Self-Worth Lands Jobs, Not Subservience
Years before I became a Career Coach and started my own company, I worked as a tv/film actor. The first years were the hardest. It seemed like all I did in those days was schlep over to a casting house, audition for something I’d poured my heart and soul into preparing for…and not hear anything back. I couldn’t understand the silence. After all, I’d been a diligent student in theater school, and wasn’t afraid of hard work. In the audition room, I smiled and said everything I thought they wanted to hear. No matter how bland the material, or my misgivings about whether or not landing the gig in question would actually help my career, I always gave the impression that it was exactly what I wanted.
And the phone continued to not ring. And the balances on my credit cards continued to spiral upwards. And slowly, the façade of being a “good student” began to slip.
The tipping point came when I showed up to an audition and the person checking the actors in handed me a number: 102. When I asked what it was for, she just waved her hand across the sea of other actors, and said they’d call us in by groups. Not by names, mind you. We didn’t warrant names. Just a number.
This was the moment things changed for me. Because I realized no job was worth being treated like that. Despite having less than a hundred dollars in my bank account, and the prospect of eviction looming like a dark cloud over the horizon, I mustered the courage to walk out of that audition. Over the next few weeks, a sea change occurred in how I approached these situations. I no longer went in with the naïve belief that saying the right things would magically result in a job. On the contrary, I told myself the exact opposite: it was never going to happen. Which sounds depressing, I know. But on the heels of that thought came another: if I’m not going to get this gig anyway, why not have some fun? Why not play a scene, answer a question, be the person I really am, so at least I can walk out knowing I didn’t compromise myself? With this burgeoning “anti” mindset, I showed up for a Samsonite commercial (very far from a Scorcese movie, I know). And I just let loose, living in the moment without being weighed down my what might or might not happen.
And the next morning my agent called to say I’d booked my first paid acting job. In the ensuing weeks and months, I booked a steady stream of gigs, and we were off to the races. By acknowledging what I would and wouldn’t stand for, and letting go of the ghost of perfection, I’d found a way to succeed.
The biggest mistake people make during a job search is refusing to address the mental side of the equation. It’s not about having the best resume, or saying the perfect thing during an interview. It’s digging deep to answer the how’s and why’s, so that when you’re face-to-face with an interviewer, you are operating from a position of strength. They want to evaluate you like an interchangeable commodity. It’s your job to refute that, and present yourself in a way that demands to be perceived as an individual. What does success mean to you? What are you willing to commit to this job, and what are you not? Ultimately, what do you want out of life? If you haven’t answered these questions to your satisfaction beforehand, it’s unlikely that you’ll do so during an interview.
No job in the world is worth sacrificing your self-worth. And the funny thing is, when you sincerely act on that belief, the job offers will come.