Improv as a Marketable Skill

May 27, 2010

As you may have read here last month, you know that improvisation is more than just an entertaining type of comedy routine.  When done well, improv can generate a lot of laughs and be highly entertaining.  But I’ve always believed that my taking a year’s worth of improvisation classes makes me a better employee because those classes helped me to: develop better listening skills, think more quickly on my feet, go with the flow in times of chaos and become a stronger team player.

So it was of great interest to read about a Chicago start-up company, Groupon Inc., who has hired several former improvisers to its growing staff.  According to Dan Jessup, Groupon’s head recruiter, 25 of its 350 employees have improvisation training.  In the article Jessop says, “improvisers are flexible and comfortable when they don’t have all the answers to the information and react.”  You can find the full story in the May 24 issue of Crain’s Chicago Business or click here. For more on Groupon, click below.

How about you…what kinds of skills have you gained outside of work that makes you a better employee?  Have you added these skills to your resume?

1 Lori May 27, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Hey Tim, this is intriguing. What a great skill to have, to have been trained in improvisation. I did some extemporaneous speaking in school (I think I’ve mentioned that before) and I really do think it did help me to be more flexible and better think on my feet as an employee.

About your question, well, having been trained in molecular biology definitely made a positive impact in later helping me help my clients as a massage therapist and athletics coach. A better employee? Well, I was self-employed, but maybe that’s a part of this, too? Right? Picking up various skills enables us to find rewarding work.

Great post, Tim.

2 Tim May 28, 2010 at 8:40 am

Hi Lori: You’re right about picking up these skills…these skills that help us in other areas of your life and other jobs. I’m also willing to bet that your experience as a massage therapist and coach also makes you a better, well-rounded scientist than you already are. The reason I wrote this is that I’ve always felt that taking improv classes has helped me in my professional career…and it was good to read that this start up company recognizes these skills, too. I think a lot of us discount some of our experiences when it comes to a resume or job search. I say let’s toot our own horns a little louder when it comes to these skills that we gain. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this!

3 Lance May 28, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Hi Tim,
It’s great to see what Groupon is doing…and to see that they are based right here in the Midwest!! That they have brought on as many people as they have with improv skills really shows the need for skills other than what might seem to be “job specific”.
I was involved in Toastmasters for several years…and found that whole experience to be invaluable both professionally and personally.

4 Tim May 29, 2010 at 9:06 am

Hi Lance: I agree that it’s good to learn that Groupon is doing so well and perhaps taking a different approach in how they hire their employees. Good to hear about how Toastmasters has helped you, too…it’s a great way to beef up your skills and gain a speaking and leadership edge. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and best wishes for an awesome Memorial Day Weekend!

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