What does an usher do?
"In simple terms an usher works in a theatre or cinema, which involves looking at tickets, showing visitors to their seats, answering questions and basically making sure they enjoy their time when they're there," Justine says. From the opening of a theatre's doors to the checking for lost property after a crowd leaves, ushers look after the visitors and the theatre itself.
How did you become an usher?
For Justine getting a job at the Victorian Arts Centre was the perfect way to maintain her interest in performance. "I love theatre and the arts, and I wanted to be involved," Justine says. "I wanted a job where I could work in that environment. I saw a job advertised in the paper and I was lucky enough to get it."
Justine hastens to add that it's tougher to get a job at the Arts Centre these days, as they no longer advertise vacancies. She suggests "sending in your resume and hopefully, if you've got the right skills and attitude they'll call you for an interview".
What are the hours like?
Working as an usher means that you don't necessarily work nine to five, more evenings and weekends. "It's sort of a double-edged thing," Justine reckons. "It's nice to be flexible, but if you like going out at night it can be a bit of a drag if you're going to a party or a club and you get there when it's already heated up."
But the other side is that the flexibility goes both ways. "We write down when we're available and we get rostered around those hours. So if you've got an exam you just make yourself unavailable, and if you've got holidays you can make yourself available seven days a week." Justine herself is a "closet filmmaker" and finds ushering fits in well with her hectic schedule.
What are the people you work with like?
According to Justine some visitors think that they're "just ushers" and that that's all they do, but the truth is that they're often well-educated and have a passion for the arts. "Some of the people I work with have masters degrees or work high-powered jobs during the day, and work as an usher to stay in touch with the arts."
What's the best thing about working as an usher?
For Justine the big reward is "being able to help people". She enjoys the chance to catch the odd performance, but the biggest pay-off is getting positive feedback from audience members.
Justine remembers helping a New Zealand visitor whose wife fell ill during a performance and making sure they left with the minimum fuss. The Kiwi was so grateful he "wrote a really lovely letter and would hopefully come back to visit next time he and his wife were in Melbourne".
What qualities make a good usher?
"It's good to have some customer service experience," Justine recommends, "because ushering is mostly about looking after people's needs. Also being empathetic and a good listener, thinking quickly and solving problems on the spot are all useful attributes."
"Being able to work as part of a team is also really important and it's good to have an interest in the arts, because being able to talk about performances with the visitors is helpful, especially when they're late for the show!"
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).