Channeling Hollywood: How to land a breakout role at work

Even if you don't make your living in Hollywood, some of the career secrets of those who do can apply to your work life. The challenge for both actors and employees is how to break out from those small, but necessary, parts and get tapped for a leading role.

Here are some strategies that have worked for big-time actors and can work for  you, too.

Step away from supporting roles.
Maybe you're thought of as a background worker -- a character actor who is happy to play a secondary role while others take top billing. You should rethink that approach if you want to make serious headway in your career.
Rather than always being the one who does the heavy lifting, only to pass the information on to someone else to take the glory, step away from the computer and ask to present the information yourself. Be willing to offer strategic advice, as well, since you know the story better than anyone, even without a script.

Ditch the glamour.
Maybe you're perceived as someone who has gotten ahead because of glitz rather than grit. Your demeanor might suggest that you can't be bothered with certain tasks, such as working late nights and weekends to meet an important deadline. Be willing to display your commitment and professional range by taking on unglamorous projects.

Go deep.
Hollywood loves actors who take on intellectual parts, whether it's the role of the brilliant but misunderstood artist or a freethinking genius. Managers also like having deep thinkers on their team.
What more can you do to show off your intellect? It could just be a matter of taking your current role a step further. For instance, just because your department has always taken a particular approach to financial reporting doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.
Dig a little deeper, and pursue the "why" behind business processes, procedures and decisions. You may hit upon a groundbreaking idea that has the power to revolutionize your department -- and your career.

Earn the achievement award.
Although a breakout role has the potential to accelerate your career, you can also earn acclaim by turning out one consistently good performance after another. Sure, it's tempting to go for that one "star turn," but the workmanlike approach can pay  dividends, too. Just make sure that your steady but understated performances don't cause you to get passed over for the big prizes.

Play against type.
Famous actors are always fighting stereotypes, and it's easy for employees to get typecast, too. For instance, maybe you're thought of more as a follower than a leader or a numbers person rather than a strategic thinker.
Assuming you have the ability and desire to show more range, seek out roles that allow you to display other facets of your talents. Don't be content to be pigeonholed into the roles you're known for when you're capable of doing more.
Although Hollywood actors and employees face some of the challenges when it comes to earning recognition, actors usually have a high-paid agent to make their case for them. Employees, on the other hand, have to do it alone. With this in mind, keep a steady eye on your progress and interests, and be open to pursuing a new persona or role to advance your career. Breakout parts, after all, aren't just for professional actors.

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