Q&A with Matthew Rush: How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying? Study Acting First!

Matt is not only an Account Manager and Recruiter within our temporary division here at Clarity, he is also a professional actor no, REALLY! We’re sitting down with Matt today to discuss his unique career path, and the sacrifices he’s made that have turned into great rewards. After shifting his focus in a variety of ways to make space for a new lifestyle, Matt leveraged his transferable skills from the world of acting and successfully entered the world of business. Matt’s story is especially inspiring because he never let go of his passion for the performing arts.

Following his success in his new recruiting career, Matt was poised to re-enter the acting world in his free time, with a new level of confidence. He returned to the stage on a professional level while still maintaining his full-time gig here with us. Read on to learn how one passion fueled the discovery of a new one for Matt, and how he manages to do it all without skipping a beat (for all you acting buffs out there).

Communications Team: We feel like there’s a LOT to cover here let’s start with how you developed your passion for acting, and what your undergraduate studies were like.

Matt: Like most acting folk, I fell in love with the stage in a swift instant and that was it, I was hooked. I remember the actual moment: sitting in the audience during a junior high school student matinee, watching The Music Man and thinking, “I have to do THAT!”

After ditching varsity football to switch gears into acting, I performed in many school, local community and professional theatre productions during my last two years of high school. I auditioned and was accepted to Wright State University’s Professional Actor Training Program (PATP) in Ohio. It’s a four-year BFA conservatory where I concentrated on acting.

My day would typically start around 8:30 am with some form of dance class and then progress until about 5pm moving from one form of training to the next. Once my classes were wrapped for the day, I would head right into rehearsals for the school’s productions. Four years of this demanding schedule taught me a lot about resilience and dedication.

The rules were strict at the PATP: you miss 3 classes – you’re out, you miss an entrance in a show – you’re out, your grade point average dips – you’re out. Additionally, for the first two years of the program “juries” were held at the end of each quarter. These juries consisted of a short performance in front of the entire PATP staff, where you and your scene partner would be critiqued on the minutiae and have your work dissected.

I still have nightmares from this, but I feel like all those rules were truly some of the best lessons to take away from my undergrad. They taught me how to be accountable, responsible, thoughtful, and always – ON TIME.

Communications Team: Wow, that is so rigorous, but also sounds exciting! At what point in your acting career did you begin exploring new avenues? What prompted this?

Matt: Acting is an amazing and rewarding journey but mostly doesn’t pay that well. It is a gig to gig lifestyle and you must travel regularly to play a role at a theatre in the middle of Missouri or down South, etc. So, while living in my 400 square foot, 5th floor walk-up apartment in Harlem not knowing where my next gig would come from, I decided  to make space for new work. I kept a positive outlook throughout this transition, and by accepting that my life was going to change (for the better), I actually felt great knowing I could lean on some of my other skills!

After years of pursuing mostly straight plays and Shakespeare, I let the winds of fortune shift. I hung up my acting hat to try a different path and secure a more financially sustainable lifestyle.  

Communications Team: What were some key strengths and skills you developed while studying and practicing theatre and acting that ultimately have served you well in the business of recruiting?

Matt: While there are in fact many, here are the four most transferable skills that acting has taught me that led me toward success in recruiting:

Listening. Much of human interaction is infused with non-verbal communication or “subtext” – the juicy stuff that isn’t said out loud but is always the most truthful. Actors try to portray this subtext and bring more dimensions to a character; to flush out the script and affect their scene partners and/or the audience. While in real life – we just do it naturally. Everything we say has a surface value and a subsurface or internal value.

As a recruiter, I want to listen to what people really want, beneath the surface. I observe and question my candidates to understand their strengths, weaknesses and desires in order to pick up on those subtext clues.

Human Condition.  When actors fully understand the characters they are playing, the grittier and more poignant their performance will be. To be able to do this, actors study the human condition personally through guided self-examinations. Studying myself allowed me to understand what made me tick and how I arrive to the choices I make both consciously and subconsciously.

By understanding myself, I could then try to infer and understand the human condition of a character I was portraying to flush out my telling of their story. To empathize with the character and not judge them. Having the ability to understand all walks of life contributes to my success as an employee, salesperson, colleague, mentor and human.

Taking feedback. Accepting feedback gracefully is something you learn very early on in acting. Much like a director will have notes for the cast and crew of a play, my clients and candidates will have notes for me. Being able to absorb, listen and incorporate feedback, both positive and negative, is a trait that’s immeasurably necessary for success in this job. I can then decide what will work and not work in various job situations and hopefully present the best candidate possible for the job and the best job possible for the candidate.

Improvisation. I love stage acting because it is 100% live. On any given night anything can happen. Missed Cues, skipped lines, guns not going off or costume mishaps will necessitate improvisation without a moment’s notice. Acting taught me how to concentrate and adapt to changes without missing a beat. Somewhat literal if I happened to be in a musical. Improv continues to help me when things change on the fly in the business world too; or when making a sales call!

Communications Team: You started working at Clarity in 2015 how did you find us?

Matt: I was introduced to Clarity at a networking meeting whilst drumming up business for my previous employer,  a firm that staffed service employees for events. It worked with many actors seeking supplementary income, and this is where the lightbulb went off for me ー there’s a great career path in recruitment, and I can relate to many job seeking candidates. As fate would have it, I was able to leverage that into a  role with Clarity, and three years later I am happily still here.

Communications Team: At what point did you feel ready to revisit acting in a serious way, and how has that impacted your work as a recruiter and account manager? What advice do you have for actors out there looking to balance a full-time job with external performing arts pursuits?

Matt: There wasn’t a moment where I declared, “Now I shall act again”. It just happened. I was asked to be in a benefit production of a show written and directed by a friend. This got me out in front of people in the community and reignited some of those relationships, which has happily led to two more fully realized productions.

My biggest advice for anyone, really, is to do what feels best for you. Your success is only defined by you. Furthermore, your vision of what success means can change yearly, monthly and even daily! This past May, when I went back on stage in my first play in over 3 years, it was incredibly freeing to know that my life as a recruiter and as an actor can indeed co-exist with some extra time-management.

My delight for helping people both seeking jobs and companies needing that right candidate didn’t go away while I returned to the stage, it was intensified.

Communications Team: So, you’re saying you’re happy doing both, and one passion can ignite another? Amazing! How do you balance it all?

Matt: Yup. That is what I am saying! I have always been more structured, creative and successful the busier I am. I think that is true for most people. Any outside passion can influence your daily work performance for the better. Whether that is art, playing golf, reading, writing, solving puzzles or in my case, acting.

Outside interests can create structure and help shape schedules which, in turn, fashions accountability. So, ride that bike every day, or watch Stranger Things, or read a book, or multiple books or do yoga! What I’ve found by having somewhere to be at night that is personally rewarding: I am more industrious and focused during the day and manage my time with efficiency. I am inspired.

Communications Team: Thank you so much, Matt!

Reach out to Matt directly with any follow up questions or if you’re looking for temp work by sending him an email: matt@claritystaffing.com

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