It’s a common misperception that entertainment professionals never really leave the game. Faded stars abound, of course, but their lights only dim temporarily — they’re just one break away from making it back into the big time.
This isn’t how things work in the real world. Plenty of successful entertainers and behind-the-scenes roleplayers go on to even higher heights of success in second careers — careers in industries that, at first glance at least, couldn’t be farther from the bright lights of Hollywood.
In fact, starting out your working life in the entertainment business could set you up for success down the road. Here’s how to turn what you learn in showbiz to your advantage later in life.
1. Never Stop Networking
Later on, those entertainment connections could come through in the clutch, no matter how far you stray from the business. As you well know, the entertainment industry is stocked with well-connected, well-heeled individuals. What you don’t know is when you’ll need a favor, a personal reference, startup capital. It’s in your interest to keep close to those able to scratch your back, provided you’re willing to scratch theirs in return.
2. Use Your Experience to Learn As Much As You Can About the Business World
Entertainment is a business, after all. Use your time in the industry to learn as much as possible about the roles, relationships, and dynamics that define it, then take those lessons forward to whatever you do next. That’s precisely what Majestic Steel USA president and CEO Todd Leebow did during his stint in the film industry; today, he’s at the helm of a national steel service business with hundreds of employees and thousands of customers.
3. Hone Your Collaborative Skills
More so than most industries, entertainment is a collaborative business (even when its collaborators fail to play nice). Whatever you do next, you’re going to have to work as part of a team; remember the highs and lows of your collaborative experiences in entertainment as you move forward.
4. Take Responsibility Wherever You Can Find It
When it comes to responsibility, your mantra must be: “Always ask for more.” This comes easier in the entertainment business, with its grueling pace of work and high turnover rates, which makes it an obvious line of work to gain the leadership skills you’ll need for what comes next.
5. Develop an Eye for Detail (Even When It Doesn’t Come Naturally)
To the camera, millimeters matter. Even if you’re more of a “big picture” person, use your time in the entertainment business to cultivate your eye for detail. In few lines of work is attention to detail — or, at the very least, awareness of it — not an unfettered good.
Expect the Unexpected
If one thing is true about entertainment, it’s that nothing in this business is safe to take for granted. Conditions can change in an instant: a director unceremoniously deposed midway through shooting, a hard-living star incapacitated by “exhaustion,” massive budget overruns that threaten the entire project.
Then again, that’s not so different from other lines of work. Perhaps the best advice about preparing for your post-entertainment career is the simplest: watch and learn.