I don't know much about other businesses but for Show Business I have the perfect answer. It is a technique that I have watched and learned from in my half-a- century of being in Los Angeles. In Hollywood, as in most other businesses, it is better to look successful than to be successful. The truth is, only a few creative types in Hollywood really know what they are doing, the rest have just stumbled onto some dumb luck and a twist of fate that proves to be a successful project. Since they really don't know how to package a successful movie or series they look at what other successful shows have done and try to plug in the same elements. The rule is, "Get me that successful writer, actor, producer, director to do the same magic for us." That is like mixing gun powder knowing the ingredients but not the proportions. If the ingredients don't come together in exactly the right way instead of an explosion you have a fizzle. So success in Show Business will always be a matter of what you've done lately.
So in the vain of, "never let them see you sweat" there are certain ways to state your own career when you haven't just been part of the greatest hit since "Citizen Kane." Here are some things to think about from a performer who has learned the way it works.
The most important thing is to make everyone in town believe that you are swamped with work and very much in demand. Even if the person you are trying to impress is not a career mover in town, the possibility that they know someone who is a deal maker is worth the time to learn how to talk about your career. You don't have to force it by immediately giving your resumé before you say hello, but there are always cues that let you know it is time to gild the lily and polish the turd.
Inevitably, during a social situation some one will ask you, "So what are you up to these days?" here are a few Hollywood answers:
If you have more than 5 pages written about anything you can say, "I'm working on a screenplay" or "I have this novel that's taking shape" or the best "I'm doing some ghost writing" (if they ask "for whom", you tell them it is someone they would know, and that is why you had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
If you just performed for the Lion's Club of Bakersfield you say, "I just had a road gig." or "I did a club out of town".
For actors -
If you just read a script you say, "Just finished a script I'm not sure is right for me." or "Someone thought I might like to do a part in this movie."
If you were an extra on a Friends episode you say, "I worked with Jennifer Aniston"
If you haven't worked in a while and your last credit is as a extra on Friends you say, "They (always say 'they' because it implies whomever, agents, casting directors, producers, networks... it's all 'they') THEY are trying to find the right vehicle for me... but with the trend toward reality shows now it is taking a while." or tell them you are "Working on my solo show".
Never say you "Have an idea..." say, "I've got this project I'm working on." or "Thank god I have some time off to work on something I really want to do."
You never have lunch with someone, you are "Taking a meeting out of the office."
Dinner in not dinner it is a "Pitch meeting over cocktails"
If you happen to have lunch in a restaurant where some celebrity happens to be you can always say, "I had lunch with Tom Hanks (insert name here) the other day."
You never just drop by your agents office to see what was going on, you say, "My agent thought it was time for me to come in for some face time."
If you were up for a job you didn't get, you say, "The director went another way with the part". If you got fired you say, "They replaced me with the producers nephew."
If you didn't get called in for a part that you would have been right for you say, "That part was cast before the script was finished."
If you can get proficient with this way of looking at your career you will appear to be much more in demand than you might be. You will appear to be working when you are not, and you will convince some that they better hire you before someone else does.
Now before I get comments on the fact that this way of thinking and talking is not the truth or God forbid you think it is lying I disagree. If you look at what the current politicians are telling us, these minor offenses are more like a Jesuit sermon. Besides to paraphrase my old friend Billy Crystal (see how subtly you can drop a name) "It is better to look successful than to be successful" around this town. Now you know.....
As you were,