George Washington University alum Kerry Washington ushered the newest graduates into post-college life with an inspiring May 19 commencement speech. The “Scandal” starlet shared several comedic anecdotes during her remarks, but one of the most poignant was her recounting of her role as a frog in a school play.
Washington was one of the college’s presidential scholars for the arts, so she was required to audition for every production offered. The “D’jango Unchained” actress landed the role of Cassandra, the last frog on Earth, in a production of the musical “Croak.”
“It was not my lifetime dream role to play a frog. In fact, the thought of it terrified me,” Washington recalled at commencement.
She was a junior and had honed her skills in several previous plays, but Washington was determined to nail the role. She spent hours studying and reading about frogs.
Cassandra the frog is still her father’s favorite role and Washington takes pride in the accomplishment.
This tale is not only a token of how far Washington has risen since her days in D.C., but also a reminder of the importance of appreciating our “frog” years. We all have moments when we’re transitioning from developing goals to achieving them, but the traits we hone in these times can have a lasting impact on careers.
Washington could’ve easily dismissed the role, deeming it unworthy of her time and expertise. She used the experience as a stepping stone instead. Her dedication to that minor role undoubtedly led to larger opportunities, including her current run as Olivia Pope.
The “frog” years take resilience and patience to survive, but these five feasible steps will assist in turning transitions into opportunities.
See the Vision
One of the first things I learned as a student was the importance of envisioning a dream in order to achieve it. Vision boards are an excellent way of achieving this. It is easier to remember end-goals when they’re visibly displayed. Invest in a tangible or digital vision board.
Dust Your Shoulders Off
Your pride will suffer during the frog years. There will be moments when a role, position or obligation seems demeaning or as if it isn’t worthy of your time or attention. Swallow your ego and see the value in the work you’re doing. Some of the tools absorbed during seemingly-useless experiences will be of assistance later. Spend time sharpening those instead of focusing on the negatives.
Network to Net Worth
Never leave a room without acquiring a business card or email address from a potential connection. One of the benefits of the frog years is the ability to network with powerful folks seeking mentees or apprentices. Managers and established figures are keen to offer advice and a wing to snuggle under for those seeking guidance. Use the frog years to strengthen those connections.
Cherish the Simplicities
I doubt Washington could’ve predicted she’d be the first black woman to star in a broadcast drama in 38 years when she was donning a frog’s costume. Now her schedule is insane, between promoting movies, shooting “Scandal” and pursuing other projects. Unless you have Ms. Cleo’s abilities, it is impossible to foresee what the future entails. Use the frog years to cherish the lull of simple life. Use this time to stop and stare at beautiful clouds, soak in the tub and read or watch a marathon of your favorite show. Enjoy these simple pleasantries because when your life picks up, there will be less time spent on self and more time invested in career progression.
Find a Sounding Board
When all else fails, let it out. Call a friend or relative you trust, purchase a journal or scream into a pillow. Whatever the method, it is healthy to vent your frustrations and fears. You’ll be stronger and have built an important network of support.
Tell us: How did you survive your frog years?