Last night was the season premiere of the show Smash on NBC. In case you aren’t an avid observer of culture like me (aka someone who watches a ton of TV) the show centers on the Broadway theater industry and how it creates a “smash” musical. Last season the show was all about two women, equally talented but with very different styles and looks, battling for the role of the iconic Marilyn Monroe in a new musical, Bombshell. These two women rolled out dirty tricks, flirted with (and a lot more) with each others’ boyfriends, played dirty mindtricks, etc., But in the end only one woman got to take the role to Broadway and that was Karen Cartwright (Katherine McPhee). This left the other woman, Ivy Lynn (Meghan Hilty), devastated and questioning if she even wanted to stay in the show business game anymore.
Show business, like many other industries, is extremely tough and competitive. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if you work the hardest or are actually the most talented. A lot of it has to do with being in the right place at the right time or just having a certain look. And though there can be tremendous success, the climb to get there can be full of closed doors and utter rejections which can be disheartening.
The sophomore premiere of this show opens with Ivy finding herself in a very difficult spot in her career. After being so close to starring in a hit musical, it was taken away from her (at literally the last minute). She is trying to stay in the good graces of the producers and directors of Bombshell so she can stay with the show in literally any capacity. She is also going on auditions for ensemble parts that basically means she is going two years back in her career progression. At one point she sees a woman, Lisa McMann, she used to work with that she felt bad for because she had been working in the business for so long and was never able to really get anywhere. When the woman tells us her she left show biz to start her own stationery company and now has a guest house (the ultimate sign of wealth) and is truly happy, Ivy wonders if giving up would be the best move for her.
What should you do if you find yourself in a similar situation? Clare Whitmell of The Guardian wrote that if you consistently getting rejections as you try to move up in your career, try to actionable information so you can figure out what you are doing wrong or what you need to do. “Write a polite email to the hiring manager asking for feedback and advice. Say why you’re keen on the role or the company, and that you’d like to improve your future applications. This approach may generate useful, specific details, rather than the generic “we chose someone more experienced/qualified.” For example, you might learn whether it was a lack of relevant skills or experience, or if you failed to come across well in your interview.”
If this doesn’t work, talk to recruiters or a career coach in your field. It may just be that you are presenting yourself poorly (resume errors!) or you have a real gap in your skills. Also, figure out why you really want to be in this field. Are you really passionate about it or do you maybe just like the idea of it?
But also, as producer Julia Houston (Debra Messing) said on the show last night when Ivy was considering quitting, it’s just when she’s ready to give up that something good happens for her. That is why she keeps going back to the theater, abusive as her relationship with it may be. And then, of course (because this is a television show), Ivy gets to sing at a big, important Broadway community event. Her showstopping number alerts the room that she may have be down, but she is not out. She sings:
“So I made friends with rejection, I’ve straigtened up my spine. I’ll change each imperfection, til it’s time to drink the wine. A toast to resurrection, but they just keep moving the line.”
Things aren’t always tied up that neatly in real life, but if you are patient and not expecting it, opportunity will arise. But in the meantime, all you can do when you have been rejected, is accept it, get back up and sing the hell out of that song.