With no shortage of classes, articles, Youtube videos and workshops to tell you how to become a successful actor, it’s easy to let the constant chasing of answers add to our already full plate.
When you’re growing your acting career, you’re doing the work of ten people: marketing yourself, social media, honing your craft, tracking your income. Racing around from mentor to mentor hoping THIS one has the answer you need isn’t something you need to add to the list.
Why finding mentors is important
You’ve signed up for a business that can be pretty tricky. It’s creative. It’s sexy. It also has a pretty low success rate. The best way to help your chances of success are to find people further down the road than you. You can learn what worked, what didn’t, and why. It can shave years off of your career instead of needing to learn every lesson by yourself.
A good mentor can help you avoid signing with a scammy agent. They can point you toward a class that would round out your skill set. Mentors can help you narrow your focus when deciding where your resources should go.
The most important reason to choose your small cohort of mentors wisely is this: everyone is going to give you advice. People want to help you! And nobody will shy away from telling you about the next class you “need to take to boost your resume” or “this expensive headshot photographer that will get you way more auditions.”
This is the quickest way to land in actor overwhelm. And worse, to waste a ton of time and money while you chase too many ideas at the same time with no cohesive game plan. As you’ll learn inside my free masterclass, the long-game is the short-cut. While endless streams of advice about the next short-cut will keep you busy on the hamster wheel, your mentors can help you play the effective, strategic long-game that will get you where you ultimately want to go.
What will a mentor help me with?
There’s no way to predict all the ways having trusted mentors in your career can help you. But here are a few things you might be able to find out from your inner circle.
- Are your headshots aligned with your type?
- What next class would be best, give my current goals and skills?
- Should I dye my hair blonde?
- Two agents want to sign me, what do I do?
- Do you think my reel is finished? What’s missing?
- A mentor can refer you to industry contacts.
- I just booked a big role. How do I promote it?
- Help choosing a scene for a showcase or workshop
And so much more. Let’s say you were to ask all your Facebook friends if you should dye your hair blonde. You’d probably be just as confused after one hundred responses as when you started. But your inner-circle of mentors will know you better. You’ll have fewer voices weighing in. This can help you make decisions with precision and efficiency that can move your career along, instead of just wasting time.
Three types of coaches you’ll need
I recommend choosing three mentors. Three gives you enough scope to get second opinions, but narrows the contradicting advice you’re getting down from hundreds of well-intentioned friends and industry folk to just a few voices.
These three people will serve as your “board of directors,” if you will. They are the ones you’ll go to with big decisions about your career. Of course you might still want to listen to tidbits you pick up from other sources but I recommend you commit to your board of directors as your compass for career advice.
YOUR ACTING COACH
Your consistent acting coach will be a great way to gauge how your skill is improving over time. Because they’re familiar with your work, you’ll get insight into blindspots that need improvement as well as confirmation about what you’re great at.
I recommend finding a teacher who consistently coaches working actors and uses current material in class. This will give you better insight and proximity to what is actually being cast right now, so you can get a better feel for where you should focus your energy when making career decisions.
YOUR CAREER COACH
Whether you find a coach to work with in a private capacity, in an accountability group, or just a regular blog you follow, it’s important to find someone to keep your attention on the business side of your business.
Actors are creative people and business doesn’t always come easy or sound sexy. Having someone to guide you through all the different ways you can market yourself can save you time and money, and accelerate your career much faster than if you’re working solo.
YOUR TRUSTED FRIEND
On your board of directors should also be a friend who “gets you.” This could be someone you met in class, your roommate, or even a family member. Ideally, they’ve got a little working knowledge about the acting business. This person helps guide you because they know your passions and can help get you back on course when you’re “chasing too many rabbits.”
This is the person who can listen to your ideas and plans without charging you an hourly fee. Which, let’s be honest, is pretty great. Use them.
Why only three mentors?
Choosing three is effective because everyone’s got an opinion and way of doing things. You will find two career coaches with completely opposing ways of doing things and they’re both “right.” They’ve both had success in their strategy. If you’re constantly listening to both voices, you’ll probably find yourself “stuck” trying to decide who’s right. That is a waste of your time. Find someone you trust, and commit to one strategy at a time.
Where do agents and managers fit in?
Your agent and manager are, of course, a huge piece of your puzzle. They’re not included in the three because they get an automatic seat on your board of directors. With a few exceptions, advice from your agents and managers should carry a lot of weight in your decisions. Their main goal is to make both of you money – if they’re giving you advice, it’s because they think it will help get you both there. Consider it.
You can change mentors as you evolve
Eventually, you may find you’ve “outgrown your mentor.” You may feel like it’s time to move on and that’s perfectly natural. The goal is to commit to a small cohort of voices for a while, so you’re not flip-flopping your career strategy from week-to-week. When you’re ready to make a change to a different mentor on your board of directors, make it consciously, and commit to the next move.
I would be honored to be one of your mentors! For weekly career-shifting goodness, become a Happy Actor Insider here.