“What have I seen you in?”
The dreaded question. No matter how good you feel about your work, or the professional choices you’ve made, it’s almost impossible to respond without seeming rude or ridiculous.
People unfamiliar with the industry aren’t often satisfied with the truth, which might go something like “Well, I was in that Target ad that ran a few months ago—you know, with the dancing cleaning supplies?” What they want is the listing of several major motion pictures or long-running television shows. Even those might not get you off the hot seat: “Which part did you play? Which celebrity did you work with? If you were on ‘Modern Family,’ why don’t I recognize you?”
The real work of your early career is trying to land one tiny job after another, and it can be impossible to explain your résumé on the spot. Instead, you might find yourself doling out excuses and undermining your own success, even downplaying a role you were thrilled to get, calling it “nothing” or “no big deal.” All that can leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Don’t do that to yourself. Own your achievements in one of the most competitive careers on earth, even if they are minuscule. It’s not your job to provide titillating career updates. “I’m auditioning a lot but haven’t booked anything lately” or “I was in a Honda commercial last year” will have to do.
If all else fails, try “I do a lot of theater.”
That’ll shut them up.
Jackie Apodaca is an associate professor and the head of performance at Southern Oregon University.