How to look busy at your survival job

Hey, there!

OK, so today’s post has little to do with the sometimes lonely, solitary existence we have when we’re sitting in our home studios, cranking out the auditions and work.

But some of us are still toiling away at a day job, yearning for the day that we can tell them, “Adios – I’m doing VO full time now!”

Until that day, that survival paycheck is crucial. And since Seinfeld is one of my fave shows, and George was the master at looking useful and busy, I thought I’d take a short detour from the VO tips and advice, and present to you (mostly because when I read it on Quora it made me snort my Doubleshot painfully thorough my nose as I laughed out loud):

George Costanza’s 10 Commendments for “Working Hard” (Even When You’re Not):

1 – Never walk without a document in your hands.
People with documents in their hands look like hardworking employees heading for important meetings. People with nothing in their hands look like they’re heading for the cafeteria. People with a newspaper in their hand look like they’re heading for the toilet. Above all, make sure you carry loads of stuff home with you at night, thus generating the false impression that you work longer hours than you do.

2 – Use computers to look busy.
Any time you use a computer, it looks like “work” to the casual observer. You can send and receive personal e-mail, chat, and generally have a blast without doing anything remotely related to work. These aren’t exactly the societal benefits that the proponents of the computer revolution would like to talk about but they’re not bad either. When you get caught by your boss — and you will get caught — your best defense is to claim you’re teaching yourself to use new software, thus saving valuable training dollars.

3 – Keep a messy desk.
Top management can get away with a clean desk. For the rest of us, it looks like we’re not working hard enough. Build huge piles of documents around your workspace. To the observer, last year’s work looks the same as today’s work; it’s volume that counts. Pile them high and wide. If you know somebody is coming to your cubicle, bury the document you’ll need halfway down in an existing stack and rummage for it when he/she arrives.

4 – Use voice mail.
Never answer your phone if you have voice mail. People don’t call you just because they want to give you something for nothing — they call because they want you to do work for them. That’s no way to live. Screen all your calls through voice mail. If somebody leaves a voice-mail message for you and it sounds like impending work, respond during lunch hour when you know they’re not there — it looks like you’re hardworking and conscientious even though you’re being a devious weasel.

5 – Look impatient & annoyed.
One should also always try to look impatient and annoyed to give your bosses the impression that you are always busy.

6 – Leave the office late.
Always leave the office late, especially when the boss is still around. You could read magazines and storybooks that you always wanted to read but have no time until late before leaving. Make sure you walk past the boss’ room on your way out. Send important e-mail at unearthly hours (e.g. 9:35 p.m., 7:05 a.m., etc.) and during public holidays.

7 – Use sighing for effect.
Sigh loudly when there are many people around, giving the impression that you are under extreme pressure.

8 – Opt for the stacking strategy.
It is not enough to pile lots of documents on the table. Put lots of books on the floor etc. (thick computer manuals are the best).

9 – Build your vocabulary.
Read up on some computer magazines and pick out all the jargon and new products. Use the phrases freely when in conversation with bosses. Remember; they don’t have to understand what you say, but you sure sound impressive.

10 – Don’t get caught.
MOST IMPORTANT: Don’t forward this page’s URL to your boss by mistake!

(I promise – next post will actually have some important VO-related content. But…I would like to know what things you’ve done over the years to “look busy…” Comment below.)


6 Responses to How to look busy at your survival job

  1. Craig May 15, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    I kept my desk oriented so that my back was to the door. I would turn the screen saver off, slouch in my chair, put my hands on the computer keyboard, and nod off. From the outside it looked like I was working.

  2. Laurel Thomas May 15, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I have blocked time in my calendar for “working on X project” so that, when someone tried to schedule a meeting with me, I would have very little time available.

  3. Matt Lagan October 15, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    I have a good friend who surely deserves a free lunch with Costanza so they can compare notes–We both worked full time at the head office of a large international steel company, but he managed to also have a full time job at the national headquarters of a well-known insurance company in the building next door. Neither company knew he was employed at the other. Since there was a tremendous overlap in the hours, my friend would visit the “other” office during his lunch hours and coffee breaks, clear his throat, drag his chair around, or otherwise make noise to get noticed, then slip back across the road. Nobody at either company suspected anything. This went on for months–until he was promoted at the other company. Today, he’s Vice-President at a famous international bank.

  4. Kelli Maroney October 15, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    In 9th grade I cleaned out my locker and took all the books and everything home with me for Xmas break. It backfired, though, both a teacher of mine and then my own FATHER assumed that I had been expelled!

  5. Carol Herman September 4, 2017 at 9:16 am #

    Long LONG ago–in my survival job days–a co-worker gave me this advice, which always amused me. “Run to the coffee machine–OFTEN!!! If folks accuse you of taking so many coffee breaks ’cause you’re just sitting around drinking coffee, your retort is “With what I have to do right now, I need a LOT of coffee to keep me going!” “What I have to do right now” is anybody’s guess, but others will likely assume you must have a killer workload!

  6. Christine Sinacore September 5, 2017 at 7:57 am #

    I have a desk job, but unfortunately my computer screen is visible to all who walk by, AND my desk is right next to my bosses office. For me, I found that MS Excel is my savior. I can do ANYTHING in it, and it looks like I am working on something important. I use it to work on personal and acting related budgets, I type personal emails in there first before cutting and pasting it into gmail, I make spreadsheets of casting directors, shows and acting related research, and I even use it to type out lines I need to memorize.

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