OK, so you’re not a celebrity and you (probably) don’t work in showbiz – but we can all learn valuable career lessons from the stars. From playing to your strengths and updating your personal brand to diversifying your career, we reveal three lessons worth learning.
Ben Affleck: Play to your strengths
After early Oscar success for writing Good Will Hunting it seemed Ben Affleck could do no wrong but a string of critical and commercial misfires (Gigli, Surviving Christmas, Jersey Girl) saw his career floundering just as his close pal Matt Damon was hitting the big time with the Bourne movies.
But rather than continue to plough the same mainstream furrow, Affleck changed direction and began to take roles in smaller scale, more considered projects – most significantly Hollywoodland, a biopic of George Reeves – the actor who once played Superman.
Rebuilding his reputation as a capable actor and skilled screenwriter, he mixed acting and behind-the-camera roles – culminating in a Best Picture Oscar for political thriller Argo, which he directed.
Speaking to Details, he said: “In our culture, we get very much into shorthanding people… I just said, ‘I don’t want to do it anymore.’ And most of the way I did that was by not acting. I said, ‘I’m going to steer myself toward directing. I’m going to do something that takes me toward a place where the work that I do is reflective of what I think is interesting dramatically.'”
Now with a gold-plated reputation as a director and actor, Affleck is feeling brave enough to take on the role of Batman – and we wouldn’t bet against him winning over the doubters.
Lesson: If you end up in a career dead end or get blown off course then you may want to focus on your core competencies and reconsider where you are applying yourself. You might take a temporary pay cut, but end up with much better long-term prospects.
Miley Cyrus: Don’t be afraid to update your personal brand
Miley Cyrus first came to fame as the squeaky clean star of the Hannah Montana movies – a world away from the controversial figure she cuts today. But while the furore after her recent MTV VMAs performance might suggest she made the jump from Disney pop puppet to edgy performer overnight, she’s actually been making a gradual transition for several years.
Realising that her shelf life as a child star was running short, she began recording more adult material in 2009 and further matured her output with 2010’s Can’t Be Tamed.
She told E! Fashion Police: ‘I think people think I really am a robot that was made in Burbank in the Disney building. People are like, “How do you make a transformation from a kid to an adult?” I’m like, it’s called puberty, everyone’s done it from the beginning of time.
‘Everything I’m doing with my videos, everything I’m doing with my music, I just want it to be really honest. I just feel like I’ve been a character for so long that now I just want all my performances all my videos to be really real.’
Lesson: Whether you’re working in a niche which has a limited shelf life or just want to make a change, it would be wise to take the adage about dressing for the job you want rather than the job you have – and also apply it to your CV, your work experience and your social media output.
Ashton Kutcher: Adapt and diversify
When the world met Ashton Kutcher in That ’70s Show or Dude, Where’s My Car, his mop-topped charm seemed as though it might have an expiry date somewhere in his early 30s.
But he was already working on expanding his career portfolio long before that, taking a presenting job on Punk’d and stepping behind the camera with work as a producer on TV shows such as Beauty and the Geek, Adventures in Hollyhood, The Real Wedding Crashers, and Opportunity Knocks.
Kutcher continued to take well-paid roles in mainstream movies, building a dual career as a Hollywood star and a showbiz mover-and-shaker.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Daily News, he explained his approach to his working life: ‘If anything, I’m a try-er. I think, more than anything, it comes from the fact that my father always had several irons in the fire.
‘Also, I don’t want to fail. If something doesn’t work out – if That ’70s Show got cancelled or if I wasn’t going to have a film career – I always wanted to have backup contingency plans.
‘So I just started doing other things; and on a half-hour sitcom, you’re really only working for 30 hours a week. It allows a lot of time for sitting around, which I always kind of filled with work.’
Away from the entertainment industry, Kutcher has turned his interest in technology (hewas the first person to have one million followers on Twitter) into a successful sideline as an early investor in success stories like Skype, Spotify and Airbnb.
And his reputation as a tech-savvy star must have helped him land the role of Steve Jobs in a biopic of the late Apple boss – which in turn helped Ashton take a step from comedy into serious drama.
Lesson: Things might be going well in your career, you might be making good money and you could be enjoying your work, but that could change at any point and it pays to have alternative options. Take opportunities to learn new skills, seek out different responsibilities and think about how your hobbies and interests could help you diversify in your professional life.
Image: © Ivelin Radkov – Fotolia.com