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The Industry

How many times have you set career goals that never came to fruition? I’ve fallen into this trap myself in the past, from monologues left unlearnt to dream jobs not landed. But why is that?

Review your long-term goals at least once a year. Are they still relevant to you? It’s likely that what you wanted five years ago has changed, so anticipate that it will change again.

The acting profession is unpredictable, with so many things left to the whims of casting panels and lucky timing. But we actors are ambitious by nature. We want success and recognition from our audiences and peers. So how can we take that ambition and drive and channel them into stretching goals that will get ticked off the list?

Everyone will have their own solution to this. But if you’re unsure where to start, here are five tools, arranged into a 5-step plan, to help you write effective goals that will get you to where you want to be in your career.

Step 1: What do you want to achieve?

List the things you want from your career. These could be huge achievements like winning an Olivier or smaller goals like mastering a performance skill.

Once you have your list, close your eyes and imagine your future with each one of these goals achieved. How does it feel? How would not achieving your goal impact this future? This exercise helps identify which goals you truly want to pursue and makes them tangible.

Step 2: Where are you now?

Next, take stock of where you are in your career. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What opportunities are available to you? What threats could derail your progress? Writing these down gives you a clear view of the skills and resources you can use, and what you may need to work on or troubleshoot.

Step 3: Make your goals SMART

SMART is an acronym that you may have come across before. There are subtle variations of it, so it’s best to find the version that works for you. But for the purposes of this article, SMART stands for:

  • Specific – what do you want to achieve and why?
  • Measurable – how will you measure your progress (how much/how many)?
  • Actionable – do you have complete control over achieving this?
  • Realistic – do you have the tools/skills/time to complete this?
  • Time-Based – what’s the deadline?

These criteria create goals that are clear and focused, with an increased chance of being achieved.

For example, the goal, “I want to be in a West End show,” is too vague to be useful. It’s something you don’t have full control over, it isn’t specific or measurable and it has no deadline.

However, “This month I will write to five West End casting directors: [names of casting directors]” is a SMART goal that works towards that West End job. The casting directors are specified, you measure your progress as you write to each one, you control whether you write to them or not, it’s a realistic amount of work and you have a month deadline.

Look back at the achievements you’ve identified in Step 1, and convert them into SMART goals. If you can’t (e.g. the goal relies on someone else’s decision) think about which SMART goals will get you closer to that achievement (e.g. writing to people/practicing, etc).

Step 4: Create an action plan

Now you have your SMART goals, look at where you’re starting from. Let’s take the example of writing to casting directors: have you had meetings or written to any of them before? Has your agent submitted you for anything they’ve cast?

Next, consider any options or obstacles you have. For our example, an option could be sending either a letter or email – what are the pros and cons? An obstacle may be that you don’t have their contact details – how can you get that information? This will break down the steps towards your goal.

Finally, you’re ready to write out your goal and its necessary steps. Using positive language such as “I will…” increases your commitment to it.

Step 5: Review your goals regularly

Your goals need to grow and change with you, so it’s important to review them. You can use a notebook, diary or spreadsheet for this, or create a Personal Development Plan to track your progress.

As you complete (or don’t complete) each goal, review how well it worked for you. Tweak anything that needs changing.

Review your long-term goals at least once a year. Are they still relevant to you? It’s likely that what you wanted five years ago has changed, so anticipate that it will change again.

It’s important to note that no one system will work for everyone. Just like your definition of success, how you get there will be unique to you. But with these tools at hand, you’ll be one step closer to understanding how to set goals that will take you towards the future you deserve.

Michaela Bennison is an actor and writer, whose credits include ‘Into The Woods’ at The Royal Exchange, Manchester and ‘Lady of Jazz’ at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester and Wilton’s Music Hall.

Michaela runs a blog and YouTube channel, where she shares her thoughts about the theatre industry and offers advice to actors based on her experiences.

Headshot by John Clark.

Main Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash