One of my clients is in the process of building her acting career. She’s doing great in so many ways, but lately, she’s been struggling against the faulty belief that she should already be a union actor. That she should already have fantastic representation. That she should already have tons of collaborators banging down her door. And of course, since she doesn’t have any of these things yet, she’s failing, right? No.
The last time I talked to this client the question I posed to her was: “you’re saying you should already have the successful career you’re working to build before you’ve even built it?” That’s not how it works. You need to show up and try to move things forward regardless of where you are in your creative journey.
What does it mean to show up? What can you do to stop “shoulding” all the time? Start by asking yourself these questions to take steps to make what you want a reality.
1. Do I know the headline of my creative business?
Put another way, do you know what you want to achieve? Until you do, you’re going to have a hard time asking for help to achieve it. If you’re a copywriter looking to collaborate with people selling handmade products online your headline might be: “I want to connect with folks who sell on Etsy.” Want to be on TV? Then try: “I want to talk to people who are regularly booking roles.” When it comes to your hopes and dreams, be honest and be specific.
2. Have I mined all my potential connections?
If your high school has a Facebook group, join it. If you’re not a member of your college alumni group, you should be. You might find people who can help you in a number of ways. If you have a friend who is further along in your chosen career than you are, acknowledge your icky comparison feelings that are bound to come up when you think about calling them and then do it anyway. Don’t let anything stop you from taking a step that can potentially help your career.
3. Have I made a direct ask?
If you haven’t, now’s the time. A direct ask looks like this: “I’d love an introduction to your manager,” or “Would you be willing to connect me with someone in human resources?” If you don’t have a specific request, ask the other person to tell you the story of how they got to where they are.
4. Do people know I exist?
In my coaching business, I talk a lot about the Electronic Personal Database (EPD). An EPD is a record of all the people you’ve ever met in your entire life who you can connect with electronically. Set up a system so you can regularly reach out to the contacts in your EPD to give them updates and let them know what you’re working on.
5. Am I practicing gratitude?
You’ve probably met someone in the however-many-years you’ve been a living, breathing, working person who has taught you something, touched you in some way, or helped you move things forward. Send them an email. Tell them how their advice helped you and then thank them for the impact they’ve made in your life. This will help you realize some of the good that has happened in your career already instead of letting what you think should be happening overwhelm you.
It’s time to model the behavior you wish was natural for you. Announce what you’re doing, ask for help, and you’ll be rewarded.
*This post was originally published on April 26, 2019. It has since been updated.
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