If you have friends in the industry who might be casting directors, filmmakers, or agents, I bet you can relate to this week’s blog post.
Let’s face it, asking your industry friends (especially if they’re successful) for help can feel kinda tricky. Perhaps you fear your friends might think you’re using them. Or maybe, you’re just afraid to cross some invisible line.
If you relate, listen up… Your friends and acquaintances are in your life because they like you. These people want to help you, but that can be tough to do when you never talk about your career, your goals, and your needs.
I worked with an actor named Michael whose J.O.B. was bartending. He’d grown to know a number of his customers well, and many of them were in the business. They never talk about Michael’s career though, and he felt like too much time has passed for him to bring up acting naturally.
Michael told me: “Dallas, these people have become like friends. I don’t want to seem weird by bringing up acting now. I’m also their bartender. They’re coming to the bar to unwind, not to talk about business. So, the bar doesn’t feel like the right place… But I know I’m missing out on an opportunity here.”
Michael’s story is not unusual. In fact, this is one of the most common obstacles I see actors put in front of themselves. Michael was so afraid his customers would roll their eyes and say, “Great… another actor…” and he’d ‘look like a schmoozer’ that he simply kept his mouth shut.
So, I encouraged Michael to find out for sure how open his customers were to helping him, or at least how open they were to ‘talking shop’ with him. He assumed that his customers wouldn’t want to hear about his career, so he never bothered to ask before. But you have to give people the chance to decide for themselves how involved they want to be in your career.
In order to do this, you must ask yourself, “How can I confidently talk about the business without feeling bad or making others feel uncomfortable or cornered?”
Let me break it down for you with three quick guidelines to help you bridge the gap between personal and professional relationships.
Step One: Identify the Problem
Address the pink elephant in the room right off the bat. Use the fact that you’re unsure as the reason why you’re checking in.
For example: I feel a little awkward talking to you about the business because I respect our friendship, so I wanted to check in…
Step Two: Let Them Decide
Use an open-ended question to put the ball into their court. This way they can dictate what works best for them without you feeling like you’re putting demands on their time.
For example: How comfortable are you if I share career updates and reach out occasionally to ask for business advice?
Step Three: Practice the 80/20 rule.
Make sure that 80% of your time together focuses on your personal relationship. Reserve only 20% to talk shop. This will ensure that your friend never feels like you’re taking advantage of them. It’ll also ensure that you feel good about your relationship as a whole.
Now, back to Michael’s story.
Michael turned the problem into the solution and simply checked in with each individual customer, saying something like this:
“I feel really weird bringing this up because I know you’re here at the bar to unwind. That’s why I’ve never mentioned my acting before. But, I’m just curious about how open you are to meeting sometime to give me some career guidance?”
Of course, every one of Michael’s customers was more than happy to help him. In fact, one of them even became his manager when she found out that Michael was an actor.
By turning the problem into the solution and giving people a chance to decide for themselves how involved they want to be in your career, you can learn to still feel authentic and open about your acting without damaging your friendships.