Why Everything—Yes, Everything—Counts When It Comes to Your Career

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Photo Source: Colleen Hayes/NBC

Living under a rock that is kept in place by all of my kids’ activities, I didn’t discover “The Good Place” until recently. But now that I’ve seen it, I think there’s a reason it resonates with audiences old and young: It’s rooted on the premise that everything counts. Every action and interaction in your life is sending positive or negative vibes into the world. So why would it be any different for actors?

Many times, we’re called in for auditions that don’t necessarily feel like a fit, particularly early on in our careers. But we hear phrases like, “It’s a numbers game” and, “work begets work.” So what do we do?

We work our butts off for every opportunity that comes our way, regardless of whether we think we’ll actually get the gig. Our job is to represent our character, not to cast the show. When we create our own material, we can cast whoever we want, but when we’re going in as an actor, we go in with one thing in mind: how to do everything in your power to convince yourself—and the people hiring—that you can represent this character honestly, artfully, and with a depth that costs something. We’re not just auditioning for a role; we’re sending a message to the business of what kind of actor we are and how well-prepared we are.

If you prepare wholeheartedly, every time you have an opportunity to audition, you’ll find your chances of booking work go up exponentially. You will still be rejected over and over and over but that’s the game we’re playing. The numbers aren’t pretty: there is a huge pool of willing applicants all vying for a relatively small number of positions. The natural consequence, therefore, is that until you’re in the inner circle, you will experience a lot of nos. So if you don’t go into it knowing that’s the game, you will be disheartened and quit before your break arrives.

When you’re assessing where you are in your career, ask yourself, “How have I represented myself to the world in every aspect of my career?” What you’ll find, if you’re honest, is that there are likely times when you’ve phoned it in, not having prepared as well as you could have for an audition. Or maybe your overall approach to your life is too relaxed and you spend more time vacationing or partying than you spend in class, honing your craft. Or maybe you’ve been unprepared in front of people you thought were “no big deal,” only to find out they’re in a position to help you. Or maybe you haven’t set your life up in a way that helps your cause so you’re spending way too much time waiting tables to pay rent on a place that’s more than you need right now because deep down, you know you should be sacrificing a little more comfort in order to focus on the one thing that you are chasing.

While some of these topics may seem unrelated to your career, I can assure you that they are not. Everything matters: how you manage your time, how you interact with others, how much you respect the work. Before you point fingers at others or complain about how tough the odds are of making it as an actor, go to the mirror and look yourself in the eye. You’ll know in your heart if you’re fooling yourself. If you’re not, my guess is that someday, you’ll be rewarded for your hard work and dedication. The trick is to not lose that hunger and joy for the work before that day comes.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Matthew Del Negro
Matthew Del Negro is a professional actor (“Goliath,” “Scandal,” “The West Wing,” “The Sopranos”) and host of the podcast, “10,000 ‘No’s’ with Matthew Del Negro.”
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