It's 2021...finally! But let's be real. You might be dating important documents differently, and there's a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine, but the stresses of working in 2020 are still here. We're so used to planning fresh starts at the new year, but that's a lot harder to do when you're not sure what day of the week it is anymore. Should you even bother making resolutions this year?
Yes, but they might look a little different. Here are five career-related resolutions for your job in an uncertain year.
1. I resolve to...know what I can and cannot control.
If 2020 taught us anything, it's that we can't take anything for granted. But that doesn't mean we have no agency -- it simply means we have to know what our limitations are. You can't control the job market -- whether you've been actively looking for work since last March, graduated jobless into a pandemic, or are gritting your teeth working from your kitchen table at a job you can't afford to leave, know it's not your fault that there's very little hiring going on. But that doesn't mean you should kick up your feet and wait until the economy ticks back up. Instead, think about what you can do. If money is tight, is there a part-time or freelance gig you can take on? If you can hang on a little longer, is there professional development you can do, like taking a course or filming a short? Now's the time to get your resume and LinkedIn profile into tip-top shape, to set some professional and lifestyle goals, and to reach out to your network to let folks know you're looking.
2. I resolve to...figure out what work/life balance means to me.
We're not going to be working remotely forever, but for the next few months, it's likely to be the norm. Now's a good time to think about the overall vision you have for your life, at least in the near future. Do you miss the office? Do you love working in your PJs all day? Have you been going to set, terrified of catching COVID but equally terrified of losing your income, or loving that your job gets you out of the house and working with a team? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but life usually gets in the way of us really reflecting on them. Work culture and work/life balance are huge factors in overall job satisfaction, but we usually focus our career trajectories on other things, like whether the company is prestigious, or the salary is competitive, or the title is sexy. But right now, we have a rare opportunity to consider the way our jobs impact the rest of our lives -- think about all that has happened over the past few months and use that information to make a plan for your future.
3. I resolve to...keep my hobbies.
Did you bake sourdough bread in 2020? Take up knitting? Read every Shakespeare play? Do yoga every morning? We invented new ways to entertain ourselves when the world shut down, and some of those things should stick around, even when everything's back open. We always encourage clients to include an "interests" section on their resumes, as it shows hiring managers that they're more than just a robot who can do a job, but rather an interesting human with unique qualities. We've learned about some pretty extraordinary hobbies over the years, like urban dog sledding, airline mileage collecting, and gemology. But most people get deflated when we ask this question during our consult. "What do I do besides watch TV and work?" is a common refrain, uttered by people we know wish they gave themselves permission to explore other interests. Keep giving yourself permission to do the things that you discovered in 2020. Not only because it'll make your resume stand out, but because you'll be happier.
4. I resolve to...stay engaged in civic action.
If a global pandemic wasn't enough for a year, the civic unrest and political engagement in 2020 was historic. So many of us found ways to get involved in our communities in myriad ways, whether through volunteer work, protesting, phone banking, reading/learning, or even raising awareness on social media. It may be difficult to keep that momentum going when you're back to regular life, but it's not impossible. There are so many reasons it's important to stay engaged in the causes that are near and dear to your heart, whatever they may be. But one you may not have considered is how volunteer work or civic engagement can help your career. Your network grows when your community grows, employers like interviewing well-rounded candidates, and you may be able to get involved in corporate charitable giving or other work-based initiatives that help your cause. Don't think about civic engagement as something you can do when you "have time," because work priorities get in the way. There's always time -- and even a career benefit, if you need an additional reason -- for the things that matter in the world.
5. I resolve to...remember that I'm human, and so are my colleagues and boss.
Hollywood can be a toxic industry, and it's likely that you've worked with or someday will work with people who forget that we're making movies, not curing cancer (or COVID). When this happens, it's okay, vital even, to prioritize your mental health and humanity. You don't have to stay in an abusive environment because "someday the boss will be a strong reference." Similarly, practice outward sensitivity. Many of us have learned to be a little less strict with deadlines this last year after learning that a colleague's relative passed away from COVID, or to be more open-minded about employees who need to take a mental health day here or there. We've seen inside one another's homes on Zoom calls, we've learned about our coworkers' toddlers' potty training schedules, and we've seen our boss accidentally turn his camera on when he's wearing loungewear. This vulnerability is going to change the workplace in ways we don't fully understand yet. One potential upside is that we'll remember that the people we work with are people. Sure, some of them might be toxic or irresponsible. But most of our colleagues are just people who are doing the best they can to manage their work and home lives. Let's have 2021 be the year we embrace workplace empathy.
