improv in your career

How improv can help your career

I recently got a call from an old improv friend. He was calling me to tell me that he had gotten a new job.

He was excited, almost giddy. He told me that he was now the head of human resources at a prominent TV station. And he said, “I can thank improv for this new job.”

I was a little confused. So, I asked him to explain.

“In my last job, I was a trainer, and I was hired because of my improv experience. And this job I got because of my training experience,” he said.

I think there’s this idea out there that if we don’t get on SNL, or land a job writing for Colbert, or worse, if we move back home and stop performing altogether, we have failed in improv. But the truth is, improv can be a tool that helps us develop all kinds of muscles and skills that are valuable in life, even if we don’t end up “making it” in comedy.

Improv teaches you how to be comfortable speaking in front of people, how to collaborate well with others, how to be more creative, how to have more confidence. It teaches you how to be a better listener, salesperson, writer and communicator.

Hearing about my friend’s new job made me think about how many other improvisers I have known who have landed great jobs in un-improv related fields because of their improv background.

We rarely hear those stories, but they are just as important as the ones about the people who get a spot on SNL.

I am grateful my friend called me and shared his good news with me because I need to remember this not only for the students I teach, but more importantly for me.

Because even though at 55 I have been fortunate enough to make my living by teaching and improvising on a regular basis, I still don’t know where I am going to end up. I actually hope there is something great in store for me in my career that has nothing directly to do with improv, yet has everything to do with the skills I’ve learned through this art form. I can’t wait to find out what that is.


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1 reply
  1. jason
    jason says:

    Anecdotally, my success in the business world owes a great deal to improv. Ten years ago, I was a degree-less drop-out, wandering the periphery of the industry with data entry temp work. It was improv that gave me confidence to know that I could, without knowing a damn thing about anything, walk into a room and pretend to be someone that knew what they were talking about. And shockingly, it actually worked. With the emotional intelligence, observational skills, and (frankly) fake confidence honed through scene work, I quickly picked up the industry argot and insinuated my way into a career path that I never could have predicted. I’ll always be grateful to improv for that opportunity.


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