on this topic that Myrin mentions, and actually don’t recognize that commenter name at all, and I’m usually very good with names.

      2. pleaset*

        “We don’t need it brought up every. single. time.”

        There are a lot of things that come up here over and over again:
        How many people hate forced socializing at work.
        How someone saying some amount of money is a lot of money because costs of living vary in different places.
        How driving in snow isn’t a big deal is a huge deal just deal with it yada yada yada.

      3. Come On Eileen*

        This blog likely gets new visitors on a regular basis who wouldn’t be familiar with past conversations. So you can’t really say “we all know this” because it’s just not accurate — nor helpful to someone reading this blog for the first time.

    5. Jam Today*

      It’s not chaos because employers don’t want a chaotic environment. Employers are interested in stability, maybe not as much as their staff, but their desire for a stable, predictable business is definitely not zero. There are notable exceptions, of course, as there are in all things but on the main employer want staff who they can rely on to produce positive business outcomes (by whatever metrics the business uses), and that means low attrition and staff motivated to do good work during their time in the office. That requires that employers actually behave themselves to keep morale up.

      1. Cheryl Blossom*

        This. There are exceptions to the rule but I’m sure not all European companies are perfectly behaved either.

        1. Revolver Rani*

          We (in the US) also have labor laws, which are quite extensive in some states and offer some protections and guarantees to employees, so there is no need to enumerate them in contracts.

          None of this is to say that there are not problems with the US labor system, or that some things don’t work better in Europe. It is just to say that there is an option between “written contract for every job” and “complete free-for-all where employers can shit on laborers without any limits whatsoever.”

    6. Working Mama*

      Yeah, we just, by and large… don’t have shields against employer shenanigans.

      There are, of course, exceptions. Strong unions can protect their members, there are some federal laws banning outright discrimination of certain kinds, and some states have worker protection laws. But there’s a reason you get so many, “…is that legal?!” questions here where the answer is, “Yeah, sorry.”

    7. Wrench Turner*

      Capitalism, baby! That’s our ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ The freedom and to exploit the worker to profit the boss. The liberty of those with money and/or power to get away with it. America, heck yeah!

      It IS chaos for us in the working-class, and America is very much a class/caste system and nobody wants to talk about it. Workers are paid the bare minimum and kept so vulnerable with debt (student debt or debt from just the cost of paying rent, etc.) that we (the vast majority of Americans) usually are only 1 or 2 paychecks away from total poverty and homelessness. We’re too busy surviving and pretending we’re doing just fine to keep up appearances that we don’t have time to organize and fight back on a scale sufficient enough for major changes. Sometimes we can and it’s great but usually not. Most Americans’ pay advances come from changing jobs, not major raises or bonuses.

    8. Just Someone*

      What is an employment contract????? Is it like tenure, like they can’t fire you for 5 years or something?

      1. Jemima Bond*

        A permanent employee in the UK will have a contract which sets down what your job is, broadly speaking (so if you were in say office admin it wouldn’t say “make coffee for Percival Director whenever he wants it” but something more broad about assistant to the director duties etc), your pay and any benefits such as maternity leave over and above state maternity obligations, annual leave (vacation), how sick leave works, and it may state your weekly hours and what overtime pay is. So for example my contract states some stuff about what I do (license to kill etc lol), that I must work 37.5 hours per week, with overtime calculated weekly and payable at time and a half on weekdays or double time at weekends. It states that I am entitled to 32.5 days annual leave (yes this a lot even by uk standards but the explanation is dull) plus eight bank/public holidays, i may take five consecutive days off sick before having to produce a doctors note, that I can take six months maternity leave on full pay and a further six months on half pay, and various other things.
        If the employee breaches this contract (say one is employed as a bin man and then refuses to go near any rubbish, that is them refusing to to what they are contracted to do) they can be sacked, and equally the employer is held to their side – so pay or leave can’t be reduced for example.
        Does that make sense?
        Also there are laws about unfair dismissal so while you can be sacked, there must be a good reason. Constructive dismissal e.g making an employee’s working life such Hell they have to resign) is also illegal (remember the LW who was “unmanaging” his report because he didn’t like her? That would have been a direct admission of illegal activity if he’d been British).
        All in all it’s a contract as in an agreement by two parties, as opposed to with the sense of a fixed term.

    9. Willow Sunstar*

      Here, most contract workers are known as “temps” and actually have fewer protections than “permanent” workers. Many temps also have to buy their own insurance. I was one for 10 years. If there are layoffs, temps are usually the first to get laid off.

      1. Jemima Bond*

        As I describe above, it’s a contract as in an agreement by two parties, as opposed to with the sense of a fixed term.
        We also have temporary contract workers who are on a temporary fixed term contract and usually have fewer benefits such as no paid annual leave, but often a higher rate of pay; but permanent employees have contracts too – permanent ones

  24. NYC Weez*

    OP#1: One thing that a lot of my artist friends overlook is that it’s perfectly do-able to set up exactly the outlet you want. Want to do theater? Set up your own theater company that meets at night/weekends…or even just meets once a month and puts on a show in one day. Same with film, painting, music, dance, etc. You don’t need to wait for someone else to set up exactly what you want to be doing. Just go do it. The beautiful thing about the arts is that you don’t need a really elaborate setup. One of the coolest theater groups I’ve seen put on ad hoc Shakespeare performances in Washington Square Park in NYC. They’d stage scenes all over the park and get people following them from the playground to the fountain to benches to see the full show. Zero overhead, no set performance schedule, just whenever they felt like it. They didn’t even wear costumes or have props.

    It’s an excuse to think that the only way you can be an artist is to be in a very formal, costly arrangement. In fact, one of my favorite quotes is “The only desires that can be denied are those that weren’t very strong to begin with.” If theater is important to you, which it sounds like it is, you will find that there are many clever solutions out there! Good luck!

    1. peachie*

      This is also so true! This sounds so cheesy, but: no one is ever going to give you permission to do something like this. If you want to start producing work on your own, get some friends and set a weekly meeting! That’s really all you have to do to get started. (I will say that doing this is both rewarding and exhausting, but–it can be done!)

  25. Mookie*

    I’m not planning to quit and become famous or anything, just to act in a few shows a year while also holding down a steady career.

    That’s genuinely what most people do, whether they work sporadically and selectively for the rest of their days or whether they desire and eventually can afford to become professional. There’s a long tradition, especially outside of the US, of working-class actors, theatrical and cinematic alike, who obtained grants for training in state-funded arts, design, and dramatic schools along with other assistance (like waived or subsidized fees), but who never left their day-jobs. It’s even more viable if the career-based work doesn’t require too much travel, is not physically grueling, and the hours are regular.

    1. CityMouse*

      I have a friend who is decently successful (theater, some TV movies) but her day job is teaching. Acting to where you don’t need another job can be rare.

      1. Squeegee Beckenheim*

        I’ve known two different people who were very active in local theater and they’re both preschool teachers. Seems like fixed daytime hours are a big help for making theater schedules work.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, I’m pretty dialed in to our local theater community and the vast majority of the people I know hold a regular job and do theater as a side gig. Of course, we have a lot of community theater and small professional companies which primarily rely on people like that.

  26. sssssssssss*

    And this is why employers should provide coffee, and at least half-decent coffee too. Using pods or other machines that provide single servings (my place has this huge machine that serves freshly ground single servings) reduces the “who finished the pot and didn’t make a new one?” cries but it ain’t as green. Most office supply catalogues even sell coffee and condiments, making it easy to order supplies. Or the company can really splurge on a coffee supply company that drops in, checks your inventory and then delivers your coffee on a schedule.

    Because work time spent on chasing money or fretting/flipping out about those who drink but don’t participate is not work time well spent.

    1. Short & Dumpy*

      Government offices are absolutely prohibited (with very very few exceptions) from providing beverages or food.

      If you go to a government meeting and there are coffee and snacks, those were paid for out of someone’s pocket.

      1. Amber T*

        On an interesting note, I work for a private finance firm that offers snacks and coffee and the like. One of the things we have to prepare for is an examination by the government, and if/when that happens, we’ve been told offering food/drinks could be considered bribery. So show them where the water and bathrooms are, but that’s it.

        1. sssssssssssssssss*

          I worked for a para governmental agency that also had that philosophy. But the staff would accept…but never use. There were a couple of boxes of Purell hand sanitizers that they wouldn’t use “because we cannot accept payment of any kind” but they wouldn’t return them and the box just sat in the closet forever.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            For me, that’s when things find new homes. Maybe my home, maybe not, but letting something sit until some future person decides to toss it out is just wasteful.

      2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I work for the state government. In our state, you can use state funds for food and beverages (except alcohol), but not federal (the only exception being per diem when traveling, and even then, alcohol is excepted). The department I work in is almost exclusively funded with federal money, but other departments in our particular branch of government are funded by the state. Which ends up meaning that if My Department provides an all-day training, participants get diddly squat (maaaaybe water, if the venue provides it free), but if Other Department provides the training, participants get a catered lunch and two snacks.

    2. einahpets*

      My current office has found a happy medium — there is a big pot of coffee for those that aren’t picky (and it is really decent coffee) and then a smaller keurig-like machine that makes tiny little cups for those that just need to have something that isn’t the communal cup. My last two offices had Keurig-like machines and I always felt guilty about the waste — it is nice to have another option.

      But I’ve never actually worked anywhere that didn’t supply coffee.

  27. Jane D'oh*

    All of these posts about coffee wars and machines at work are so interesting to me. I don’t consume coffee or anything with caffeine in it so I had no idea this is such s big thing or that people would get so touchy about coffee (not referring to the people here in the comments, but the people in some of their stories)

    Also I have never worked in a place where the company provided a coffee machine or employees were allowed to bring one in. If anyone wanted coffee (or another beverage) they would have to bring it in or go out to get it. No kettles or coffee parts are provided. This probably cuts down on the coffee wars though I had no actually thought about it until now after reading these comments.

    1. Wrench Turner*

      Caffeine addiction is a big thing. Real big. Sometimes the cost of keeping a bare-minimum coffee service is less than the cost of lost productivity from sleepy/angry/headachey workers or people leaving all the time to get more.

      1. Roger that*

        I’m not American or from the west, and it’s wild to me that caffiene addiction is so wildly accepted when alcohol and drug addiction is not. It’s an addiction just as much as the other stuff is

        1. einahpets*

          Seriously? To me it is pretty obvious that the stigma of other addictions (which I recognize are often a physical disorder in themselves) is the impact they have on the people around them in addition to the impairment they cause when someone is under the influence of one.

