Jobs aren’t always what you expect them to be, but sometimes you have to find that out firsthand. And despite popular opinion, taking a risk with a job that turns out wrong for you can be smartest career move you ever make. Careers that truly feed your spirit require risk at times.
Not all dream jobs work out — even ones that feel right in your mind beforehand. But how else can you ever know? Just sitting and wishing for better can make for a long dull career. But each step toward something you care about can add new information and contacts for the rest of your life!
How I got myself a job at a New York City talent agency
In my early 40s, I decided it was time to finally go after a career that would make me excited to get up in the morning. And so, after taking a bunch of career tests, the combination of my business skills and love of show biz — plus a desire to help people — pointed me toward a career as a talent agent.
Made sense to me. I enjoy talking with people about their jobs … an early sign of what I eventually wound up doing! I had strong business and problem solving skills. Also, I majored in theater undergrad, worked in summer stock, and did a little acting even while doing other things to pay the rent.
Deciding that a career change even at that point of my life was well worth the risk, I set out to find a job at a talent agency — any job. I knew once I got in, I’d somehow find a way to get myself a chance to become the talent agent I was meant to be. (Or so I thought.)
I bought a book that was called The Ross Reports (now Call Sheet by Backstage) and sent a cover letter plus carefully targeted resume to every single agency in the book. I was thrilled to get two interviews for entry-level jobs and wound up working for the owner of a major talent agency.
What actually happened
Most of my job was to handle phone calls and file talent contracts. And even though I had an MBA, a year of law school, and tons of business experience, I made sure to handle each thing I did with a great attitude and a smile. Heck … I was having fun in a way no banking job had ever made me feel!
My boss, well-known to be a shark in the world of agents, took a real shine to me. He brought me to the Friar’s Club, to celebrity parties, and other places agents hang out to build relationships. I watched carefully to see what agents do and how they find and manage their clients. It was like they paid me to go to agent school.
Turns out, I hated what agents did, at least for me. I don’t like big parties and schmoozing. I don’t want to work far into the night to make new contacts. I wasn’t even good at spotting highly-marketable talent. I was more like the Woody Allen character in Broadway Danny Rose who wanted to help the ones other agents (and casting directors) wouldn’t handle.
Now my boss, who saw that I wasn’t agent material, was happy to keep me as long as possible as his assistant. I was really good at it. And he was thinking of other ways to use my business skills. But there was nothing else there I was interested in, and too many things I didn’t like about the talent agency world — not that it wasn’t fascinating. So after about 5 months I gave my notice.
Do I regret what I did?
Absolutely not! Besides having great stories to tell about my time at the talent agency and the celebrities I met there, I left having had the courage to follow my dream and see where it took me. And to learn from it!
There’s a current presidential candidate who says if he doesn’t win he will have wasted his time and money. Maybe in his mind winning only has one goal and one meaning. What a sad way to look at life. Is taking the time to view a gorgeous sunset a waste of time? You win nothing there — at least nothing tangible. To me, everything we do has potential to help us grow and move forward in life.
Giving myself a chance to go after a dream helped me let that one go, so I could eventually open myself up to new and more fulfilling paths. I left having learned new things about myself, about show business, and about another related area (publishing) that later wound up being important to me. Even if you can’t see it in the moment, you may be gaining a jewel for the future.
One last thought
You can’t always know where a path will lead. You could wind up finding your dream and more. But if it’s a direction that calls strongly to you, even if you don’t find your dream right away, it may very well open up new doors you otherwise would never have found.
And if you play things right and keep at it, believing in yourself and staying alert for those wonderful opportunities that show up when least expected wherever each new path takes you, you may very well get yourself to that special something that feeds your heart. And that’s my idea of winning.
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