Saturday, October 29, 2011

47. Learn On The Job, Get Paid, Feel Good

“To enjoy now, there was something… I was going to have to master: my dread of criticism. Too much concern about whether I was getting praise or blame, too much anticipatory anxiety about what my detractors would say – those kinds of fears spoiled my pleasure in my work and, what’s more, probably weakened by work.” – Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project 

When you get a new job and you’re learning how to do it…whether you are making lattes at Starbucks, rehearsing new dance numbers or writing complex reports… nobody expects you to do it perfectly your first day on the job.  There’s always a learning-curve. You learn as you go and improve your skills as time goes on… and the best part is… you’ve already got the job and you're getting PAID for that learning.

You were hired because they see that you have the skills to be able to LEARN how to do the specific tasks required for the job. Every job requires learning new things... And the process of getting really good at anything takes TIME, but … as long as you keep at it… you will improve. True story.

Once you've accomplished a certain amount of mastery of those new skills... you can look back on your first rocky days at a new job and laugh (hopefully), knowing that you could have probably cut yourself a little bit more slack and not stressed yourself out about it so much. 

Everybody's been the newbie and hopefully your co-workers and employers will have compassion for you as you become a master of your new job.

RE: Men & Women

I read a study earlier this year (wish I could cite it directly, but I couldn’t find it) which discussed the different ways that men and women approach the concept of “learning on the job.” 

The study showed that the majority of MEN felt no qualms what-so-ever about the idea of getting paid to learn how to do a new job. In other words, they didn’t stress-out about the fact that they had just gotten hired to do a job that they essentially didn’t know how to do yet. They felt confident in the fact that they would be able to learn it over time and felt that getting paid during this process was due compensation for their efforts.

WOMEN, however, had a different experience on the whole. Many of them expressed high levels of anxiety at not knowing how to expertly execute all the duties of their new jobs from day one, and felt a sort-of guilt at being paid to do something they were still learning how to do.

I thought this was so strange! I had never considered that new-job-stress could actually have some gender associations. Still... every human being is different, so these kinds of studies must be taken with a grain-of-salt. But it certainly made me think and reflect on my own expectations for myself when starting up any new project.

I’d like to be totally okay with getting paid to learn. You want to pay me to get good at doing something? Okay. No prob. I'm on it!

I mean, if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to get paid training at your job... take it!!! That's such a gift! Your employers are investing in you… teaching you new skills… for their own benefit (of course), but these new skills will benefit you as well because you can apply them in future job situations or in your life in general. And you can always learn about yourself in the process... in ANY process. So really it's a win/win for everyone.

And as someone who spent many, many years and many, many student loans… paying my way through classes, so that I could learn things… the whole concept of "learning on the job" and getting PAID is pretty freakin’ awesome.

Re: Acting

Sooo, when it comes to acting, learning on the job is the NORM. Even the BEST actors in the business are constantly learning new skills for their roles. 

In a previous post, I discussed how much l learned from attending the alumni talkback sessions at the callback weekend at NYU. I wanted to share with you one specific conversation that helped to shift my mindset about learning on the job...

After the Q&A was over I walked up to Billy Crudup, an NYU alum, and asked him what his name was again? HA! (I knew I had seen him in a bunch of stuff, but honestly had no idea what a well-known actor he was.)

Me = Ridiculous

He smiled and said, "Billy." I said, "I'm Virginia. Nice to meet you... I was just wondering how you feel that your training at NYU prepared you for a film career and dealing with the unique skills required for on-camera work?" 

(I asked this question because, in all the three years of training at NYU, on-camera training only happens in your third year. It is not a program that has a great focus on on-camera acting, but sooooo many of the alumni have gone on to great success in that medium. So I was trying  to understand where the connection was between the training at NYU and what I was seeing on the big and small screens.)

Billy’s answer was, of course, brilliant and gracious. He smiled and said that at NYU he had learned all the essential skills that an actor needs to have to prepare for ANY kind of a role in ANY medium, but most importantly, NYU taught him to just say “YES.” Meaning… that he would "go for it"… do whatever was required for the role… whether he “knew how” to do it or not or “felt prepared” to do it or not. He’d just DO IT. He felt confident enough from his training at NYU that he could LEARN ON THE JOB how to be a skillful film actor. 

And he is.

At NYU he established a strong foundation of acting training, practice and confidence and used it to help build a solid film career. 


As he stood there discussing this early part of his career with me, I could see that he saw great humor in many of his early foibles on-camera and had clearly learned not to take himself too seriously somewhere along the way as well. Adorable. 

He is a kind and generous human being and I will always be grateful for him taking the time out of his busy schedule to show up at that alumni talk-back and share his experience with potential students. Just awesome.

In conclusion, it all comes back to the freedom from anxiety that being okay with “not knowing” provides... Being able to just say YES and trust that all that you will discover everything you will need to know in time. 

What a stress-free, suffering-free existence we’d all have if we could just trust that all is well and everything will work out fine!?


Or as Jack Plotnick affirms for himself when walking into an audition, “I am going to take it from where I am.” Because where I am right now is the perfect place to begin.

Billy began where he was... trained at NYU... learned on the job... and now he's dancing with Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love.

Sooo, I hope we can all take Billy’s lead, here… and feel GOOD about learning on the job!

Begin. Feel good. Learn. Feel good. Get better. Feel good. Get paid. Feel good. Learn more. Feel good...

You see where I am going with this?...

Now go!


“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful after all." - Michelanglo Buonarroti, sculptor, painter, architect & poet (1475 - 1564)

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