          Driving while caffeinated doesn’t result in danger to those around you. Where I live, just a few years ago, a young man drank too much, drove wrong way down the interstate, and killed two medical students and injured three more. In the town I’m in now, there have been multiple pedestrian collisions where either the driver or pedestrian were under the influence. Equating getting a caffeine headache to the impact of an alcoholic or drug user who thinks he/she can drink and then drive is… insane to me.

          Also, on tobacco — I’ve had family members who have died of lung cancer. I strongly side eye smoking in public because I don’t want to be exposed to the thing that took my grandfather away from me before I could even get to know him. I don’t want my children exposed to it, either.

          1. Oxford Coma*

            While you are correct about the second-hand effects and the social stigma, the personal chemistry of caffeine addiction is incredibly powerful and quite interesting. It’s a stimulant enabler that causes the brain to grow more adenosine receptors, and creates a cycle of increasing tolerance.

            Caffeine withdrawal was actually added to the DSM in 2013, so clinically it isn’t taken lightly .

            1. einahpets*

              Sure, I understand the science of caffeine (one of my favorite classes in grad school was in neuropsychopharmacology), but ‘Roger that’ was wondering why it is generally accepted as a mild thing while other addictions are not.

              Just like everything in the DSM, something is a disorder when it is causing harm or serious disruption to oneself or others. For most people, caffeine withdrawal is headaches and mild grouchiness. It is an addiction, but it isn’t one that causes bodily harm to people in a large portion of the population so my understanding is that it would be diagnosed as such.

              Everything we consume changes our chemistry somehow. I’ve been slowly removing most animal products from my diet, and I was blown away by how much my mood has changed with that – we have microbes in our gut that literally can change our brain chemistry.

            2. Not a Morning Person*

              Equating addictions is not productive. Just like most alcohol consumers are not alcoholics, most coffee drinkers won’t suffer or cause harm to others when they don’t get their morning “fix”. Most.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          Yup, but it’s a very very mild addiction. Withdrawal earns you a headache, unlike alcohol withdrawal, which is hospital-time. Plus it’s a delicious beverage. Plus it’s not a thing you can die from, unlike things in pills and needles.

          1. Jennifer*

            Doris Egan wrote a book called the Ivory Trilogy. The middle book features a gang of bandits kidnapping as much of their coffee drink equivalent as they possibly could until the government agreed to let them go and have their freedom instead of going to jail.

            People are THAT obsessed with coffee.

            I wish I thought it was delicious, but to me it tastes like dirty socks and bitter. I get wanting the caffeine, but genuinely finding it tasty? I’m so at a loss.

        3. smoke tree*

          I think the history of drug stigma is a really interesting one. My knowledge is pretty rudimentary, but my understanding is that drug laws often evolved around prevailing public sentiment at the time they were enacted, and were often racially motivated–such as opium being banned because it was so associated with Chinese American communities.

          Also, I can’t help but think that heavy caffeine consumption is sanctioned in North America for the same reason that British factory workers were traditionally encouraged to take tea breaks and consume a lot of sugar–it increased the amount of work they could do.

      2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

        Caffeine is one of the ways I treat my ADHD. It doesn’t make me energetic/hyper; it actually helps my body and mind to slow down and be able to actually focus on something.

    2. Tardigrade*

      That your workplaces did not have a coffee machine seems atypical to me (but maybe not?). Coffee in the workplace is so ubiquitous that it’s in every office show and movie that I can think of, as well as being available in all my workplaces.

    3. Parenthetically*

      I’ve never worked in a place without a coffee maker at the very least! I’d be interested to know what sorts of jobs wouldn’t have that.

      1. Eye of Sauron*

        I worked in one. It was my first job out of college on a trading line/call center. Since it was my first professional job it just didn’t occur to me that it was weird. In fairness I’ve never seen an office since that didn’t have a coffee maker.

      2. Anie*

        Retail and long-term healthcare facilities, in my experience. Hospitals and acute care settings always have coffee, both provided by the facility and supplemented by employees. In long-term care settings (nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc) it’s pretty common to not have it. I’ve worked places where coffee was brewed for residents but staff were not allowed to touch it, and in places where staff was welcome to help themselves to coffee- but the only coffee brewed onsite was decaf.

        In these settings people tend to have their own personal coffee makers in their offices or in the suite for their department- but that’s a highly individual thing.

      3. Judy (since 2010)*

        Places large enough to have cafeterias. Usually the contracts are written such that they are the only suppliers for food and drinks, except for particular vending machines. At a past employer, our department had to pay the cafeteria vendor when we ordered outside pizza for an all day meeting.

    4. soon to be former fed*

      Coffee is sacred. I am admittedly addicted to caffeine, but it’s not just that I love the taste and ritual too. When I worked in the office, I had a mini-brewer of my own on my desk and avoided all the drama. The break room setup was nasty and the coffee was low quality. I have never worked anywhere without some type of coffee setup (and hot water for tea, hot chocolate,etc.), but I have always worked for large employers. Even my dentist has a Keurig in the waiting room, although drinking hot beverages before or after dental procedures doesn’t appeal to me. It’s just a conventional welcoming gesture.

  28. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, maybe this was mentioned but one thing you can do is ask people who are involved in shows or plays that you see now what their regular jobs are, how flexible it is, etc… That should give you some idea of what’s out there

  29. Triplestep*

    #4 – Alison’s interpretation of the question “Do you have friends here?” made sense (and the letter-writer’s answer was good – it covered a lot very simply) but as someone whose kids are graduating and potentially relocating, I’ve wondered about if this question could be asked for other reasons. Do companies worry that young candidates have applied for the “wrong” reasons? Could a question about knowing people in the employer’s city really be a question to gauge a candidate’s interest in the company/field? The employer could just be trying to figure out if the candidate simply needs a job to move to the city on account of his or her BF/GF/friends, and is not really committed to the company or role.

    Just yesterday we had a LW who relocated somewhere close to where her BF was raised, and after 2.5 months is looking for a new job. Not that I blame her – I’d be doing the same with that commute! But I do think there’s room for employers to be asking candidates about “friends” in their city for reasons other than support system. I think the answer given by LW#4 would probably work well under those scenarios, too, but in a similar situation, I would not disclose that I was following friends or a BF/GF to the new city.

    1. SansaStark*

      I was kind of thinking the same thing. I had an interviewer ask me a similar question when I was young and that’s what I thought she was asking so I hedged around with a non-answer. Finally she said what she meant, which was “we’re a small office of middle-aged women so if you need your coworkers to be your real-life friends who go out with you on a Friday night, then this isn’t going to be the right fit for you.” I was shocked. Nope, I have a ton of friends and don’t need that from my coworkers. I’m glad she was just honest about what she wanted to know. I fit right in and loved that job.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      The employer could just be trying to figure out if the candidate simply needs a job to move to the city on account of his or her BF/GF/friends, and is not really committed to the company or role.

      Their local candidates are probably applying for reasons like “I need to pay rent and buy food” rather than a deep commitment to a company at which they haven’t worked. I really wouldn’t spend any time worrying about this.

      1. Frank Doyle*

        I would think that moving to a city where you have friends is MORE of a commitment than moving to a city where you don’t know anyone.

        1. Triplestep*

          For a student just starting out? The commitment could just as easily be to the friends and SO before the job or company.

          Either way, I think the answer the LW is gave is good because it doesn’t get too personal, and can be read well by either type of employer: The ones who want to make sure you have a support system, and the ones who what to make sure you’re not just using your first job in the city to fund your move and imminent next job search.

        2. Jacksonian*

          OP mentioned they are going through campus recruiting which has a different dynamic to it in that companies from different places are coming to a college campus to interview and hire. Sometimes while students are desperate to get any job it doesn’t dawn on them that this particular position is geographically isolated from everyone they know. I think the recruiter just tries to put that out there for the student to get them to really think about if that’s what they want.

      2. Triplestep*

        @Falling: Local candidates already have a stake in the city and company, and are not likely to leave after a short time. People relocating to be with friends or a BF/GF could easily be painted as a riskier choice.

  30. AdAgencyChick*

    NYC is full of aspiring actors who need to work some other job to pay the bills, so I see it happen, even in advertising, which has notoriously unpredictable hours that are unfriendly to rehearsals and performances.

    However, the people who do this tend to be in support roles. If our admin isn’t available after 5:30, that’s not such a big deal. The copy editors work across accounts and their role is needed all the time, so they set up rotating shifts and I’ve seen some actors ask for and get a shift rotation that allows them to be free on nights they have performances and working nights when they don’t. But if an account exec or copywriter says “I need set hours,” they’ll get laughed out of the room because they work on specific accounts and you can’t plan as well for when exactly the work is going to go past normal business hours.

    I’ve been somewhat of an exception — I am in a performing arts group and have been for more than 10 years of my advertising career. I did ask my boss the first time I joined a group whether it was ok that one day a week, I’d need to leave by 6. He was supportive. Since then I’ve been pretty assertive with colleagues about letting them know I have a limitation one day a week. It helps that it’s ONLY one day a week, and I’m available for nights the other four. Also, I’m now senior enough that I get to decide who covers what night, so I make my direct reports take that day (and I in turn almost always take Fridays, the day nobody else wants to work late, so I do try to be fair about it). It does sometimes cause friction still, especially when an account exec wants to work with me personally that evening and they’re getting someone more junior instead. I almost always win in these conflicts, but I’ve had years to practice building my backbone :)

  31. Jam Today*

    That coffee situation is astoundingly ungenerous. If there is a coffee machine, and a few people do a whip-round for coffee supplies, and the brewed coffee is in a central shared location accessible to everyone, I would also assume the coffee is a shared comestible. Who the hell hoards a pot of coffee that they chipped in what, a few dollars for? (Petty people, that’s who.)

    1. Temperance*

      I would argue that the person who refused to chip in to the coffee fund and still took coffee is the petty one here.

      I kind of hope that LW comes in to clarify, but it sounds like they work in a warehouse/machine shop/other union or blue collar environment. In my experience, some people in those environments can get obnoxiously legalistic about what is or is not their job, and as an extension of that, would be happy to screw over their colleagues with the coffee fund because they shouldn’t have to pay for coffee.

        1. Temperance*

          It used the word “shop” in a way that you wouldn’t use it for a retail environment.

          1. fposte*

            Unless it’s not in the US, in which case it’s exactly how it’s used for retail. I don’t think we’re going to know this one.

      1. Lindsay J*

        I didn’t get that impression at all, and that has not at all been my experience in working in warehouses.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m with Temperance–the pettiness is in saying “Oh I never use the general coffee” when it’s time to chip in, and then “Why look, a pot of coffee has produced itself in the wild, free to all comers. I’ll just have a cup.”

      1. Parenthetically*

        Particularly irritating to me just at the moment is the justification of the company owning the coffee pot, as though that had anything to do with it.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Who the hell hoards a pot of coffee that they chipped in what, a few dollars for? (Petty people, that’s who.)

