Leadership / 08.11.20
3 Ticketing Pros Pivot to ‘Intermission’ Jobs
“It’ll be interesting to see where all of us will land and what industries will benefit from all the great skills we have picked up in ticketing and live entertainment.”
Those are the words of April Moon, who was working at The Canadian Stage Company in Toronto as Associate Director of Audience Services before COVID-19 forced her venue and venues all over the world to go dark. She is one of three INTIX professionals interviewed for this article who have since found work in quite different fields during this “intermission.” All three share their stories below. They also share how their ticketing skills have transferred in unique and surprising ways.
Moon says that after her position was eliminated, she started thinking, “What are the transferrable skills I have?” She found support from a group of women ticketing pros who have been similarly laid off, furloughed or had jobs eliminated altogether. “We’re on a call every two weeks,” she says, “and that’s one of the main topics we keep talking about. ‘What are the transferrable skills, and how do you bring them into a non-performing arts world?’ At first, I was really worried about it.”
But Moon has found work with two different employers in the pandemic era. Early on in her unemployment, a real estate agent friend of hers reached out and asked if she knew anybody who would be able to help him do some administrative tasks as he moved offices. “I said, ‘I can do that!’ He works for a brokerage locally and has his own office. I just have been helping him organize files so that he can move spaces. He’s physically moving from one office to another.”
Not long after that, a neighborhood friend of Moon’s who owns a landscaping company reached out to let her know how sorry he was that she had been laid off. “But he was also excited because he knew how organized I was,” she says, “and he needed some help administratively. It’s a consulting gig. I’ve basically gone in and assessed his organization, and I’m now dipping into the flow of his customer service.”
Moon, a past president of the Ontario Professional Ticketing Association (or OPTA) and board member of the International Ticketing Association, continues, “As I started for these two particular organizations and individuals, I realized the transferrable skills are indeed there. We all have them. There is staff management, customer service, organization, project management. You can draw on all of the skills you’ve picked up in ticketing.”
She’s also learned a few new things. For instance, the landscaper was not using a payroll company to submit payroll to his staff. So, Moon quickly got him onto a payroll system. “I had never used such a system before,” she says, “but I now know how to. So, I submit payroll for him each pay period. Also, he was doing everything through Excel spreadsheets in terms of managing his customers, so we found a CRM system for landscapers. It was not so unlike a ticketing CRM system. It works pretty much the same way. So, I’m doing the implementation and training on that so that he becomes more automated when his laborers and landscapers are in the field.”
What does she miss most about life pre-pandemic? Moon was quick to answer: “The consistent schedule! I’m a really busy person, and I was affected immediately. Everything in my life shut down. I really do like keeping a busy schedule both at work and outside of work. That’s been the biggest adjustment. But, five months in, I’m also feeling very relaxed.”
She also confesses missing her old colleagues. “My position has been eliminated. So, I know I’m not going back to that space. Everybody says it, but it’s the truth. It’s the people that you miss. I know I’ll meet and make new connections with wherever I go next. But it’s still hard.”
Aaron Cowan has been a cardiac nurse in Detroit for the past 15 years. After he had his first of two daughters, though, he started looking for a side income. He found such a gig working for a ticket broker in his hometown of Windsor, Ontario. Cowan was a good resource for the broker, with numerous hospital friends who wanted good seats at Detroit Tigers games and other Motown events.
After a couple of years, he had learned the business so well that he obtained a business license, invested his own money and opened Up North Tickets. That was five years ago. “I never pushed my RN career aside,” he says. “I still worked at the hospital. However, I did not do the hours I was doing before. Ticketing gave me the flexibility to stay at home, raise my family, be with my girls, and work two or three days a week at the hospital as opposed to four or five. It was a good side income to support my wife and two daughters.”
There were times where he gave serious thought to leaving the nursing profession for ticketing full-time. “But I am extremely grateful I never did, because right now I would be screwed!” he says. “I could have gone back to it, I suppose. But it would have been tough after leaving it for a couple of years and trying to get back into it in the middle of a pandemic and relearning my skills. I still have the ability to work now.”
