By Roger Jones
If you want to startle your friends and relations, announce you are contemplating a change of career. And if you really want to really blow their minds, tell them you're thinking of becoming a lion tamer, a jazz singer or a stand-up comedian.
There are times when even the most contented people harbour doubts as to whether the career path they have taken is really the best option. The work may be OK, but you always have the nagging feeling that there are more stimulating and enjoyable opportunities out there just waiting to be grasped.
Of course someone is bound to try to talk you out of wanting to change, especially if you already have - to coin a phrase - "a steady job with good prospects". But others may well admire you for wanting to strike out in a new direction.
At one time I would have been the damp squib who would have sounded a note of caution. But now if I hear of anyone who is toying with the idea of a wackier way of earning a crust, I give them my blessing. My attitude has changed after meeting a number of interesting (and perfectly sane) individuals who have abandoned steady jobs to embark on careers in the precarious world of entertainment - and seem to be succeeding.
One is Christina Ransom who after gaining a degree in English and Psychology landed a very respectable 9 to 5 job as an assistant editor with a major publishing company. What more could a working girl want?
The rot set in when she looked for some way to occupy her evenings. She originally intended to study Spanish at her local adult education centre, but when she looked at the prospectus another course caught her eye: Magic for Beginners. She was sufficiently intrigued to enrol for that one instead.
As the weeks went by she became "hooked" on magic and began to perform tricks for her friends. Then she started to do shows for children - and eventually the magic took over.
"I decided to take a leap and make this my full-time occupation," she told me. "It's the best thing I've ever done." Now she is in great demand as a children's entertainer organising children's discos and magic shows. She has even performed at Downing Street.
Another person who made a very radical career change is Jason Maverick. Jason had a very secure job as a child welfare officer, but one day he decided to do change track completely and enrolled for a course at the Les Bubb Mime School.
"My dad was quite shocked when I left my steady job," Jason admits. "But when he learned how much I was earning as an entertainer, he quickly changed his tune."
Now Jason receives invitations from all over the world to perform his unique act which blends illusion and mime. Best of all, he enjoys what he is doing.
Christina is in her early thirties, Jason in his forties now. Both have embarked on careers which many would regard as risky and which have nothing to do with their previous jobs. Was it just a matter of luck that they fell on their feet? I don't think so.
Firstly they have genuine and original talent - unlike so many of the "wannabes" who audition for The X Factor. Secondly, they are highly committed people who are perfectionists in whatever they do. They are extremely professional - which means they are punctual and reliable - and they take care that their performances do not spill over into their everyday lives. No booze, drugs and rock'n'roll lifestyle for them!
Some legendary performers have experienced both highs and lows in their careers, but these two are fortunate in having a safety net. If Christina's career ever takes a nose-dive she could always go back to publishing or teach literature. Jason's experience in child welfare will always stand him in good stead in the jobs market, if should ever tire of life on the road.
At the moment they don't need to backtrack. Children's entertainers are in great demand ....... at holiday camps, at theme parks and especially for children's birthday parties. Cruise ship companies advertise regularly for family entertainers, and closer to home there is an extensive club circuit.
There is no one established career path into the entertainment business, though a qualification in music, dance or other performing arts would certainly help. Some entertainers learn their trade working at holiday camps engaging in all types of activities from compering shows to calling bingo. Versatility is the name of the game.
The downside is that very few of these jobs are permanent. If you are on a cruise ship, for example, you sign up for a cruise, which would typically last for six months. Many entertainers are self-employed, which can mean that their income is somewhat erratic. Furthermore the job may involve a great deal of travel and living away from home.
For such reasons the show business lifestyle does not appeal to everyone. But that does not mean you should give up any idea of "treading the boards". You may well find an outlet for your creativity in the productions of your local operatic and dramatic society or doing your solo performances as a hobby in your spare time. Bear in mind, however, that the hobby could well take over your life.
To get an idea of the type of opportunities available it makes sense to peruse the job advertisements in a professional publication, notably The Stage. Alternatively, get on the internet and try a search engine, such as Google. I typed in "entertainment careers UK", "entertainers UK" and "performing arts UK", and came up with a huge range of useful websites offering careers advice as well as jobs. The Prospects website (www.prospects.ac.uk) is also worth a look.
Odd Jobs - Unusual Ways to Earn a Living, Simon Kent (Kogan Page)
Performing Arts Uncovered, Dee Pilgrim (Trotman)
To view the article 'Sideways moves the pros and cons' please click here.
To read the article 'Taking control of your career' please click here.