      If coffee is so cheap, and it’s petty to worry about such a small amount of money, then why can’t the coffee-stealer contribute that same miniscule amount of money?

      1. Parenthetically*

        I can absolutely see being benevolent about it short term — new employee, say, or someone who normally gets Charbucks on the way in but was running late and is desperate before an important meeting — and I think most reasonable people would be. Which is what makes me think this wasn’t a short-term or one-off thing.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Right. And attitude matters, too. I’d be a lot more generous with someone who said “I’m dying! Can I please grab a cup of coffee before the World’s Most Boring Meeting?” than someone who said “Pffft, it’s just a piddly cup of coffee, why should you care if I’m not paying for it?”

      2. fposte*

        Yeah, that’s the thing to me–in face to face life, the people who say “Why are you making a fuss over a small deal/a couple of pennies?” are usually the people who are gaining the advantage, not taking the loss.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think it’s ungenerous. It looks that way if you think it of as a single cup of coffee out of all the coffee brewed over a day / week, but it multiplies up pretty fast if you have more than one person taking what they haven’t contributed to.

      If you have 20 people in the office and they all chip in then the cost if probably only a couple of dollars a week. If you have 20 people in the office, and only 10 of them chip in, but each the other 10 take ‘just one’ cup each, then the price doubles for the one who are paying, and it’s not unreasonable for them to feel they are being taken advantage of. And even if the number of non-paying people who take coffee is lower , it still has an impact.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      So a “whip-round” is some sort of colloquial expression for “way to get other people to pay for something for me”? In my experience, people who expect things are just taken care of for them also believe that the dish fairy cleans the crud-encrusted items they regularly leave in the sink. Because how petty, to make a fuss over one mug!

      1. fposte*

        A whip-round is basically just passing the hat. I think the “whip” is about quickness, not about lashing.

      2. Jam Today*

        Whip-round is the same as “pass the hat” — maybe you’re more familiar with that expression.

        The letter referred to a single cup of coffee. Maybe that person had a hard night and needed a cup of joe to keep them vertical. Maybe they were having a hard day and wanted a little something nice. Maybe they were new. Maybe they just really wanted a cup of coffee.

        Since people are so insistent on creating a whole cinematic universe that is not supported by the letter, I’m going to create one too, and I’m calling the coffee-freakout-person ungenerous and petty.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          And I don’t see “I never drink coffee… unless I happen to be tired” or “I never drink coffee… unless I happen to need a little something nice” or “I never drink coffee… unless I happen to want a cup of coffee” as reasons to take other people’s coffee. That they paid for, that you refused to, because “I never drink coffee.”

          The new person I give a pass on not realizing there was a pay-in-coffee-out system, but there’s nothing in the letter about the coffee enjoyer not realizing there were rules around the coffee. Just whether there should be rules when the coffee was, after all, enjoyed, and the company paid for the electricity that heated it.

        2. Parenthetically*

          “If a pot of coffee is brewed with company machine, using employees’ coffee, is the resulting brewed coffee the company’s or the employees’?”

          This language is why people think the coffee thief/coffee enjoyer is in the wrong. Of course the coffee belongs to the employees who purchased and made it, and it’s ludicrous to suggest otherwise; thus the inference that the coffee thief is engaging in a whole lot of self-indulgent justification.

          It’s possible the entire office is populated with the world’s pettiest caffeine addicts, and the coffee thief was desperate for a hit before a meeting, but that seems less likely given the actual contents of the letter IMO.

          1. Jam Today*

            The letter specified that a single person was upset. If we’re going to only stick to facts in evidence, and not carry on inventing an entire story arc, its probably worth mentioning that.

            1. Macedon*

              The letter is unclear on the coffee drinker’s reaction on being caught. Based off OP’s summary — with some insinuation that the OP might have been the drinker — it sounds as if the drinker may have made the case that the coffee doesn’t belong to the employees but is a shared good in virtue of using the office coffee brewer (stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, unless the drinker also feels other employees should be at liberty to use his personal mobile phone every time he charges it at work).

              If this was the drinker’s attitude, then quite frankly, they deserve to get roasted. It’s one thing to be in the wrong about something silly, say mea culpa, offer compensation then carry on. It’s another thing entirely to mess up, then try to figure out bizarrely convoluted ways to prove you were right all along.

              And can we walk away from this ideas that the victims of theft are ‘ungenerous’? If you catch someone teasing a dollar out of your pocket, should you apologise to them for making a big deal about it because hey, you’ve got another hundred in your purse?

              1. Someone else*

                Right, the kicker for me is if the issue with the drinker were “oops I didn’t realize this was a pay-in scenario”, they’d have said not, not given the argument that the office owns the machine therefore it’s communical no matter what. If the drinker didn’t use that defense, then I’m not sure why the LW mentioned the company-owning-the-machine. So either, the drinker was known to have known it was not communal, and chose to drink it anyway with a wishy washy argument that in fact it must be communal OR the drinker made an honest mistake but when confronted, seems to have doubled-down. Like if you get caught and your answer is “I thought it was communal because X” but at no point do you accept that no it is not because a specific group of people paid for the drink themselves, even if the Upset Person overreacted, the Drinker is also in the wrong.

        3. LBK*

          I don’t think it’s worth making a big deal over one cup, but if the coffee drinker’s justification is not any of the above but rather “it’s free for me to drink because it belongs to the company” as seems to be asserted in the letter, that’s not right.

    6. soon to be former fed*

      No one is hoarding anything. It’s petty not to contribute, it’s only twenty five cents a cup in my office and some folks don’t even want to pay that. They tend to be the same ones to take the last cup and not make more, or leave a mess. Just rude and inconsiderate all the way around.

  32. Working Mama*

    Hi there, OP #1! I managed to change careers entirely after 30 because of the creative pursuits I was able to do around my day jobs in my 20s. (Right around my 31st birthday, I got a job offer to do the creative thing full-time instead.) And I’ve continued to do ensemble instrumental performance (I always was better in the pit orchestra than on the stage ;) ) with the full time job and a spouse and a kid and another kid pending this year. My parents, now in their 60s and 70s, continued to follow their creative pursuits through my entire childhood and after I moved out.

    So I know it looks scary from the vantage point of college, but: You’re good.

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    I remember when ’80s tennis champion Ivan Lendl first came to the US (it may have been for the US open, or perhaps for a lesser tournament) from Czechoslovakia, he was shocked at the fact that US employees didn’t have contracts, in sharp contrast to European workers. He also expressed dismay at the lack of vacation and sick time we get here in the US.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      In my head cannon the writer is a tea drinker but closer friends with the non-paying coffee drinker than with the coffee funders, and this is safely academic to them.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      As a tea drinker, I agree!

      But I’ve been remembering that for a 2-year period in my government office I would occasionally steal sugar from the office coffee club. It’s government so everything like coffee is paid for by the employees, and I never figured out who managed the coffee club on my floor. I usually drink my tea unsweetened, but every once in a while I just wanted a sweet cup and would take a spoonful from the 5 lb bag of sugar by the coffee machine.

      I feel guilty for never chipping in, but I probably used less than a quarter cup of sugar over two years, so I don’t spend a lot of time beating myself up over it.

      1. Stacy*

        On the flip-side, in the places where coffee/tea exists in my workplace it has always been provided by the company. I think. Maybe I’ve been an occasional tea or sugar stealer and never knew it. I bring my own tea because I’m picky, and I don’t deal well with processed white sugar or sugar replacements (my body is ridiculously sensitive), so I usually bring my own raw sugar to have a stash of that at work too, but every once in a while you’ve gotta do what you gotta do and sometimes that means an extra-strong 3:00pm black tea from the staff kitchen with whatever sweetener is at hand.

        Oblivious Diva of Hot Caffeinated Office Beverages at your service.

    3. Millennial Lawyer*

      Check out some of the water wars posts – not even tea is safe! Fortunately in my government office there’s a water fountain so I can use that with my own tea kettle.

  34. AvonLady Barksdale*

    OP #1: My situation is somewhat similar to AdAgencyChick’s– I’m also in a performing group, with rehearsals once a week (at least) and performances several times a year. I established early on that my regular rehearsal night was crucial, and it’s always been respected. Like some other people have pointed out, your co-workers might play in sports leagues or coach or volunteer. I’ve found that almost everyone has some sort of side gig, whether it’s a regular activity or protected time with their kids. YMMV, of course. There have been nights when I’ve worked late, there’s been travel, so I’ve had to miss rehearsals occasionally, but it’s always worked. When I started earning a good amount of PTO, I started taking PTO on performance days. I also took two-week vacations for tours some summers; sometimes my boss didn’t love it, but he never said no.

    Basically, even outside of a performing arts-adjacent career, it can be done! Might take some flexibility on your part and getting the lay of the land down before you audition, but it can absolutely work.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Yes to PTO on performance days! Not as easy to do early in your career when you might have only a small number of days to work with, but very nice if you can. So much more relaxing not to have to run from the office to the performance venue in full show drag.

      Also, a lot of the friction I run into nowadays is that my client is a half day’s travel (each way) away, and one of the higher ups loves to demand my presence at relatively unimportant meetings. If I have to miss a rehearsal for a really crucial meeting, okay. But if I start getting stink eye because I ask to call in for a lesser meeting instead of attending live, or not go at all, people back down a lot faster when I say I’d already requested PTO for that day.

  35. Parenthetically*

    Bless your heart, LW#1! In my 20 or so years in the working world, I’ve only really had one job that would have conflicted with weekend/evening practices and performances, and that one only occasionally. My husband too — he leaves work at 4:30 every day and doesn’t have a single work-related responsibility until 8 the next morning. Jobs like that really are out there.

  36. MLB*

    #3 – unless it happens frequently, let it go. It’s not worth it. This is why single serve coffee machines work better when a group is sharing it – everyone brings in their own coffee and nobody gets bent out of shape .
    #5 – I wouldn’t even consider going to a company that has laid me off twice in the past. You may not be 100% happy at your current job, but you have a family to support. If they really want you back, they’re likely to tell you what you want to hear instead of the truth. And good benefits are nothing to sneeze at. Maybe this is what you needed to start looking for a new job if your current one doesn’t challenge you or provide growth.

    1. OP#5*

      You’re absolutely right. If I was enjoying my job more I wouldn’t think twice about going back! And… If I’m not challenged at my current job – that’s kind of on me. Before I think about leaving, shouldn’t I seek out new challenges in the job I’m at, and be more pro-active?
      Great, thought-provoking comment. Thank you! you.

