Bringing YOU to Your Entertainment Career
In the movie, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, Andy, played by Anne Hathaway, shows up at Runway magazine, the fictionalized version of Vogue, wearing her recent grad version of “dress for success” clothes and projecting a clunky likeability that makes her stand out like a sore thumb in the ultra-chic, buttoned-up environment. She clearly does not fit in and her co-workers snub her. Worse, her mean boss, Miranda Priestly, takes every opportunity to let her know she’s not long for the job. Being the heroine of the movie, though, Andy quickly finds an ally with insider knowledge and the keys to the designer samples closet and soon she is dressing and acting like she belongs in the world she has stumbled into. She starts to thrive there.
Personal Branding is Just Reputation Building
Personal branding is a big buzz phrase these days. It sounds very cutting edge and complicated, but at its core, it just refers to your professional reputation. It’s what do people think and say about you in the context of your work life.
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The popularity of networking professionally post-graduation with your former classmates and the prevalence of internships as the entry level for your post-graduate work life mean that, like it or not, personal branding starts while you are in college. Based solely on your college identity and reputation, you may or may not be someone who others look to when they have to get a project done or need to hire an ace for an entry-level position. Not everyone is at their professional best in college. (Some people who later became wonderfully productive members of the entertainment industry slept through many classes that started before 9 a.m., and may have even fallen asleep during the first ten minutes of cinematic masterpiece CITIZEN KANE and woken up at the end as Kane’s childhood sled was crackling in the fireplace. I’m not saying who.)
The good news is that you can start building a new reputation at any point in your career. You can brand yourself a creative genius, a negotiating whiz, a do-or-die go-getter, or all of the above. You can build a professional identity that will serve you in the short term and the long term. So if you haven’t made the connection between your entertainment goals and who you need be (what qualities of yourself you need to project) in order to get there, it’s time to start now.
Your Unique and Compelling Story
“Are you trying to kill me?” I have been known to shout at friends and friends of friends who send me their resumes for my opinion. “Huh?” they reply, genuinely surprised. They have used the standard font, the correct layout, and all the buzzwords and terminology appropriate to their chosen career path on the resume. “What’s wrong with it?”
Dynamic and fascinating people who in real life never utter a dull phrase sometimes check out when it comes to presenting themselves professionally, especially on paper. “It’s boring. It’s generic. It’s completely lacking in what makes you ‘YOU,’” I begin. And then, with the patience of a really impatient saint, I explain that they need to replace the resume-speak with “them-speak.” “Results-driven” with “get-it-done-or-die-trying” if that’s the truth. “Results-driven” lies lifeless on the page; “get-it-done-or-die-trying” tells me a story and makes me want to know more.
Don’t panic. I’m not asking you to become someone new. I’m asking you to think about who you are. The kid who fell asleep in film class was also the one who founded and produced a one-act play festival at her high school and even directed one of the plays. For her entry-level foray into the work world, especially the entertainment work world, that was where the unique and compelling story started. It showed what kind of a worker she would be, how her passion drove her to try (and achieve) big things.
As the entry level turned into the early work life, this young entertainment professional scoured L.A. to track down obscure items to use as props on feature films and television, then catalogued and prepped them and had them standing by at the exact moment they were needed on the set. Yes, she was results-driven, but that wasn’t the real story. And it isn’t your story.
So no matter where you are in your career, take time now to think about your past and your present, your accomplishments and your passions, and what they say about you that can get you where you want to go. That’s the person I want to read about on paper and meet in person. Someone with something to say, with a story to tell that will explain where they are going and why I should want to help them get there.
For Andy in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, a real-life rebranding transformation was shown on the big screen as she entered the professional arena she thought she wanted to be a part of. Unless you have already developed an appropriate reputation for what you want to do in your career and reflected that in your job hunt documents, your online presence, your elevator pitch, and how and what you do, you will need to consider a virtual rebranding, a defining and enhancing of the parts of yourself which need to be at the forefront if you are to have any hope of getting where you want to go.
And assuming you have created goals that are in line with your true self, instead of realizing you a miserable in a world where you don’t belong, as Andy ultimately did at the end of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, you will create an identity that gets you where you will be happiest and most professionally fulfilled.
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