It certainly seems to be the prevailing urban legend about becoming an actor that all one needs to do is to get an agent and they will be launched into stardom. I am besieged with email from young people, usually teens and pre-teens but sometimes young adults as well, asking me for help on getting an agent. The seemingly urgent requests reveal that most young acting aspirants have no idea about the nature of the acting business and what it takes to become an actor.
An agent is not the first thing an aspiring actor needs. It is very much the last thing he needs. You see, the business usually works this way: An extraordinary person comes to the attention of an agent or casting director and gets an acting job. From this job, their extraordinary qualities get them other jobs, and they are in the business. Well, that sounds easy, doesn't it? The problem is that they have to be "extraordinary." And not just in one way--they have to be extraordinary in many ways. They need, among other things, to have extraordinary talent, courage, personality, charm, and look.
Most of the young people who suddenly or not-so-suddenly decided they want to be actors lack one or more of the extraordinary requirements for becoming an actor. And some of these people will have one of the extraordinary requirements to a degree that the rest of them are of little consequence. Thus, the aspirant may be so handsome or beautiful that the agent or casting director is not very concerned about the other qualities. Or the aspirant may lack one of the qualities so that those they have are of little or no consequence. The actor may be very talented, but his lack of courage prevents him from taking the risks needed to become a professional actor. And if you don' t have the personality and charm to hold a stranger's attention in a conversation, you are going to have a hard time with professional acting. Additionally, as an aspirant to an acting career, humility and lack of egotism are very important. There are tons of other qualities that are pluses for an aspirant to have. These are listed in my e-book, The Tao of Acting.
So far, I have only written about the extraordinary qualities the aspirant needs. These he has before he has done any acting. They are either inborn like his talent or acquired like his charm. Before the aspirant needs an agent, he or she needs other things in addition to the extraordinary personal qualities above. They need an extraordinary resume, head shot, demo reel, business card, and post cards (not ordinary post cards, but personalized ones for networking.). These seem like simple things, but they may take years to acquire. Most young aspirants can make a resume with one or two shows that they have done on it and stating that they have been in drama club or taken drama classes in high school.. That is not extraordinary. An extraordinary resume not only lists the leading roles in amateur, semi-professional and professional productions the actor has done, but also it lists the highly regarded acting schools and studios with which he has studied. That is one point.
There are many other points to be made about the aspirant's need to be extraordinary in a great number of ways if he is to succeed. Acquiring these things to go along with your other extraordinary qualities is what is needed before you need an agent.