      1. MLB*

        You’re very welcome! Good luck. At my last job, my manager mentioned to me that others on my team asked her why I was still there since I complained so much about how much things bothered me. It was a kick in the pants to start looking for a new job and I’m happy to say I escaped and am much happier in my new place.

  37. Fabulous*

    #1 – For real, are you me??? I majored in Theatre, minored in Business, and have an M.A. in Arts Administration.

    I thought that I had decent prospects after school as well in terms of getting an arts-related job, but I have yet to do so and I’m 10 years outside of school. Obviously it all matters where you are in the country and how much you’re willing to sacrifice for it. I know many of my peers in school are working in the field, but I want to let you know that it’s not always going to be possible. You’re likely going to need to work in another field at one point or another in order to live. That was a big part of why I passed up a couple opportunities that may have set me up for long term success in the arts… a $200/week (or month) paycheck is not sustainable when you need $2,000/month to live.

    The good news about all of this is though, I’ve continued acting throughout it all! Most jobs don’t have an issue with you leaving early on show days as long as you let them know in advance. You may need to take PTO, but as long as you request it ahead of time you shouldn’t have a problem. Additionally, if you’re not working in the field, you likely aren’t working evenings or weekends (unless you’re in a service job.)

    Also now, even though I’m still not working in the field (even after my Masters *grumble grumble*) I serve on the Board of Directors for a local community theatre, which kind of scratches that itch. So, in short, it’s possible to have it all — and by “all” I mean a job that pays the bills, time to do shows, and still be involved in the administration of nonprofit arts organizations.

    I would just advise you to set realistic expectations because it can be really difficult if you base your success on whether or not you’re working in the field. I did that for years and was constantly disappointed when it didn’t happen.

    1. Wrench Turner*

      “I would just advise you to set realistic expectations because it can be really difficult if you base your success on whether or not you’re working in the field. I did that for years and was constantly disappointed when it didn’t happen.”

      This is really, really good and helpful, thank you. Also your $200/wk paycheck is pretty on the money for some show stipends I’ve seen.

  38. Linda Evangelista*

    OP1 – I have a good friend who does this! He works in advertising/marketing, and finds time to do several community productions of musicals throughout the year. Granted, he has a ton of energy (I wish I had that), but its totally doable. Good luck!

  39. Wrench Turner*

    Letter writer #1 – In short, YES! YOU CAN DO THIS! I BELIEVE IN YOU!

    I did theatre production for 20 years and many, many, many of the very talented performers I had the joy to work with also had ‘day jobs’ that were steady and allowed them to perform nights and weekends. I also worked at an Arts non-profit that allowed me to work on my own visual art nights and weekends.

    BUT – and it’s a big one- it can be real hard. Demands from both can wear you out fast and leave you without time or brain space to take care of yourself. You’ll probably have to make a choice at some point between careers. You already know that the performing arts can be very demanding, but being 100% for a career elsewhere can be too. If you want to keep it at as hobby, that’s great! There are tons of community and smaller theaters that would love to have you and you’ll have a ball performing in. I got to polish my design-on-a-budget skills there, too, and loved it! If, like I did, you decide “I’m an artist” (performing or otherwise), then you’ll have to get in your brain that your ‘day job’ is actually just a 2nd job and your loyalties to it will change. There is zero shame in getting whatever other job to pay the bills while you work on your art and don’t be afraid to change it for something more convenient or lucrative. Companies are rarely as loyal to you as they expect you to be to them.

    Give yourself some time to explore. Have fun. Break a leg! I believe in you!

  40. Arts Admin*

    #1 I’ve been in arts admin at a large organization for years, and a manager. This is a challenging yet rewarding career path if you love the arts. If you are planning to pursue the business side of the arts full-time, you will not be able pursue artistic projects outside of your job as much as other career paths might allow – especially if you are working on the business side full-time. Art admins are frequently required to be available for shows and events, work loads are high meaning that you frequently put in extra hours – even when there’s not a show/event.

  41. MCMonkeyBean*

    #1 – That’s what community theater is for! Most of the people participating will have full time jobs. You could probably be a lot more flexible than you think. Like leaving right at 5 is probably not even necessary unless you work very far from home. I’m an accountant full time and my hours are generally 8:30-5:30. Right now I’m in a community theater production and rehearsals have mostly been from 7-10 at night and occasional Sunday afternoons. I have never had any issues with scheduling. In fact since the rehearsal spaces are downtown and so is my office, I’ve been staying at my desk for an extra hour most nights and just eating dinner at the office before heading off to rehearsal.

    Break a leg! :)

  42. Cass*


    I also think that you can prioritize your life over your career. It might mean foregoing some upward mobility, but the reward is more personal time. I have no desire to be the person in charge, I’d much rather go home at the end of the day and do my own thing.

  43. Lindsay J*

    #1. Pretty much everyone I’ve met in community theater that is an adult has some sort of professional job. There are some jobs that it won’t work for – big law, software development, consulting, things of that nature where you either have crazy 12 hour days all the time, irregular crunch times with crazy overtime, or extensive travel. Most other jobs, you can leave at 5 to go to rehearsals, etc. And if the job is looking for some overtime or weekend work, generally it is okay to push back at least some of the time and say “I have outside commitments that mean that I can’t do that this month.”

    And once you’re in a job, you’ll generally be able to get a sense of, “okay, April is our big conference every year, so I shouldn’t audition for the play that rehearses through March and runs in April. But I can audition for the June/July and September/October commitments. I don’t want to try to do December/January because I’ll have office parties and I’ll be traveling to see my family. But I can work box office or usher a couple weeks for the March/April and December/January shows.”

  44. WorkRobot*

    #1: Despair not: It’s possible to have both lives. I practice karate, have done for years, and I have a regular 8–5 job. I attend class at night and on weekends. It works!

  45. Dust Bunny*

    1. My hours are 7:30 -4:30 and I’m *not allowed* to work overtime unless it’s an even that’s planned well in advance.

    2. If it’s a public coffee maker, either the made coffee is fair game or the person who made it should only make enough for themselves and not bogart the carafe by letting it sit there undrunk but also not letting anyone else have it. If you don’t want to share your grounds, get a mini coffee maker for yourself.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      If it’s a public coffee maker, either the made coffee is fair game or the person who made it should only make enough for themselves and not bogart the carafe by letting it sit there undrunk but also not letting anyone else have it.

      I don’t this this is an apt description of what’s going on. It doesn’t sound like someone’s try to hold a public coffee maker hostage, and that there are multiple people who would like make to put their own coffee in it. If that were the case, I’d agree with you, but it sounds more this rogue coffee drinker isn’t interested in making a pot from coffee they purchased, they simply want to drink the coffee that others have paid for.

  46. BRR*

    #1 It’s definitely possible to keep acting! Part of it will be the type of job you’re applying for. Some require evening and weekend work but in my experience that should be in the job description.

  47. Imaginary Number*

    OP #3: It’s one thing if someone has a private keurig stash that a couple people contribute to and it’s limited to those people. I do think it’s another thing entirely when making a full pot of coffee using the company-provided machine. That doesn’t mean the coffee “belongs to the company” but it’s generally accepted that food/beverages left out to share in a break area are open to everyone, not just those who have contributed communal food in the past. Especially for something as cheap as coffee. If your coworker is so concerned about it, then they should keep their coffee packets in a desk drawer.

    I have been involved in an office “donut club” in the past, where a different person signed up to bring in donuts each week and brought enough for everyone in the donut club. It was well understood that if you weren’t in the donut club then you didn’t get first dibs. That being said, no one was actually patrolling this and there was never any lack of donuts. Also, that’s a bit more of a specifically limited supply vs. a cup of coffee.

  48. AnitaJ*

    OP1 – Yes, this is possible! A few tips from someone who holds down a 9-5 and acts professionally:

    – I found a day job that didn’t require a lot of emotional energy (or, to be honest, intellectual effort). I can do my work quickly and easily, and at the end of the day, I pack it up and go to rehearsal without working about it.

    – Prove yourself early at the day job as a dedicated worker: this mean may not doing shows for the first 6-8 months, but you’ll get a track record of reliability, so it’s easier later to ask for time off for EPAs or daytime tech, or whatever.

    – Prepare yourself to be tired a lot when you’re in production. It’s not just the hours you’re putting in, it’s the energy. It takes coordination and planning to hold down a day job, do a show, and handle life maintenance like laundry and cleaning and food prep. Take care of yourself.

    – If you don’t want to hold down a 9-5, you don’t have to. You can do what a lot of my friends do and hustle: dog-walking, standardized patient work, background work, nannying, teaching, etc. Just know that you’ll be putting a lot of work into keeping your finances in order (esp around tax season).

    OK, I know nobody asked me, but. I hope this helps a little. And MERDE! I believe in you. Go find that joy!

  49. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

    I don’t know anything about non-profits, but if you want exact hours, the federal government is a possible way to go. At least in the US, that is. I work core hours of 8.5 hours per day with a 30 minute lunch, five days per week. It’s 80 hours per week. Anything more is overtime and our union is really strict about that. So except in circumstances where we do mandatory overtime, most of my office works 6am to 2:30 pm M-F.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It’s 80 hours per week. Anything more is overtime and our union is really strict about that.

      Whoa. You need a better union. ;-)

      1. soon to be former fed*

        Fed here, the poster definitely means eighty hours a pay period. My agency also has a credit hours arrangement where hours over eighty can be accumulated to a maximum of twenty-four. This is different from overtime and comp time which is at time and a half, credit hours are straight time. People love credit hours because you can bank leave, and credit hours can be used for sickness or whatever.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          (I knew the poster didn’t mean 80 hours/week. Sorry the smiley didn’t make that clear.)

  50. StarMan*

    OP1, just as an anecdote, I have a friend who is an environmental engineer with a very tough schedule. Despite this, she’s able to perform in community theatre musicals multiple times a year – last year she starred in Legally Blonde.

    Given your industry is arts-centric, I’m sure you’ll have even more flexibility to accomplish this, as they’ll have an appreciation for the arts and an understanding of those who wish to perform. Good luck!

  51. Blue Cupcake*

    The company is nice to provide a coffee machine, but the coffee belongs to the employees to paid for it.

    Look at it this way. If you put a food in the company provided microwave, does it mean it’s fair game? No. So that should also apply to coffee too. It’s not fair to those who pay week after week.

    Perhaps there can be a lock-box next to the pot for those who only want a cup once in a blue moon to toss 50 cents in, but that only works if that person is not a moocher.

    1. Blue Cupcake*

      I forgot to add that I dislike statements like “it’s just one cup of coffee.” Little things like that build up resentment over time. Would you tell a grocery store “it’s only one grape?”

        1. Blue Cupcake*

          Doesn’t make it right and the store has a right to resent you and tell you to stop, just like the coffee buyers has a right to resent moochers.

