Since Drew and I love to travel, it’s no surprise that we enjoy watching The Amazing Race on TV each week. The show routinely starts late during football season, so we sometimes catch part of 60 Minutes while waiting for the Race to start. A story from 60 Minutes a few weeks ago has been on my mind because I have noticed a growing trend among the questions I receive about getting started in a voice-over career.
Morley Safer reported on the work habits of the generation known as the millenials those born between 1980 and 1995. The following direct quotes are points raised in the story:
- They were raised by doting parents who told them they are special.
- They have climbed Mount Everest. They’ve been down to Machu Picchu to help excavate it. But they’ve never punched a time clock. They have no idea what it’s like to actually be in an office at nine o’clock, with people handing them work.
- Zaslow says that the coddling virus continues to eat away even when junior goes off to college. “I heard from several professors who said, a student will come up after class and say, ‘I don’t like my grade, and my mom wants to talk to you, here’s the phone,'” he says. “And the students think it’s like a service. ‘I deserve an A because I’m paying for it. What are you giving me a C for?'”
- And dear old mom isn’t just your landlord; she is your agent as well. “Career services departments are complaining about the parents who are coming to update their child’s resume. And in fact, you go to employers, and they’re starting to express concern now with the parents who will phone HR, saying, ‘But my little Susie or little Johnny didn’t get the performance evaluation that I think they deserve,'” Crane says.
I’m sure every generation thinks that it is the one with hard-working folks, and everyone younger is lazy. I also believe that 60 Minutes targets an older crowd. Many of the statements are generalizations that don’t apply to an entire group of people. Still, I found one kernel of truth in the report: some parents are entirely too immersed in their adult childrens’ lives.
I receive a steady stream of e-mails and calls from people who want to start a career in voice-over. I frankly was shocked when I received the first message from a mother who asked for advice for her son, who was in college. It was the first such message, but it wasn’t the last.
My first thought when receiving inquiries from parents is:
Why doesn’t Johnny or Susie contact me on their own, or, better still, read a book about voice-over?
I am a firm believer in doing your own research and making your own way in this world. If you’re not motivated to discover and learn those things essential to advance yourself, why should I or anyone else be inclined to help you?
In one case, the language of the e-mail made me wonder if the child was old enough to be making career decisions. If the young person is of an age to work, s/he should make the decisions about the course of their life, including their work. However, if a parent is asking about voice-over on behalf on a young child, I question whether the parent is trying to live their own dreams instead of pursuing something that the child has wanted to do.
Johnny and Susie also need to face the cold reality that voice-over or any career in the performing arts is tremendously competitive. In fact, I think all career paths are extremely competitive among the people interested in that type of work. Voice-over has the added perceived attributes of glamour, simplicity and wealth to incite even more people to flock to it as a career choice.
Most people have no idea of the amount of training and equipment needed to become financially successful in this career. Dedication and perseverance are essential character traits. Through countless auditions, you will hear ‘no’ exponentially more than you will ever hear ‘yes’…if you even hear anything. Like any profession, it can take years to go through the appropriate education and become fully established.
In addition to the performance aspects, the voice talent must become proficient with managing a business. Even when you hire staff to perform duties such as accounting, engineering, IT support, marketing and shipping, you are the CEO of the business and must make all decisions related to your business.
Finally, I can’t imagine any scenario in which queries from mom and dad present a professional image of the prospective voice talent.
If you’re a parent who is eager to help your child start a voice-over career, the best help that you can give is to cut the cord and step out of the spotlight.
Johnny or Susie should be the one to investigate their chosen field. It’s a perpetual cycle to contact people, take classes, make a demo, and perform the marketing activities needed in this career.
The Amazing Race is like voice-over in that people must use their wits and skills to overcome obstacles and challenges while competing with others who are after the same prize. While the show observes the competition between 2-person teams, voice-over by its nature is a solo competition. Certainly the aspiring voice talent will need and want a good support team which may include mom and dad. However, the aspiring voice actors are the only people who can take the steps necessary first to become a working voice talent and then to sustain a career.