Escaping the 9 to 5 with Anthony Hehir

combine a corporate job with your passion with Anthony Hehir

Another great career story this week, this time with a bit of a twist.

I met Anthony in Basel last year, having been brought together by a mutual friend due to our common background in marketing and passion for theatre (apart from the fact that we’re both lovely people, obviously). At the time, he was at an important crossroads, having just returned from completing his MA in Music Theatre and still uncertain as to whether he would get his old marketing job back, find another job, or stick with theatre as a full-time endeavour.

Personally, I never thought seriously about trying to “make it” in the theatre world. I don’t have the talent, or the confidence. You can’t imagine the stress you go through as you bare your soul at an audition after weeks of preparation only to find the role you had had your heart set on going to someone else. And that’s “only” in the amateur world! A career in the performing arts requires incredible talent, incredible determination, and incredible luck.

Sometimes, as in my case, you can fulfil a passion by having it as a hobby and not necessarily as a full-time career.

In Anthony’s case, he has both the talent and the determination, but he also has a continued interest in his health marketing work. And he’s found the perfect solution, combining the two…


Combine a corporate job with your passion

Anthony Hehir profile pictureAnthony Hehir has worked for more than eight years in the healthcare industry, first as a dietician and then in various marketing and communications roles. Throughout this time, he has nurtured a singing and acting talent and for the past few years he was questioning whether he should take the leap and pursue this as a full-time career. Today he lives in Basel where he has found a way to live out both his interest in nutrition and health marketing and his passion and talent for the performing arts.

1) At what moment did you decide it was time for a change?

Performance art (acting, singing) has always been an important part of my life, but I was far more focused on my career as a dietician and health marketing professional after leaving university, and being taught to believe that one needed to pursue a “real job”. I was also competitively into sport, but after a major knee injury in 2010 my triathlon and marathon days came to a grinding halt, leaving time again for me to pick up my passion for music and performance.

The momentum picked up quickly, and I realised I had two clear passions – my “day job” in nutrition/health marketing and my side interest in performance art. I wanted to find a way to combine them both professionally, and so started to look for ways to get my performance skills to a professional standard.

With London only an hour’s flight away, I auditioned for and got accepted into a full-time master’s degree in music theatre at London’s famed Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. I knew when I was accepted into the programme that it was a case of “now or never”.

2) What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the change?

I had to leave the comfort zone behind, leave my job, go back to being a full-time student on a strict budget, and move away from my life in Basel, including a very new relationship. Although it was only for a defined period of time, the change after not being a student for almost a decade was a major challenge, and especially in a field so radically different to the one I had spent my professional life in up until that point.

3) Where did you get the support you needed to make it happen?

Firstly, my company fully supported my decision. They allowed me to take a sabbatical with the risk that a job might not be available upon my return to Switzerland. I accepted this risk, and was extremely grateful that they supported me. Second my partner supported my ambition and we made plans to see each other as often as possible, usually twice a month, including holidays. This made a massive difference, otherwise I don’t know how I would have managed to be away for so long. Also my family provided me with huge support as well, and my friends with a passion for performance understood the “bug” that had bitten me and offered loads of moral support.

4) What’s the best part of your lifestyle today?

After a slightly uncertain period, I am now back at my old company in a marketing job I love even more than the one I had before I left for London. I have an MA in Music Theatre under my belt, and feel like that year of training offered me more than I ever thought possible.

I am involved in several very exciting performance projects and since my time is limited, I only choose projects that will really be interesting for me and fit in with a busy corporate job. At the moment, I have just completed a run of a show I put together with another actor and a musician, and we are now working on it more to be able to present to other theatres. I am also working on a one-man musical, which began as part of my thesis topic in London; I hope to be able to perform it in 2015. I am on the committee of our local English-speaking theatre group, and continue to do voice-over work as well.

Life is busy, but I get so much inspiration from so many corporate and artistic sources that I feel motivated and passionate about what I do every day in all parts of my life.

5) What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering making a big career or lifestyle change?

4 things:

1. Seek support from those who you need it from, and continue to keep them close to you.

2. Don’t burn any bridges; but invest time in knowing what you want and go for it.

3. Life always works out for us. If you want to make a change, start NOW by making the steps to get there. Things don’t happen over night, so start planning.

4. A director I worked with told me something once, which has always stayed in my mind: “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation”. In other words, don’t wait for anything to happen to you. You have to make it happen! Never give up!

Photo from Rent production in Basel
Anthony as Tom Collins in the September 2013 production of Rent in Basel, Switzerland (also with, from left: Julian David as Angel, Daniel Raaflaub as Roger, Yannick Fernandes as Mark)

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