          1. Blue Cupcake*

            It’s “only” one grape until the dozens or hundred of customers per day decide to sample “only one. don’t be so petty.” Like shoplifters, it ends up jacking up the price for the rest of us.
            Like the office coffee, maybe if the moocher(s) pay for their fair share, then the fees won’t cost as much per person in the club.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        I’d say grapes are different because usually the person just wants to see if the grapes are worth buying – stores give samples for a reason. The office worker isn’t sampling, he’s just taking.

    2. Blue Cupcake*

      I forgot to add that I dislike statements like “it’s only one cup” or “it’s so petty.” That’s basically saying “first world problems” and we should not care about anything at all unless it involves life or death.

      Of course there are more important things to worry about but it’s little things like this that make up life. Why else do parents get upset about dirty dishes or socks on the floor? Does dishes and socks really matter in the big scheme of life? Should grocery stores accept “it’s only one grape?”

  52. PuppiesKittensIceCream*

    LW#1 – Alison’s advice is spot on. I performed in numerous theater productions in NYC for years while I worked day jobs. Especially for theater where there is no or low pay, pretty much everyone has regular office jobs, and the auditions, rehearsals, and performances are all evenings or weekends to accommodate this. She is right that in certain fields you wouldn’t be able to, but most office jobs easily allow for you to have evenings and weekends free to perform.

  53. aes_sidhe*

    I honestly can’t imagine being petty enough for an argument over coffee. There are way more important things to worry in this world about than a cup of coffee.

    1. Eye of Sauron*

      Eh, sometimes the little things have the biggest impact.

      Everyone has their little thing that drives them round the bend. Some people it’s coffee, others it’s their pens, candy dishes produce a lot of controversy, office chairs and temperature are also on the list, music/radio wars, smelly food, loud talkers, gum chewers, bathroom cellphone users, and on and on and on.

      1. Blue Cupcake*

        I agree. Little things build up over time.
        I added the following to my post above, but it may be lost in cyberspace so forgive me if it shows up later.

        Saying things like “it’s only one cup’ and “so petty” is basically saying we should not care about anything at all unless it involves life or death.

        Of course there are more important things to worry about but it’s little things like this that make up life. Why else do parents get upset about dirty dishes or socks on the floor? Does dishes and socks really matter in the big scheme of life? Should grocery stores accept “it’s only one grape?” Should you accept a cashier’ “I only shorted you one measly dollar?”
        I don’t drink coffee so I couldn’t care less about this issue. But I’d sure resent putting my hard earned money in week after week, year after year, only for others to mooch it for free.

    2. Temperance*

      Meh, sometimes something is the last straw, though, and it’s fine to get annoyed over petty, minor things.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      But the other way of looking at this is, I can’t imagine being petty enough not to contribute for your cup of coffee.

      1. aes_sidhe*

        It reminds me of that meme I saw with “people who grew up rich or poor. Poor, “catch me later for a coffee” vs rich and “you owe me 75 cents for that sip of coffee.”

        Seriously, where I’m from no one would ever fuss about coffee, and I’m not making it up.

    4. Parenthetically*

      Fergus insists he never drinks coffee, so he won’t contribute to the Coffee Kitty either in cash or in beans/cream/sugar/whatever the price of admission is. One day the coffee smells particularly lovely, so he helps himself to a cup. When reminded that he needs to put in a few bucks a week if he wants to have the coffee, he says, “Whatever, it’s company coffee anyway because the company paid for the machine, so I shouldn’t have to pay for it.” Next week, the coffee smells extra nice again, so Fergus helps himself to another cup or two. I see him at it and say, “Look, pal, you either help pay for the coffee or you don’t drink the coffee. No put up, no drink up. Got it? Otherwise you’re taking something that doesn’t belong to you. Cripes, Fergus, do you want to be the office coffee thief? Put five bucks in the kitty already.”

      Call me petty if you want, but if it’s such a tiny thing, then the person who wants the coffee should just pay for the coffee instead of coming up with a series of feeble justifications for NOT paying for the coffee.

      1. aes_sidhe*

        I grew up in ththe South, I can’t think of one person I know that would care about coffee. In fact, they’d insist you have some anyway even if you didn’t contribute.

        It’s beyond petty and childish to complain over a cup of coffee that’s in a communal room. If you want to hoard coffee like Gollum with the One Ring, keep the coffee on your desk. Otherwise, you look and sound like a lunatic with the only thing missing is stroking the coffee pot while hissing, “My own. My preciousssssssss.”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I have relatives in the South. I have friends from the South. They would insist that you take some coffee, and after you were gone, they’d say “Can you believe she always takes coffee and never offers to pay for it? Never contributes or says she’ll get it next time? Was she raised by wolves?” Trust me. The fact that you’ve never heard this suggests which side of this issue you’ve experienced, and which side you haven’t. :-)

          (And also? It’s petty and childish to believe that something is yours for the taking just because it’s out in public, and you want it. We expect that behavior from toddlers. Literal toddlers.)

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            Southerner here. You are so right.
            Also, I leave my car in the public parking lot and I expect it to be there when I get back and not taken because, well, it was there and no one was using it at the time. Yikes.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          Where is the hoarding?

          It’s beyond childish to think that you get what you want without paying for it.

    5. Aphrodite*

      Would you agree that the woman I saw at Von’s two nights ago who used her bare hands to take a piece of chicken and start eating it (this is chicken wings in a kind of open salad bar-type arrangement where you use tongs to fill a paper bag) right there. She sort of shoved me aside to do it with no compunction whatsoever.

      I was furious at both the theft (yes, it was stealing) and at the hands. I will never be going back to Von’s unless they move the chicken back behind the deli counter. So they lost me, a good customer, and gained a thief. Hope they are happy.

      And, damnit, it is not petty even if it’s not WWIII.

  54. Normally a Lurker*

    LW 1

    Hi! Theatrical Director currently working in NYC!

    I can tell you wholeheartedly that you can have a “9-5” and also do theatre on the side. In fact, a whole lot of us do that.

    It’s even more common if you are working in theatre in any form. Almost everyone I know (and I know a lot of them) who works in the business end of theatre also pursues outside creative theatre pursuits.

    For me, it means I direct 2-4 shows a year, on average, after work and on weekends. I save my vacation days for tech weeks.

    Feel free to ask me specific questions and use me for a resource if I can help in anyway.

    1. Angelina*

      Thank you so much! I’d love to know if you’ve observed any kind of pattern around what types of jobs are best for this sort of thing, and how you go about seeking out shows that will accommodate a full-time day job (most of the advice I’ve read says that the majority of professional shows require rehearsing during the day and being able to drop everything for auditions, but that can’t be universally true).

  55. bohtie*

    Yo #1, I got you! I’m a librarian/archivist, and at night I’m a musician, dancer, and occasionally a professional wrestler (seriously). I leave at 5pm every day, my job has generous PTO, and I’ve had to work almost exactly five weekend days in the last 10 years and most of those were traveling for professional development stuff. My boss’s big thing is sports; ain’t no way he’s staying late at the office if there’s a baseball or soccer game he’s got tickets for. My favorite coworker?
    Birding. She’s gotta get out at a reasonable hour and not work weekends so she can get up at 4am and trek through swamps looking for There’s plenty of jobs out there that are like that, I promise! You might have to ask the right questions in the interview to make sure that work/life balance is a priority (I know other people in my same field who have crazy schedules) and be sure to assert solid boundaries once you’re there, but it’s anything but impossible, I promise!

  56. peachie*

    OP1: This is something I think about a lot, and you’re definitely not alone. I’m an actor and lit director and have lived/worked in a few big theater towns, and I’ve found it both disheartening and validating that most other artistic professionals I know also have to do something else–even those who’ve “made it.” (I don’t really like doing film, and for stage work, even most Equity actors who play leads year-round for the big-name theaters have other jobs.)

    I don’t really have advice, but I have been thinking about the question you’re asking a lot in my own life. I recently took a non-arts job in a new city, a much smaller city without a real professional theater community like my old city had. I was fine in my old city/job–I had a different full-time non-arts job, and I acted regularly and was a literary director. My new job pays well (and I still get to lit direct remotely), but it’s tough to accept that I won’t be acting for a few years. My mid- to long-term plan is to get really good at the work I’m now doing (it’s a technical, in-demand IT role) so that in a few years, I can go back to a city like the one I left and find a well-paying job that has a bit more flexibility. I hope it works out. I do sometimes worry that I’m not a “real” artist or that I’m “giving up” by trying to do it this way, though.

    Anyhow. Lots of rambling. I hope everything works out for you! I can say for sure that needing a not-directly-artistic job is 1000% normal for artists (and also that arts admin is great, and you’re gonna meet a lot of wonderful people doing that work!).

  57. SondheimOfTheSiliconValley*

    Hey OP1!

    I’ve been lurking for years and this is the first time I felt compelled to make a comment because your situation is so familiar to me. I think it’s so smart that you’re studying theatre and business, but I’d advise you to think on it a bit before deciding if arts administration is the right path for you. I was in your shoes a few years ago, (except a playwright rather than performer), and I wanted so badly to work in theatre that arts admin was kind of my “safety plan” to keep me in theatre, regardless of how the playwriting went. I ended up having what’s called a “shadow career” where I was so entrenched in the arts admin stuff and felt like I was making progress in the theatre world, where in reality my writing was suffering because I didn’t have the time or energy since so much of my time was dedicated to supporting other people’s theatre making.

    Fast forward a few years and I’ve left the arts admin world for a startup. The pay is SO much better for less intensive work, and hours are such that I always can leave at a reasonable time, and can even bop out for a reading or take time off for a workshop if I have to. My writing has made progress because I finally have time and emotional energy for it, and the nature of startups make it so there’s some flexibility that you might not get if you’re working for an arts organization, where often they’re understaffed and overworked.

    You’re going to get people poopoo-ing you for “selling out” but I can assure you that you’re no less of an artist or an actor if you pay your rent with a corporate job that gives you the security and flexibility you need. Susan Blackwell (one of the creators and performers in the Broadway musical Title of Show) still has her corporate job to this day, even after having a Broadway show and some success in TV and film.

    Best of luck!

  58. not so sweet*

    Q#1 – it is very common for people who work in arts administration – even senior people – to flex their day-job time when they are in production. It might even be an advantage, looking for a job in arts administration, to be an artist and already be familiar with the local theatre/arts community, how funding works, who the various important people and companies are, and so on.

    Sometimes people manage the essential bits of their admin work in their spare time while they are on tour or even in tech week for a show. (I know that because they email me at strange times.) Sometimes other people cover parts of their jobs, and the rest waits for their show to close.

