This is a guest post by Christopher Dela Cruz for Student Stories.
Los Angeles, the city of dreams, or is it, the city of crushed dreams?
It is especially difficult to establish yourself in LA when you are fresh meat, still in college or just out from graduation. It takes thick skin, persistence, passion, and originality to start establishing yourself as the individual everyone wants to be.
When it came to making a name for myself, I didn’t know where to begin. I went from model to actor to dancer to PR Rep to stylist to reality star to producer. I interned with big companies such as NBCUniversal, Kitson LA, and small PR boutique companies.
I do not regret making these job transitions because it allowed me to meet so many people, some who are still to this day, good friends. However, I do regret not taking the time to think twice about my career trajectory.
Therefore, the first step in making it in LA is to figure out what you want to be. This sounds obvious of course, but it is crucial to your overall personal brand. Once you start labeling yourself as a commercial director, it may be hard to find jobs as a stage actor. No matter what you choose, make sure that it is who you are and who you want to be. I learned this the hard way
As I mentioned earlier, I learned that modeling and acting were not for me. I then moved on to reality television, since I figured it’d be an easy way to make money, get “famous”, and make a name for myself. From working for shows on Bravo, Playboy, and Food Network I had found my calling. Not going to lie, once I put my pride aside that I wasn’t going to be the next Brad Pitt, things slowly started to work its way up.
Then one day, I made the decision to make business cards. The positives of making business cards and playing the cards right is that you will get offers from companies big and small. Only after years of hard work, climbing up the ladder, and networking in LA, can you establish a name for yourself.
After I had my business cards in hand, I got busy networking. There are numerous networking events in LA that any industry professional can attend whether you are starting off or are already established. Always remember to dress to impress and hold yourself in a professional manner. Personal image and first impressions are huge in the entertainment world.
Get advice from everyone you meet and get to learn their stories. Learn about who they are, how they’ve accomplished their goals, and how you can learn from their personal journey. Regardless of your experience level, there is the term fake it until you make it. There are a couple key words one should never say, “I’m just a…” This not only downgrades your abilities, but shows to the other person that you are not confident in yourself.
Being confident is another key to making it in LA. No matter what others have to say, ultimately in the end, you know how you want to be portrayed. Never compare yourself to others, especially to the infinitesimally rare overnight success stories. Rather, always ask how you can take yourself to the next level.
The best things to do in LA or any city as a matter of fact, is to not let fear take over your dreams. Put yourself out there and step outside of your comfort zone. No one has ever made a name for himself by being complacent in his routine.
As you start to make a name for yourself in LA, the next step is to choose your inner circle wisely. Differentiate your professional co-workers from your best friends, your love affairs from your casual acquaintances. Learn that some of your friends, the ones that love to party and have fun, will have to be let go. It is not ideal, but from experience, trying to give due time to all these relationships, while trying to succeed in LA, never works out. Surround yourself by those who understand your career ambitions and who will push you to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Have I established a name for myself? Yes…finally. Having no focused career trajectory I wondered from position to position, prolonging my success in LA. I have met people my age who have established themselves at a much quicker rate. They knew what career they wanted, and stuck with it, through the sleepless nights and lonely meals.
Succeeding in LA is not easy. No one ever said it was. If they did, they’d be lying. However with determination, passion, and the will to push yourself outside your comfort zone, you are on the right track to making it in LA.
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