Rapper. Model. Actor. Producer.
Marky Mark managed to break free from the Funky Bunch and not only have one, but multiple successful careers in the spotlight. He’s one of a small handful who has managed to transform his status from 90s teen idol to Oscar-nominated producer.
While most of us would be hard pressed to replicate the success of Mark Wahlberg, there are certainly some key lessons that can be learnt from him about how to successfully change careers.
Tap your network
As rapper ‘Marky Mark’, Wahlberg broke into the music big leagues by tapping into his older brother Donnie’s industry connections. Donnie was part of the popular New Kids on the Block boy band and helped launch Wahlberg’s hip hop group ‘Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’ and produced their Billboard #1 Hit Single Good Vibrations.
When you’re trying to get a foot in the door with a new career, your network is your biggest ally. Search through your LinkedIn and personal networks to find anyone relevant that can offer insight and might be open to an informational interview. Your aim here is to get valuable intel into your industry and career of interest and help plan a path forward – do not beg for a job!
The Takeaway: Your network is your new BFF. And like any good friend you should ask and offer, not just take.
Recognize and leverage your strengths
Or in the case of Mark Wahlberg – if you got it, flaunt it. Known for performing on stage only in his boxers, Wahlberg leveraged his trademark abs for the infamous Calvin Klein underwear campaign. Now do you think Marky Mark would’ve received the same lucrative deal if he let his six pack turn into a keg?
The bottom line here is you won’t find success in a new career if you don’t have the chops to back it up. You may want to transition into a high-paying sales gig but if you’re terrified of cold-calling and networking gives you indigestion then it probably isn’t for you. Changing careers requires a lot of ‘getting real’ with yourself.
The Takeaway: Evaluate your strengths as well as what you enjoy in work and try to find a career where the two cross paths.
Pay your dues
Making the transition from rapper/underwear model to serious actor is no easy feat. Wahlberg originally made his acting debut in TV movie, The Substitute, in 1993. Since then he’s had to earn acting credibility through a wide range of roles from The Basketball Diaries to I ♥ Huckabees, and Boogie Nights to his Oscar-nominated role in Martin Scorcese’s The Departed.
Like any career change, you shouldn’t expect to jump straight into your dream job. Back in 1993, Scorcese probably would have laughed at the suggestion of casting ‘Marky Mark’ in one of his films. But after 13 years of paying his dues, Wahlberg earned a role in the legendary director’s ‘Best Picture’ winner.
The Takeaway: Find that TV movie role that gets your foot in the door and be prepared to work hard at earning credibility in the field.
Make your own opportunities
“I always felt like the good scripts were never coming to me, so I had to kind of create my own destiny, go out there and make things happen, find material, develop things, secure the financing myself,” said Wahlberg, about producing and starring in The Fighter that got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.
Sometimes despite all your hard work you simply can’t catch a break. Take a leaf out of Wahlberg’s playbook and make your own opportunities. Whether it be consulting, freelancing or building a whole business from scratch, going down the entrepreneurial route will still mean tackling the first three points, sometimes even more aggressively. You’ll have to earn your stripes but that bigger risk can mean bigger reward.
In the case of Wahlberg, he has since made a name for himself as a heavyweight producer with TV shows Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, and the films The Fighter and Broken City.
The Takeaway: If all else fails and your foot isn’t getting in any doors – make your own door.