Updated: Apr 11
Your personality is more important than your resume. If you don’t believe me, type “voiced resume” into Google and read some of the articles. They are all about using an active voice in your resume so that your unique voice emerges from the page. Someone reading your resume wants to know what you’ve done, but more importantly they want to know who you are. More specifically, they want to know whether they want to work with you. We all know creatives who have awesome credentials and incredible skills, but they are just terrible human beings. No one wants to work with them. Luckily, there are some very simple rules you can follow to make sure that people will want to work with you, both before and after you get the job.
Ever heard of the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum? In it, he details sixteen things that kindergartners learn that still apply to our adult lives. They are all very simple and basic concepts. They include, among other things, play fair, don’t hit people, clean up your mess, etc.
So, in the spirit of Robert Fulghum, I have made a list of five things you learned in kindergarten that apply to your creative arts business (or any business, really).
1. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.
It’s a fact. Word gets around. If you really can’t stand that director, chances are when you’re in the bathroom dishing to your best friend, that director’s best friend is in the stall. So it gets back to the director and she tells another director how rude you are. The director that she is speaking to just happens to be the one directing a show that you’ve been hoping to get a part in for months. Don’t waste your time. You’ve already destroyed your chances without even knowing it.
This is a hard one for some people. Let me give you a hard and fast rule. If your job title has the word “director” in it, then it is not your job to be in the spotlight. It is your job to help someone else look good in that spotlight. To be a really great director, others have to trust you to help them succeed. That’s not going to happen if they constantly feel like they have to compete with you.
And even if you’re not a director, unless you are a one-man band, you need other artists to work with you. A solo violin rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth would never sell out and nobody would watch The Nutcracker just to see Clara fall asleep.
3. Be polite.
If you are rude, no one is going to want to be around you. But you need to go beyond just using please and thank you. People want to feel appreciated. Countless studies have shown that recognition is even more important than money. So make sure that both your colleagues and your audience know that you appreciate them. This is super simple. All you have to do is use the ARC method: acknowledge them (Thank you for…), recognize them (It was really helpful that you…, I’m so grateful that you came out tonight to…), and give them an honest and specific compliment (You did a great job on …., I really like the way you…). If doing this just to be a decent human is not enough for you, think of it as marketing. It takes very little time and costs you nothing, but you will gain a very positive reputation.
4. Wait for your turn.
Don’t “upstage” someone else. This can range from mild upstaging, such as not waiting for someone else to finish speaking before you put your two cents in (only mildly irritating, but extremely disrespectful) to an outright aggressive display of scene stealing. I once saw a music director (note the “director” in the title) walk in through the audience during a musician’s performance to retrieve a piano bench in front of the stage - just because she wanted to put a camera on it in the next room for her own “performance”. It was obvious to everyone in the room that she didn’t respect the musician. And who looks bad in that scenario? You guessed it, the director.
5. Tell the truth
This is so important in so many scenarios. First of all, if you don’t know how to do something, don’t lie and say that you do. Creative people are problem solvers, so we love a challenge. We are happy to help you figure out how to do something. Secondly, don’t lie about your qualifications either. It’s obvious when you do. And keeping up the pretense when you’ve already been figured out just plain looks bad.
If you are saying to yourself, “This was a useless article. I always do these things,” don’t be so quick to pat yourself on the back. Do you really always live up to these kindergarten rules? Chances are you’ve broken them a good many times, just like we all have. After all, we are human. So forgive yourself and make amends to those you’ve wronged. “I’m sorry” can go a long way, and a renewed effort going forward will be noticed. After all, we are in the end pretty forgiving if given the chance.
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