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Colleenby Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix

This month: Spring Cleaning for your career

Just as January is a great time for setting goals, April, that harbinger of new growth, is a perfect time to look over where you’re at and make adjustments to—or just plain trash—the stuff that no longer serves.

Yeah, it’s a little harder for Angelenos to get in the swing of things, especially when spring feels more like summer (i.e., vacation time) than anything else. But stick to your guns, and follow my lead, and your career will be the spiffier for it.

1. Review your marketing & promotional materials.

Maybe you took care of this back in January; maybe you really got a jump on things and checked it off your list over the winter holidays. But if you haven’t, it’s time to look over your marketing toolkit for stuff that’s broken, rusty or otherwise unrepresentative of your unique fabulosity.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • headshots (is yours up to date? do you still need that gigundo stack of hard copies lying around?)
  • business cards, postcards and thank-you cards
  • résumés (both printed and digital)
  • reels (video and audio)
  • website/s (your own, and your slice of LA Casting or other services)
  • any other one-off promotional items

And give it some serious thought, too; don’t just check stuff off a list. For example, your website may be fine, but is all your social networking information (on MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc.) up-to-date? Are you everywhere you need to be? Is it time to look at new services and maybe ditch some old ones?

Should you be podcasting or shooting videos for YouTube? Should you 86 the static website in favor of a blog? Should you trade your biz cards for MooCards? Some people are ag’in ‘em because they are so tiny and unorthodox, but would those qualities work for you? I received tons of them at SXSW this year, and I love seeing the different pictures people have on them.

Speaking of SXSW…

2. Make sure classes, events and groups are still supporting your growth.

I’m all for sticking with classes until you’ve wrung all the learning you can from them. Hopping from class to class just to add lines to your résumé is a fool’s game: you need to stick with a teacher long enough for him/her to know you, and to help you get to the next place.

But if you’re in a class you’re too comfortable in, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Find some place that will stretch you.

Likewise, if there’s a type of class you seem to take over and over—improv addicts, I’m looking at you—thinking about at least switching out for a while. (It’ll improve your improv, too, I swear!)

Similarly, you should look at any group you’re in from time to time to make sure you’re still getting something out of it: your play-reading group (because you have one…right?); your theater company; your networking groups; even (gasp) your representation. I know it’s rough out there, and there’s comfort in the familiar. But you’re an actor: you didn’t sign up for comfort. Get out there and shake things up if they’ve gotten stale. And if a relationship isn’t working anymore, either fix it or end it gracefully and move on to the next one.

3. Prune or add to your wardrobe…or yourself.

No, the rule about “if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it” isn’t necessarily true for actors. Unlike their civilian brethren, actors need a range of looks, and sometimes, you don’t have to bust out the lab coat, scrubs, or work pants/golf shirt combo more than once every 12 months.

But it doesn’t hurt to review your street look. Most younger actors do this automatically, but it’s easy for middle-aged actors to blow it off, and it can work against you in certain cases. Definitely, no matter what your category, if you work commercially (or want to) and it’s been more than a year since you looked at your auditioning wardrobe, you should get on it. Frankly, I think it’s a good idea for everyone to review his/her clothes, makeup, hairstyle, etc., at least once per year and spring is the perfect time to do it.

While you’re at it, review hairstyle, hair color, glasses (if you wear them working) and, if you’re a lady-person, your makeup. If you’re a cosmetics-hater, like me, a painless way to do it is to find a friend who’s really good at it. They won’t try talking you into a bunch of junk you don’t need or a style that’s too far from you.

It’s also good to monitor where you’re at weight- and fitness-wise. The healthier and more fit you are, the more you’ll be able to act full out. Done right, it can be hard on bodies. Check in with yours, and be honest: if you need help, get it. This is especially important for plus-size actors, who are often rewarded, work-wise, for gaining weight. I’m down with people coming in all sizes; just make sure yours isn’t compromising your health.

4. Don’t forget the stuff everyone accumulates!

I instituted a catch-and-release policy with books. Except for ones I know I want around as reference, or am sure I’ll read again (very few of those), I read and return/recycle: to the library, to the used-book store, to friends. Check your cache of books and articles, and see what’s still pertinent and what’s expired. Then dump or pass on the latter.

Ditto DVDs, CDs, photos (how many copies of that old headshot do you really need for posterity?), and any other collections. What you let go of creates more room for new, good stuff to come in.

What stuff can you let go of? What’s especially hard for you to imagine moving on from? Where would you go if you could create a path for it to happen?

* * *

BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: With multiple demands on your attention (not to mention the stress of family gatherings, crowded stores, and Mass Holiday Fever), this time of the year can be tricky for reading. My suggestion is not to stop, but to adapt: enjoy a collection of engrossing (no pun intended!) interviews with actors and other artists; pick up a  book of short stories; or re-read an old inspiring or engrossing favorite you haven’t picked up in a while. Just don’t give up—reading makes you smarter and keeps you saner!

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-layabout who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.