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The Sydney Morning Herald

From sales to acting

Date: 05/02/2011
Words: 623
Source: SMH
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: My Career
Page: 2
In 2009, Catherine Mack-Hancock was a senior sales rep at a successful pharmaceutical company. She'd been offered work as a trainer, had already made it to the company's high-achievers program, won national trips for her efforts and knew she was being groomed for management.

"I liked what I was doing but I realised I wasn't following my true passion: acting," the 25-year-old says. "I didn't have time to make it to auditions because I couldn't be in two places at once. While the money and lifestyle in sales was great, at the end of the day I had to give it up to do what I love."

Mack-Hancock relinquished her brand-new black VW Jetta, BlackBerry, laptop and perks. She also gave up her apartment in Toorak and donned a backpack to travel South America for a year.

"I trekked through the Bolivian Amazon while Skyping auditions and interviews, studied along the way and read a backpack full of books that had been sitting beside my bed for months," she says.

Mack-Hancock studied acting in Australia and New York, reconnected with her Australian agent and went on to gain new representation. After five months back home in Melbourne, she's just returned to Los Angeles to train at David Mamet's Atlantic Acting School and the Ivana Chubbuck Studio. She's appeared in several Australian and international ads, television shows and feature films, and recently acted in a feature film shot in New York.

"I'm following a completely different path and it couldn't be more different, inspiring or energising," she says. "Yes, it's hard to make ends meet at times but I am a totally different person and happier than I have ever been."

From the age of 13, Mack-Hancock performed with the Geelong Society of Dramatic Arts, where Guy Pearce also trod the boards. At uni, she did a bachelor of arts majoring in criminology and philosophy, then a diploma of creative arts and landed acting roles in between.

"I've always been interested in health and nutrition too," she says. "When I finished uni, a few people I knew in the pharmaceutical industry encouraged me to apply, telling me I'd love pharmaceuticals because it related to healthcare."

Mack-Hancock approached a recruitment agent who helped her land work with a company selling a diabetes drug. "I thought at the time that working in other areas could also add to my experience as an actor," she says, adding that her pharmaceutical sales training was "intensive and great for self-development".

"We worked on general behavioural training, ways to work with different personalities, selling skills and continued to do a lot of upskilling workshops every few months."

Her four years in pharmaceutical sales involved plenty of travel, education and visits to GPs and nurses across Victoria. "Catching up with friends now from the medical industry, I have had some comments that I look like a different person. I feel so passionately about people taking the leap into what they feel they want to do and gaining the courage to do so."


SALARY "Depends on sales. Rookies might start on a base of $50,000-$60,000. You might get a $15,000-$20,000 car allowance plus other bonuses."

HOURS "Usually 9am-5pm."

WORK-LIFE BALANCE "Pretty good. I worked hard but also had enough time for myself."


SALARY "Too hard to say  actors' incomes differ so much from job to job."

HOURS "Varied  the starts can be early and the hours can be long."

WORK-LIFE BALANCE "Very good. I'll often have time between jobs. But even if I'm working a 12-hour day, it doesn't worry me because I love being on set."

MISS "Work structure, stable income and being able to make plans."

CHALLENGES "Staying persistent and tenacious."

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