    Also, it seems common for a junior arts-admin job not to start out at full time, and also to require occasional evening/weekend presence for an event. My impression is that because the employer asks you to be generous and flexible about spending most of a weekend supporting festival volunteers, they are more inclined to support you working away from the office and maybe not all your hours, when your own show is in tech. People who have the arts-admin diploma but also have acting and/or indie production credits on their resume are in high demand around here.

    1. sange*

      This. Not to be a cold-water-dumping Grinch…but in my neck of arts administration, people who get advanced degrees in the administration instead of in the subject (like a MA in arts admin instead of a MA in Theater/Music/Dance) aren’t really taken as seriously…we just hired a guy who finished his masters in arts admin, and because this is his first job out of school, he’s the office assistant. The pay is awful but it’s great experience…and he probably has $100k in student debt.

  59. bopper*

    Re: Coffee
    Our building used to have a coffee club. You could ‘”subscribe” for a year at $20 a year, but you could also pay by the cup $0.50 if you were a casual drinker.

  60. Bea W*

    #5 – In my industry at least, there is no job security. The work ebbs and flows. If this is the case in your field, the risk for being laid off again may be no greater than if you worked for any other company. If you old company had issues due to mismanagement rather than being acquired or a downturn in their industry/economy then it will be important to ask questions. If you liked your employer and would want to work for them again, it’s worth considering.

    I can offer a few of my own experiences:
    1) My father (power generation industry) was laid off in the early 90s after 20 years of employment with the same company. They called him back a couple years later when the economy recovered. He survived a couple of acquisitions and rounds of layoffs and remained there for another 25 years until the local office was closed. By that time he was well into his 70s and ready to retire. This is highly unusual more so because no one spends their entire career at the same company anymore.

    2) I was laid off after 3 months at a job. I was able to come back when someone who didn’t get laid off left soon after. The company was known for mass layoffs at the beginning of every year, but I was okay until I decided to leave on my own several years later. My field can be very turbulent plus people change jobs frequently (2 years is considered a really long time to be at the same job). So the prospect of layoff is a non-issue for me. The chances of it happening seem pretty equal across the board. There is no job security. At best you’ll work at a company that has a generous severance plan as a benefit just in case (or when the inevitable happens).

    3) I have had multiple friends all in tech who were laid off, went to work for other companies, and were laid off again, sometimes within a matter of weeks! Lather. Rinse. Repeat. :/ I also have one friend who was laid off from a large telecom and chose to transfer to another department within the same company. Some companies are just so ridiculously big it’s safe to do that.

    1. OP#5*

      Thanks for your thoughts! This company that I would be returning to is tiny. 3 people. The company I currently work for has about 80 people and is, incidentally, the biggest company I’ve ever worked for.
      It’s true that job security is never guaranteed, but I’m pretty secure in my current job and would feel much less so if I returned.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

  61. erynsoup*

    #1 – the General Counsel at my 500+ person organization is an award-winning community theater actor in our city. Find a company that practices good work-life balance and you can still find time for hobbies!

  62. Crazy cat*

    Op 1, my company has an accountant who is also an actor but because she only works 3-4 days a week they only offered her a contract role (which she is happy with). She actually told me this in secret because the boss man hates people from the entertainment industry as he thinks they are all “flakes”. We’re in LA so it’s common for people to get a job and bounce but it’s still somewhat… annoying. We passed on some amazing folks who casually mentioned acting on the side and it was an immediate NOPE

  63. Joshua*

    OP #1 – I also studied theatre in college and my entire career has been in non-profit arts administration. You can absolutely find this! In fact, the theatres that I’ve worked at often encourage this sort of pursuit as long as it doesn’t interfere with your job performance. I’m not sure what region you are in, but if it happens to be the Chicago area we should connect. Happy to help a fellow theatre grad on the job hunt.

    1. Angelina*

      Op #1 here – I’m in the PNW right now but seriously considering move to Chicago after I graduate, so I’d be happy to connect!

  64. Just Someone*

    OP5: It’s not like there are only two jobs in the whole world — one being the boring job you have, and the other being exciting but unstable and no benefits. It sounds like it’s the time for you to do some job searching and find something you’re excited about with the stability you want.

    1. OP#5*

      That’s very true. Sometimes we get the blinders on.
      I have been keeping my eye out on postings, and I’ve started taking some courses towards an additional certification as well.
      Thanks for your comments!

  65. Bea*

    Reading the coffee wars threads are amazing to me. Two out of three jobs had company funded coffee, the third one I was able to figure out a way to get us free kcups every couple months and sent everyone over the moon while those lasted. The idea of these coffee and snack clubs blow my mind but I’m also in such small businesses that I have to guess is why there’s so little drama.

    These coffee thieves are just as bad as someone who steals lunches (never had one of those or anyone with truly rank food choices).

    I think some co-workers start thinking if each other like siblings at some point. Oh imma just go “borrow” Suzie’s sweater, I’ll give it baaaaaack. Or those shitty roomies who steal your milk and out the empty carton back.

    1. fposte*

      I think some coffee drinkers treat coffee as being like residential hot water; it’s a freely available utility, and even if you momentarily use it up, it’s a resource that replenishes soon enough. (That accounts also for the blindness to the fact that somebody has to do the work of making the new pot and getting the supplies.)

  66. Imposter Syndrome Graphic Designer*

    LW #1: I’m sure you’ve had plenty of other commenters reassuring you on this (I haven’t read the comments yet) but I’m chiming in to say: I have a number of friends who have pursued professional acting (or singing, or theater tech) in addition to full-time work. I’m in my mid-thirties, so I’ve had the chance to see how it plays out over a decade or so. It’s not for everyone–I personally need more down time than that life allows–but it’s definitely possible to find a low-stress admin job and act weekends and evenings.

    The people I’ve seen have the best quality of life with it over time are those who plan ahead (as you’re doing! Good job!) by developing a skill set that can pay the bills in a career track that gives you some flexibility and free time, but also by being intentional about finding mutually supportive communities. Most cities with good theater and/or music scenes have a ton of people doing exactly what you’re looking at doing: making art together in their free time, cobbling together shows and projects and gigs. And the more you’re able to find friends who will support you both creatively and personally (and the more you can be that friend) the more sustainable your life will be and the better your work will be. Good luck!

  67. AnaEatsEverything*

    #3 – I’m honestly really surprised that a company would provide a coffee maker but not stock it. Is this normal in your area? Context: I’m in Seattle. I honestly think employees in the PNW would *riot* if they had to purchase their own coffee at work. Caffeine as a drug is pretty much what powers everything and anything here.

    1. SpaceNovice*

      Yup, it’s a thing. Especially in US federal government offices. In offices with both federal employees and contractors from outside companies, you’re not supposed to give contractors ANYTHING beyond what they need to do their job. And the same for government employees, generally, because budgets suck.

      They do it for time, too–annual celebrations didn’t require government employees any time, but contractors had to either make up time or take PTO to celebrate. Generally, they also had to pay in money to go to the celebration. This applies to early leave, too–all the government employees can go home, but contractors have to stay.

    2. aes_sidhe*

      We only had the company coffee pot issue when they bought a Keurig and asked that we supply our own K-cups. No one was in the back making sure no one used someone else’s K-cup. Right now, my work friend and I buy lunch or breakfast and just catch each other next go around. If one of us is getting break, we’ll call and see if the other wants anything, and we trade out next time. We don’t keep tabs on who owes what and certainly wouldn’t ever argue over coffee.

      1. Foxtrot*

        The fact that your comparing a semi equitable back and forth to the coffee pot situation is weird. This isn’t taking turns getting each other back. This is more like that coworker who asks for a chicken sandwich every time they see you running out for lunch, saying they’ll “get you back next time”…and never do. Or buy like one sandwich back for you every few months when you make weekly lunch runs.

    3. Millennial Lawyer*

      Coffee for every government employee in every government office in major cities adds up. People don’t like their taxpayer money going to coffee.

    4. Free Meerkats*

      I’m in Everett and we have to buy our own coffee as public employees. We once had a resident rail at the City Council at every meeting for months because he saw a City vehicle in a drive through and “The City shouldn’t be allowing my tax money to be used to get food!”

      So yeah, since it’s infrastructure, the coffee maker is supplied. But the supplies are on us.

    5. Valprehension*

      Yeah. I see it as akin to providing a fridge and a microwave, but not stocking them. Appliances that allow us to store/prepare the food we bring in ourselves. It’s nice for them to provide a way of making coffee for people who want one, but I don’t see why it would automatically follow that they provide the coffee (though I acknowledge it’s a reasonably common practice to do so in office environments).

    6. Bea*

      Also in Seattle. My last place had a machine but no stock. They were cheap and terrible in many ways, go figure.

  68. SpaceNovice*

    OP1: You can definitely still do acting with a full-time job!

    I am not involved in anything directly, but a friend’s mother was at a director level and still had time to act in a community theater which scheduled around day jobs. You don’t practice every night. You can work to schedule your time around practices for the most part; just make sure you don’t finish things at the last minute. I suspect you already know to factor in dinner and travel time.

  69. sange*

    For LW1: Nonprofit arts administrator speaking! The answer here, of course, is that it depends on your role in your job and industry. There are tons of different functions you can have as a full-time employee at an arts nonprofit and the most traditional ones (bookkeeper, assistant, marketing staff) don’t necessarily have the late hours and required event evenings. But if you want to be in an artistic role or an external-facing positions, unpredictable schedules and more evenings are de rigeuer. Anything in fundraising, for example. But at my organization, lots of people have outside artistic pursuits – it’s why most of us got into the arts in the first place! Our bookkeeper is involved with local theater and regularly leaves early or takes a few days off for her shows. Our personnel manager is heavily involved in a semi-professional choir, and he will flex his hours or take time off for their concerts and tours. I’d say get your job first, then figure it out, and don’t talk incessantly about your extracurricular theatrical pursuits at work.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      #1, I seem to be in the minority here in thinking that, while possible, it’s VERY HARD to find a job in arts orgs that give you the flexibility (and emotional capacity) to continue your artistic practice. If theatre is your true love and you just want to get into arts admin to finance your acting, then I recommend that you strongly consider looking at other business office-type job paths that aren’t necessarily relevant to an arts administration degree. Bookkeeping is a good role in arts orgs that lets you leave at the end of the day, but you need to get the appropriate education to be a bookkeeper. Arts admin degrees prep you to be a fundraiser, a programmer, a marketer, but unless things have changed in recent years, the finance and accounting side is not enough to pursue a career in that direction. And lots of marketing roles do require you to work events or be “on call” at prime rehearsal-and-performance times — especially PR and social media.

