I’m pretty sure I’m probably the only person old enough to remember this but in the late 70’s-early 80’s when women were entering the workforce in droves, an entire cottage industry sprung up advising them how to look and be successful in this new endeavor. And since this was new territory for women, they had no role models to look to for guidance. The only examples available were men who dressed in suits and ties. Before long, there were entire battalions of women in blue suits, white shirts and floppy ties around our necks. My first interview suit was much like this only it was brown and the shirt was a high-necked plaid one. By then, women were breaking loose a bit from the IBM mold. Wow, what creativity I showed! All kidding aside, the overwhelming credo was to dress and act for the job you want, not the job you had. So if you wanted to be an Executive Vice President at a bank, you dressed the way they did. You made decisions they way they did. You comported yourself the way they did. That way people didn’t see you as you are currently but how you would be several jobs down the road. And they felt confident in rewarding you with a promotion that you would be able to do the job and not embarrass them for promoting you.
Fortunately for me, those arcane dress codes have fallen by the wayside. I still have a few suits but the last few years of my life, I dressed pretty casually and creatively. I was starting to dress for the job I wanted, which was as a full time actress, and not as a Sales Manager anymore. I was also starting evaluate and make decisions from the perspective of a full time actress and not as a Sales Manager. This evolved recently into the next step in my decision making although I didn’t identify it at the time. I began to weigh opportunities that were coming my way against the direction I wanted my career to go. I was given a chance to audition for one of the top theatres in Chicago but as an understudy. I decided even before I went in that I wasn’t interested in being seen as an understudy, that I would audition for them when an opportunity came up for a principal role. I didn’t want an understudy career. I also came to the decision that I was not going to do any more extra work. I’d done 2 stints in the past, the Break-Up and Flags of Our Fathers (which got me on screen front and center at 45 minutes-Mom timed it-and made my parents faces light up when they saw me) but I learned what I needed to from those stints and didn’t see the purpose in doing more of them. I felt the same way about doing plays for free. You can work every night of the week in this town for free but what does it get you if you are interested in a film career?
A newsletter I get from acting career coach Dallas Travers coalesced all these beliefs into a philosophy I’m adopting as my own. She says she’s not a millionaire yet but she makes decisions as if she is. I’m not an Oscar winning actress yet, but I’m making decisions and evaluating opportunities as if I am. Reading scripts before saying yes to a role. Doing my work so I’m prepared when called to audition. Taking care of myself as I am the product. Targeting the job I want, not the job I have. Things really haven’t changed in 25 years.