So, what skills from ticketing have transferred to patient care? It was more like vice versa. In Cowan’s unit, he specializes in heart attacks and cardiac arrhythmia. “So, it can get pretty chaotic sometimes,” he says. “It’s a different kind of chaos in ticketing, and I would take my organizational skills from the hospital when I was running my own business. The time management I learned in the hospital I applied to the ticketing business.”
Cowan works for Ascension Hospital in Michigan, crossing the U.S.-Canada border each workday as an essential employee. Ascension has several hospitals across America. “Our sister hospitals in Florida and Texas have been getting hit hard lately like we were in Michigan back in March and April,” he says. “Back then, we had staff getting sick with the coronavirus left and right. So, we became extremely short-staffed and quite overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. So, they’re experiencing what we were. What our hospitals have been doing is sending nurses down South to help out. I’ve volunteered to put myself on that list to go down to Florida to help. It all depends on their staffing on whether I get the call. I would like the opportunity to go down for two or four weeks.”
Cowan himself had the coronavirus earlier in the year. He dealt with horrible chills at first and then severe gastrointestinal issues and minor respiratory symptoms. He’s well now except for some occasional brief bouts of vertigo. But he considers himself lucky compared to so many other colleagues who have had it worse and, of course, the numerous patients with the virus he’s cared for who have lost their lives.
“I isolated at a hotel in Detroit for a couple weeks away from my family,” he says. “I had never experienced depression and anxiety in my life until I was alone and sick in a hotel room away from my wife and kids.”
It’s those family ties that has him most wistful about life pre-pandemic. “What I miss most is doing activities with my daughters. My oldest turns 7 next week, and she really took a liking to live sports whether it be a live Red Wings hockey game or a Tigers game. My youngest loves all the children’s show like the Bubble Guppies. I had season tickets to the Fox Theatre in Detroit, and I would take her to all those shows. I loved those Sunday afternoon shows with her. It’s been heartbreaking to see them have to stay at home all day.”
Denise Smithson Green
Denise Smithson Green was the Director of Ticketing for Des Moines Performing Arts and INTIX board member. But her college degree is in dental hygiene, a field she practiced in for nearly 12 years. “I ultimately decided I wanted to take a different path,” she says. “But because I had worked so hard, I maintained that license, renewing it every year and taking the necessary continued education — not knowing I might ever have to use it again!”
When she found herself without a job, Green started thinking about whether she wanted to go back and do dental hygiene. Ultimately, it intrigued her. “Having some contacts in the dental world,” she says, “I reached out knowing that all of our dental offices shut down as well and there would be a backlog of patients. I wound up finding an office that was looking to hire, and I’ve worked for six weeks, four days a week, cleaning teeth for people to help them maintain their health. It’s gotten me out of my house and had me focus on something completely different than the live entertainment world.”
She says the biggest skill that has transferred is “being flexible.” There have been a lot of changes in the dental field as a result of COVID-19, and hygienists like Green have had to be willing to change, and be flexible in how they approach patients and how they talk to each one of them.
“I’ve relied on the skills I picked up in the live entertainment business. In ticketing especially, you must be ready to handle a crisis, talk to an attendee who might be upset about his or her tickets, and just to stay calm in stressful situations. People coming into the dental office are already under stress because they don’t like coming. But then they have to have their temperature taken, there’s the wearing of the masks, and there’s the extra risk of exposure. All of that exasperates that stress. So, just being able to stay calm in a high-stress environment is a transferrable skill.”
Green had not been a dental hygienist for 22 years. She found that the profession had changed somewhat, but not as much as she feared. “Teeth are still the same,” she says, “the instruments to clean the teeth are still the same, and the cleaning process is still the same. The software is the biggest challenge.” But she had learned new programs over the years in ticketing, so she was up to the tech challenge.
Still, like Moon, there is a certain human element Green misses about our industry. “I miss being able to hug people or shake their hands,” she says. “I also miss helping someone in a stressful situation be in a less stressful situation just by smiling at them. Wearing a mask, you can’t see that smile. So, you have to make it extra big so they can see it through your eyes.”
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Tags: Leadership , Workplace , COVID-19 , Coronavirus