      I’m doing marketing and performance-stuffs right now (and I do have the MA), but only by working in a part-time role and adding freelance work and the occasional retail shift to my main gig. When I was 100% full time at a single employer, I was working far too much, and (just as importantly!) was far too emotionally invested in my day job to spend time and energy outside of that working on my craft. I’m ok with that — I joined the field to be in the field — but I did “lose” years and years of practice and performance opportunities if that were something I wanted to keep a top priority in my life.

      Day jobs where you just do the work and leave and then live your actual life are vastly underrated in American contemporary culture.

      1. LBK*

        FWIW, the OP doesn’t specifically ask about if it’s possible to do this while holding an arts administrator job, just any good job in general. I suppose you can deduce based on her major that that’s what she’d like to do, but plenty of people end up with day jobs unrelated to their degrees (hello!) that serve to fund their hobbies outside of work.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          In her first sentence the OP mentions pursuing a career in arts nonprofits so that is what I was trying to speak to!

      2. ArtsNerd*

        I suppose it’s really dependent on the job market where you live, what kinds of office dysfunction you’re ok dealing with, and how invested you want to be in both the day job and the acting. I’m viewing this from the perspective of someone in a major city with many arts employers — but I also know the drawbacks for working for many of those arts employers are not ones I’m interested in dealing with at this point in my career. I am very invested in my work and always strive to deliver at a very high level, and my artistic practice is similarly something that I’m not good at doing the casual “dabble here and there” thing.

        I think another big thing for me is that I get invested in my employers as well — pushing to make the workplace better and more effective, when plenty of people have an easier time shrugging off things that don’t need to be their problem unless they make it so.

      3. sange*

        Emotional capacity and flexibility is a good point – especially if LW is ambitious. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to diligently pursue a high-level artistic endeavor on top of my work. I’m a musician, and occasionally I’ll do a friend’s wedding or something small for family and friends. But my days of professional quality performing are definitely past. And I became a fundraiser because I wanted to be on the “other side” of artmaking, not because I’m a failed musician…

        Some of my colleagues pursue artistic stuff on the side, but they are either VERY senior (curating a festival as a side gig, accepting an opera commission) with many years of due diligence behind them, or very junior and don’t really care as much about professional advancement. I’m in NYC though at a very large arts org.

  70. LBK*

    #1 – I’m not an actor myself but I am an avid theatergoer, and I managed to see almost 50 plays last year while working a 9-5. Obviously rehearsal schedules and call times are more expansive beyond the performances themselves, but I think it’s definitely doable. My schedule is flexible enough that only on rare occasions do I need to stay past 5 involuntarily, and if I’m anticipating a long day I can always come in earlier to offset it. Jobs like this do exist!

  71. Samata*

    #1 – we have a supervisor here (our hierarchy is employee, manager, supervisor, director, VP) and he does 3-4 shows a year in community theater and is able to balance the expectations of his job. This was a big deal to him when accepting his last promotion and he was still able to do it. So it has not held him back and we’ve gotten to retain, and continue to promote, a good employee!

  72. Anie*

    OP1- Chiming in with people saying it can very much be done. I’ve been very involved with the arts in both an onstage and offstage volunteer capacity over the years and the only time it’s ever been an issue was the time I had a job with a 5am start time. I had enough time, but late arts world nights and 5am don’t mesh well. That job was an overall bad fit, though.

    At my current job just about everyone has something else they’e Really involved in. We have people commit a lot of time every week to the arts/sports leagues/church/etc and everyone is really encouraging of each other a.

    FWIW i’ve lived in two largish Mid Atlantic cities in my professional life and I’m in healthcare/education. That might be different than business fields, but I know a lot of people who make that work too!

    You can absolutely make it work!

  73. AKchic*

    I had to answer #1:
    You don’t have to give up acting. You can do both. I know so many people who do both. I do both. Even with a bunch of kids, a career, medical issues and family obligations – I still act. If its something you want to do, do it.

  74. not so sweet*

    Q4 could also be an invitation for you to tell them things that they don’t want to ask about but would be interested in knowing, such as “I grew up there and have a lot of family in the area” or “My spouse has already accepted a position in that city”.

  75. Evie K*

    #1. Please keep acting, even if it has to be around work. I’m not an actor. I’m your audience!
    I live in a place with tons of small theater companies, whose actors all hold day jobs. They get to act & I get to see interesting, well done plays at affordable prices. I’m not enough of a theater fan to say that my day job is to afford evenings watching but I’m recognized by lots of the ushers…

  76. I was a Jimless Pam*

    OP #1, I skipped straight to commenting because where I work we have the exact job you’re looking for: we call them “teaching artists,” but I work somewhere with an excellent museum theatre program and we employ (full time with benefits) several actors who perform 15-20 minute historic interpretations 3-4 times a day and spend the rest of the day researching, teaching, and some administrative stuff. I always love doing the careers field trip we offer because I get to tell the kids with acting aspirations that there IS full time work for them. We allow flex time for our actors to be in plays, too. One even runs a theatre company in their off hours!

  77. Brett*

    #1 My wife plays all concerts with one orchestra, plays regularly with two volunteer orchestras, and is a sub for a professional orchestra. This is all alongside her day job as a music teacher and music education program assistant director.

    She does this by keeping a very tight schedule and setting expectations. Several people in her workplace participate in orchestra #1, so they build their schedules around participation in that orchestra. She has the rehearsal schedule months ahead of time and used that to set her teaching lesson schedule as well as schedule her office hours for the entire year.
    For orchestras 2 and 3, they set their own schedule for the year. When she gets that, she selects which concerts she can do based on their schedule and her already set schedule for the year.

    She just started subbing for the professional orchestra. That is probably only going to be 1-2 concerts a year, but they give her sub positions they need and then she figures out if she can do that alongside her other schedule. Communication and trust is an important factor there for her to get those opportunities.

  78. Aphrodite*

    Regarding #3 (coffee), I have a question that may seem dumb to many here but I do not like and have never developed a taste for coffee so I am asking this question sincerely. Why not just make your own coffee at home and bring it in a thermos? I know there are thermoses that now keep food and drink hot and/or cold for hours. (I saw one recently that promised 12 hours for one and 24 hours for the other.) That seems like a great solution.

    1. Kate*

      Some people drink A LOT of coffee throughout the day. When I have to go into a contract site, I usually do just bring a travel mug, and that gets me through. But I have colleagues who pretty much drink it all day or they like a cup after lunch to counteract the after lunch lag. My boss told me he got rid of his Keurig because he was spending so much money on k-cups (drinking coffee constantly!). Also, some people just like the convenience of being able to grab a cup once they get there, but then you should buy into whatever coffee distribution system your office has.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yeah, this. My mother, before she had to give it up for her heart, used to drink between four and TEN cups of coffee a day. No travel mug is big enough for that!

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      They stay warm, but not as hot as when first poured, and that is part of the attraction (for me at least): how it tastes *and feels* in my mouth.

      Also, a lot of people have travel mugs but not true thermos jugs, and they don’t keep the coffee as hot, or for as long.

    3. Not a Morning Person*

      It is a great solution for some. I prefer the homemade coffee and to what you describe, however, once in awhile I like a another fresh hot cup and I use the office Keurig. I have my own stash for just such occasions.

    4. Blue Cupcake*

      Maybe some of them do but some simply prefer from the office pot, or some just want to fork over the money for another member to make it, or they take the bus and have too much stuff to carry, or the combined money can buy better quality than an individual can afford. There are many reasons.

  79. Ann*

    My friend has a day job with regular hours and does a whole bunch of community theater in her evening and weekend time! Maybe getting to know some people in your local theater company would give you a sense of how they make the scheduling work?

  80. Manders*

    OPT #1, this is a bit of a weird suggestion, but are you at all interested in voice acting? I know a few actors who couldn’t make the practice schedule of theater work around an 8 to 5 job, but they could find time for recording at home or in a studio. There’s a huge demand right now for audiobook readers and people who can act in narrative podcasts, so you could have a steady hobby or even a small side job that would give you a little extra cash.

  81. Ray Gillette*

    #1 – I have a full-time job but I write short stories on the side (and honestly, that’s more what I “am” than my job – I just refuse to buy into the starving artist thing and would much rather do what I love plus be able to live at the same time). It’s not hard to find the time if you want it. There’s basically 128 hours in a week where you won’t be working.

    Honestly, most jobs coming out of college aren’t going to require exceptional commitment outside work. You’re going to be nonexempt so they’re generally not going to want you to accrue overtime. Once you build up PTO you can audition and such during the day if need be and then you’ll have your nights free to act all you want.

    Basically, it’s completely doable. Don’t give up on your dream just because that’s not where your check comes from.

    1. Kelsi*

      This is a great response. So tired of the whole “the only acceptable job path is to make your dream a career.”

      I like my job! But it’s not who I am. My hobbies are who I am, and that’s the way I want it.

  82. Editrix*

    Hey OP #1–thought you might like reading this stories about two people who’ve made full-time theater jobs work with their day jobs. I also know a lot of people who work in arts admin (in large cities) and almost all of them are also: in choirs/bands/orchestras, dance groups, theater companies, or take part in cabarets and short-run performances.

  83. SusanIvanova*

    Way back in my very first job, so the details are fuzzy: I usually worked in a section of the building where the coffee wasn’t paid for by employees – maybe the manager just paid out of pocket, or from some general supplies fund, I don’t know.

    I had to work in another group’s area once, and it was late, so nobody was around to warn me – or from their perspective, identify the perp – and since their breakroom looked just like ours, coffee pot and everything, I got a cup. One cup! But oh the drama. Someone on that team apparently went on an epic rant at our manager because someone who wasn’t paying into their fund Drank! Their! Coffee! (Almost-stale late night coffee. Um…) But apparently this was a known quirk of theirs, because when my manager told me it was prefaced with “sorry I forgot to tell you, if you want some coffee when you’re working over there, come back here for it.”

  84. Noah*

    Can we please have a discussion about whether the various accouterments we add to coffee are properly called, “condiments”?

  85. Noah*

    Here’s the problem with the coffee situation. If you brew an entire pot of coffee, now nobody else can make coffee until you drink it all. So if they’re not allowed to have your coffee, that’s fine. But you need to accept that it may get poured out so they can make their own coffee. And if you’re going to make them do that, why not just let them drink your coffee?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      You made this fallacious claim above, and I’ve never worked in a place with less than three pots/carafes per coffee station. It’s possible, but if it is the case it’s strange that they did not mention that rationale for drinking the coffee, just that the company paid for the equipment.

      1. Noah*

        I’ve worked places with only one pot. Many places. And i suspect a place that provides a coffee pot and no coffee is one of those kinds of places. But, again, I don’t claim to know what happened here. I just know that you all are making assumptions that could easily be false.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah, I don’t know why you’re assuming this is happening. The letter gives us no evidence that other people who are not part of the coffee club want to use that pot to brew their own coffee. I think you can drop this straw man argument.

