I give unto you what was given unto me

Hello, happy "thurfriday"... um.... 


As it's Easter I'm going to give you all the best advice I ever had, like an Easter gift of some description.... 

I began my life wanting to be an actor. I went through three years of classical acting training, and, well, really enjoyed it. It was very intense in terms of what they asked of you, but also just simply how many hours you had to do. We’d average about 8 hours of class time per day, 5 days a week, but they’d expect a lot of out of hours work.

So on top of the “getting used to working hard” it also taught me, arguably the most valuable lesson of my life so far, which I will now try to explain.

In order to explain what that is let me tell you the kind of fundamental principles of (most) stage acting training. Let me caveat that by saying that I’m massively simplifying it and if you’re an actor and totally don’t agree then sorry! The idea is that you work really (really) hard in the build-up to a performance, learn your lines, learn the thoughts behind each line, learn about your surroundings, learn about your motivations in the scene, in the play, learn your movements on the stage, learn about the social and political situation at the time, essentially learn everything and anything you can.

Then forget it all and walk on stage.

The idea being that if you’ve learnt it all properly your subconscious will know it all and “It’ll just happen” – that your body and mind will use all this information you’ve learnt and in “the moment” all that hard work will just come out, you will give an “honest” “genuine” performance. Actors talk about achieving this, and they almost all talk about how they “don’t remember” the performance, that they kind of “wake up” at the curtain call…

 Sometime during my second term of my second year I was lucky enough to have a workshop with a famous Scottish Actor. The deal he struck with the 12 of us in the class was that he’d tell us the absolute honest truth on condition that we didn’t quote him. So I’m not. But I will say he is a really brilliant talent and he has done all sorts of different roles in films/tv/stage etc (so knows his stuff).

The thing he said to us was (paraphrased) “When I started out as an actor my belief was that it was all about putting layers on, about trying to add a new character to yours. The more I do the more I realise that it’s not, it’s about taking the layers off, about just being as close as possible to 100% honest”.

I seem to have a habit of long intros to make my point – this has been noted

Now how is this relevant? Well I told this story last week to a graduate that I was interviewing. For the sake of argument let’s call this person Spencer.  Spencer had spent his time at university putting layers on. There are hundreds (in fact probably thousands) of reasons why people do this but typically, at his sort of age it’s because they want to fit in with a certain group or they are trying to impress someone. In theory this isn’t any kind of problem in fact this is kind of what growing up is about. BUT (capitals, that’s how serious the ‘but’ was) the times that it is a problem is when you’re trying to become someone that you’re simply not.

Spencer had made a very conscious decision to try and be someone that he wasn’t. Deep down Spencer is a very shy, smart, modest, enthusiastic, helpful and humble guy, but he was trying to be a super-confident, “Got all the answers”, 100% knows who he is type person. I don’t necessarily have a problem with either type of person, the problem I do have is twofold. The first problem is that the fact you’re not being honest (my favourite thing in the world) makes the interviewer feel uneasy, I felt nervous with Spencer because you can tell something’s not true.

The second problem is that if you’re “pretending” to be someone you’re not and then you get hired what on earth are you going to do when you start? Are you then going to keep up the “act” for the duration of your job?

I believe wholeheartedly that the key to a great interview is to be as close to 100% honest as possible. I mentioned in an earlier post about how I believe that if you’re 100% honest you will come across as confident – totally believe this. Also, and perhaps more importantly, if you’re anything but totally honest with your interviewer and they offer you the position then you can almost rest assure that it isn’t the right job for you.

Maybe because it’s Easter and morality is “in the air” but as a graduate, applying for a job/scheme somewhere, if you go into it with the confidence to answer every question you get asked as honestly as possible you can guarantee that, at the very least, the outcome of the interview will be the right one.

Happy Easter all.