In the 1995 film, Get Shorty, John Travolta’s world-weary mobster comes to L.A. and realizes pretty quickly that he’s got a knack for show business. As it turns out, the skills that keep one in the game (and, uh, alive) in the East Coast mob world also come in handy behind the camera.
Look, you don’t have to become a made man or woman to find your footing in Hollywood. But you will need to acquire a broad and eclectic set of skills somewhere. If not in the on-set trenches, then where?
Try these four first careers, for starters. Don’t worry: none require you to do anything your parents wouldn’t want you to do.
- Food Service
We all have to eat, right?
If you’ve never worked in the restaurant business, you might not fully appreciate just how difficult and thankless most food service jobs can be. The pay is low, the hours are long, and the customers are very often indifferent (or worse).
Not coincidentally, all three of these conditions apply to the film and TV industries. If you can handle the abuse you’re likely to encounter in food service, you’ll do just fine here.
- International Business
Want a more glamorous first career? Spend a few years trotting the globe in the service of your corporate paymasters. Unlike the restaurant business, the money is great, meaning you’ll have a nice nest egg squirreled away when it’s time to make the leap to the film business. Noted producer David Mimran spent more than two decades as a corporate executive before moving into showbiz; the industry needs more well-rounded folks like him.
- Outside Sales
Some days, L.A. feels like a giant sales floor where everyone’s hawking something. New York, that mecca of the silver screen, isn’t much better. Maybe that’s why so many aspiring creative professionals cut their chops in actual sales jobs. Hey, selling cars is hard work — but so is playing a car salesperson on TV.
- Real Estate Sales
Real estate sales requires a slightly different set of skills than, say, furniture or auto sales. “Soft” skills, including basic conversational fluency, are more important in this line of work, for instance. And the boom-and-bust cycle of the housing market is good preparation for the feast-or-famine nature of film industry work.
It’s Never Too Late for a Second (or Third) Act
Hollywood is rife with heartwarming “late bloomer” stories. Per Insider, some of today’s biggest names in film and television were virtual nobodies until they hit 40:
- Bryan Cranston was 44 when he landed his first starring role, as Malcolm’s dad in “Malcolm in the Middle” (and arguably didn’t truly hit the big time until nearly a decade later, as Walter White in “Breaking Bad”)
- Samuel L. Jackson, the highest-grossing star alive, was 47 when he got his A-list break in Pulp Fiction
- Jane Lynch was nearly 50 for her star turn, atop the NBC smash “Glee”
- Dame Judi Dench was a ripe 60 when she become world-famous as M, James Bond’s handler, in GoldenEye
Take it from them: It’s never too late for your second (or third) act. Show up, work hard, and stick to your guns, and you’ll go far in this business.