      1. Noah*

        I’m not assuming that is happening. Most of you are assuming something else is happening. I’m just positing that it is one of many possible situations.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          We’re not “assuming,” we’re reading. The person in question did not argue “well, I couldn’t use the carafe.” S/he said “it’s company coffee so I don’t have to pay for it.” Why on earth do you think it’s a problem with hogging the carafe when the letter explicitly states that #1, there’s a coffee fund for everyone who wants to drink the office coffee, and #2, this person wants to drink the coffee but not contribute to the fund? Seriously, just read the letter.

    3. LBK*

      Except the person who drank the coffee neither paid for it nor had their own coffee to brew, so this makes no sense.

      1. Noah*

        Maybe he did have his own to brew, but couldn’t because the pot was full. As I’ve said elsewhere here, I had that situation at a job. And I dumped the coffee and make my own. Nobody complained, partly because I asked first, and partly because of course I dumped it when I needed to use the machine.

  86. Kelsi*

    LW1, these jobs definitely do exist!

    I work at a nonprofit (not arts, education and advocacy). My usual work schedule is 9-5 M-F, with occasional special events where I have to work on an evening or Saturday. I am also a burlesque dancer. These things don’t conflict at all! To be honest, they almost never ask for the same weekends/evenings, and even when they do I’ve been able to figure something out (can I do “prep work” instead of working the actual event? is it a burlesque show I can miss?)

    On my team, I also have someone who does theater, and she’s in 3-4 shows a year…and she’s still the person responsible for our biggest weekend event.

    There are lots of jobs that let you have a full outside life. Maybe not ones that make you the big bucks, but that’s the decision you have to make!

  87. APA*

    If you like the job but afraid of the company’s stability, why don’t you look around for similar job in another company that is more stable?
    You have your current job now so you are not really in rush to get another one immediately
    You have options available for you

    1. OP#5*

      I’ve definitely been keeping an eye on the job postings, and am taking courses towards another certification. You’re right that staying in my current job means I am certainly in no rush! :)

  88. LV*

    I’m confused by #3 and wonder if I’m missing something.

    My team does not have a coffee machine, but we do have an electric kettle. Some of us bring tea and leave it next to the kettle for the whole team to share. No money changes hands. It’s completely voluntary. I would never get upset at a colleague using a teabag from the box I’ve brought in. I do have a box of slightly fancier loose tea which I don’t want to share, so I keep it at my desk.

    Obviously, if someone went through my desk, took my fancy tea and made themselves a cup without permission, I would be annoyed. But getting mad over a single cup of coffee, when the coffee is accessible to all employees, seems really weird and petty to me.

    1. LBK*

      Some of us bring tea and leave it next to the kettle for the whole team to share. No money changes hands. It’s completely voluntary.

      That’s the difference.

    2. Not a Morning Person*

      The coffee is accessible only because it’s in the open; it’s only appropriately accessible to the people who purchased and prepared it. My lunch in the office refrigerator is accessible and I’d be appropriately enraged if anyone accessed it for themselves.

    3. Parenthetically*

      It isn’t accessible to all employees because it’s expected that only the people who bring in coffee (or money) can take coffee. The voluntary system at this person’s office is different to the voluntary system at yours. In this person’s office, people who want to drink the office coffee agree to provide supplies or money, and those who don’t, don’t.

  89. Nonprofit Lady*

    To the actor-
    My parents have both done theater for their whole adult lives, while working in a variety of careers. It’s been mostly community theater, though my dad has done some professional acting as well. I would say, it’s really doable! Especially if it’s your one true love and energizes you. For me the biggest obstacle do doing theater is the time commitment, but my parents love spending every night at the theater, so they make space for it!
    If you’re interviewing at arts organizations, I think it would also be a totally reasonable thing to mention, after, say, an offer. To say- “Hey, I love to do theater outside of work and I want to make sure that would be doable with my schedule here. It would mean needing to leave work right at 5 during the 6 weeks or so that I’m rehearsing for the show. Does that fit with the culture here?” At other kinds of employers, I might not mention it that directly, but I think at arts organizations, they are potentially more understanding of and encouraging of participation in the arts outside of work. Good luck!

  90. Macedon*

    #3. The coffee belongs to the people who pay for it. Let’s not act as if our drinker is the 2018 Jean Valjean, woefully and wrongfully tormented over one cup of coffee for the sister’s children.

    They either offer up compensation, or face the rightful nagging or people who did empty their pockets for the coffee — they don’t get to launch into a legal philosophy debate over the real ownership of the coffee. That suggests straight up their attitude was poor, and it makes them deserving of all the eye-rolling and ‘big deals’ one pack of coffee worshippers can dish out.

    If it’s not yours, you don’t have permission to it, and you’re not physically ill without it, you don’t touch it. I think we teach kids in kindergarten that.

  91. Willow Sunstar*

    #1. Get an hourly job. Most companies don’t want to pay anyone OT.

    #2. If you have done any volunteer work, you can list that on your resume. I list my volunteer work for Toastmasters as area director and district logistics manager. It pays off, plus I can use the experience when answering questions.

  92. FrontRangeOy*

    OP #1, another possibility is finding a theater that’s adjusted for people with daytime commitments. Places that do skilled professional standard theater but with evening audition and rehearsal requirements exist in many communities. The org I’m involved with runs runs shows with 2 weekend evening performances and 1 weekend matinee and all rehearsals and auditions are evenings or Saturday afternoons/evenings. Our directors are committed to producing professional quality shows so I generally only commit to about 2 a year because the expectations are high.

  93. Arty McArterson*

    The thing about arts admin is it doesn’t pay very well, which is largely how I ended up in arts fundraising (fundraising, aka development tends to pay better, and there are always jobs – first hired, last hired). I’m a visual artist by training and now work for a large nonprofit theatre company. I do think there is some value in working outside your artform – I’m not super picky about the work we produce since I don’t know a lot about theatre, so that helps me maintain job satisfaction when our season is crappy. (I am also the kind of person who really can’t raise money for something I don’t believe in and would have a hard time being happy at a job unrelated to something I value, but this is just me.) I previously worked at an arts service organization. While I was there, I managed to take off up to a month at a time to do artist residencies. This was after I had worked there for several years and had made myself someone they wanted to hold onto. At the theatre company, there are definitely a lot of people who work in the evening and on weekends because they have to be at the theatre – mostly people on the artistic/production side. Fundraisers who work with individual donors and special events also have a lot of evening commitments. I’m focused on grantwriting so have a more 9-5 schedule, but a lot of smaller organizations won’t have that level of specialization in the fundraising department. Our fundraising database manager is a stage manager; she was part-time until recently. The person I supervise acts and runs her own tiny theatre company. We also work with a contractor that makes phone solicitations for us; I think a number of the callers may be actors. It’s possible that presenting organizations have a little less evening work, and service organizations (like TDF, TCG, Actor’s Fund, etc.) are also a good idea.

    If you do want to work at a nonprofit theatre I encourage you to find an internship – about 30% of our staff are former interns.

    Now that New York state has strict laws about how many hours low-paid staff can work without getting overtime, we’re watching the hours of our junior staff really closely. If they are working late a lot, they’ll get to come in late or take a day of comp time. But that wouldn’t help you if you need to be free at night.

    One other thing: I now have a child and have mostly retired from making art, but have found to my surprise that I don’t miss it since my “day job” challenges me more. It’s a tricky balance. I was so bored at my previous job, which is part of why i could disappear for a month with minimal impact – they didn’t have enough work for me to do. Now I am super busy, which is usually great, but I don’t have the energy for much else outside of parenthood. The hopeful thing I will leave you with is that I am happy with how my life turned out, and i could not have pictured this when I was in my early 20s.

  94. Narwhallington*

    #1 – I’m a belly dancer which means I have a full time job and so do most of my friends. :) I run a troupe, perform in a duet (we even won a competition earlier this year), and produce community events. I have many friends and acquaintances that dance and teach all over the US and even internationally. It’s definitely possible to be very productive as an artist while holding down a full-time job! You also have the bonus of a steady income — I always lose money on the events I produce but I can absorb it because I have a full time job. I’m actually able to contribute more to the community than I might otherwise be able to. You’ll always harbor your secret fantasy of throwing it all away and being a full time artist, but then you’ll remember you like money and benefits. ;)

    #3 – There was a “Coffee Club” at my old job where you could pay a monthly fee for unlimited coffee or by the cup. I think this would have been great if the guy who ran the coffee club wasn’t off the rails. He was CONVINCED that people were stealing cups of coffee and would send insane emails to the coffee club with phrases like “we are legion” to encourage people to find the thieves. He would also plant dollar bills in money jar and take note of the serial number to see if they had been moved. I am 100% sure he never did any work because who has the time to do kitchen stakeouts? Anyway, I agreed with his point (coffee belongs to those who pay for it) but not his methods. ;P

  95. Horatio*

    LW1 – it can be done! I’m a nonprofit arts administrator and a theater director, and it’s totally doable. My work does require some evening events, but I usually know those well ahead of time and am able to rearrange my rehearsal schedule to accommodate. It’s a little easier for me to move the schedule since I’m usually the person setting it, but I have worked with many actors who are in similar situations and it’s never been a problem to work around them. Most directors will be understanding if you have a few conflicts, and there are plenty of workplaces that are either strictly 9-5, or don’t have an excessive amount of evening work. The nonprofit arts sector is probably your best bet; even though most nonprofit arts jobs (in my experience) do require some evening/weekend work, the majority of them are also full of people who have evening/weekend rehearsals and understand how to make it work. YMMV, but give it enough time and you should be able to find something that works for you. Good luck!

  96. SG*

    LW #1 – I’m late to the party, but I’ve got to tell you that you can have SO MANY jobs that still leave room for artistic pursuits. Many of my friends and I have continued to perform in choirs that have sung at Carnegie Hall multiple times, sung in premiers of Pulitzer Prize winning pieces, sung in orchestra pits with Misty Copeland dancing above, been in reviewed plays and musicals, done theater design and so much more even while working good jobs at companies with names you would know. It DEFINITELY is possible, don’t stop pursuing your artistic hobbies and pleasures!!

    Caveat: I think it probably helps to be in cities with artistic population – I did most of this in Philadelphia and New York, but friends from theater and music in college have had great success in Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and other major metropolitan areas.

  97. Dailycupo*

    whenever a club member makes coffee they are supposed to make a full pot, so that others who are members of the club can then drink it. It is not meant to be for anyone who is not in the club. Each person is not making an individual pot of coffee. If employees want to drink that coffee then they have to join the club and pay for it.

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