Whatever your resolution, we wish you health, happiness, and success in 2021!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
"Industry Spotlight" is our newsletter series where we interview professionals from across the entertainment industry about their current jobs and career trajectories. Our hope is that you will learn more about the positions you're already interested in, discover new roles you may not have considered, and utilize the wisdom of those who've paved the way before you to forge your own path for success.
This month, we sat down with PGA member and EVOLVE mentor Jen Sall, who has produced features, web series, branded content, and more. Her recent film Me.N.A. is currently available on Hulu, and she was recently 1 of 8 participants selected to the Australian International Screen Forum's 2020 Women in Screen Workshop.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: As a scripted content producer, what is your day-to-day like?
JEN: No two days are the same, and it depends on the type of production. But some of the main things my job entails are: development (writing scripts, editing treatments, pitching, setting up meetings, deal memos, securing cast); budgeting (prepping for shooting and post, figuring out budgets for international shoots); production partnerships (creating agreements with co-creators, rights sharing, option agreements, and development deals); hiring crew (finding the best people to collaborate with while staying within the resources of each project budget); production (location scouting, managing resources, promotional partners, in-kind services, and talent); post-production (negotiating with post houses, getting rates and schedules, managing data and workflow); and distribution (PR, publicity, festivals).
HR: What are some of the main skills someone would need to succeed in your role?
JEN: Organization -- you have to keep track of many moving parts and make sure each department head is staying within budget and doing their job. You're steering the ship. You also need to be flexible, a problem solver, and resourceful -- expect that even with the best laid plans, changes will happen (the day is cloudy, there's an alarm going off for an hour and you can't find the owner to shut it off...and so on). You also have to be a team player. On smaller productions, I've taken care of scouting, casting, pickups, carrying equipment -- whatever help is needed! No job is too small if it means keeping on schedule. It's important to be proactive and think ahead. For instance, if the sun is setting, and you only have the location for one day, you can't wait until there's no light to make a plan. And have a thick skin and positive attitude! The producer is the person everyone seeks out when there is a problem, and you're not helping yourself or the project if you take things personally. Of course, creativity helps with all of the above and then some.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
JEN: My very first job was in PR at Rogers and Cowan, and one of my earliest production jobs was as an office PA and then coordinator on a Beats commercial produced by Ridley Scott. My main transition into production was by producing a short for FunnyOrDie.com called "Cafe Attitude." To make that happen, I hustled, asked for A LOT of favors, created the concept, worked with a writer on the script, and then produced. The short was featured on over 30 outlets from HuffPo to the LA Times! It gave me something to show people and talk about.
HR: If you don't like ______________, you won't like my job.
JEN: Going with the flow and rolling with last minute changes.
HR: What's something you do in your job that an outsider wouldn't expect -- and maybe you didn't before you started!
JEN: You can't shoot wherever you want in LA. There's a permit process -- you have to apply, which takes days to process, and that makes shooting very challenging when it comes to last minute decisions or changes.
HR: What's a mistake you made early on in your career?
JEN: Taking things too seriously and personally. You'll hear your fair share of "No" or "Pass" when you're developing content or looking for financing.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice for someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
JEN: Be flexible, be positive, be kind to everyone. I don't forget that and have gone on to hire or refer people who were respectful to me back when I was a PA.
HR: Thanks, Jen!
We're all about holiday cheer at Hollywood Resumes, but we know that the job search can have you feeling down, especially if you haven't been getting many interviews lately. But we're here to remind you not to give up. Just because something is hard, doesn't mean you shouldn't try -- even during a pandemic, you are still worthy of a great job!
If you've been struggling to get interviews over the past few months, do your best to shift the blame from yourself to the situation. This is hard -- we know. But instead of getting distracted and questioning your self worth, you should focus on the task at hand. Here are four questions to ask yourself as you try to get the job search back on track:
1. Are you applying for jobs that are appropriate for your skill level? Hiring managers are not interested in hiring candidates who will be bored at the job, and if you're under-applying, you are not likely to get calls (and remember, that just means you're applying wrong, not that you're "so unqualified no one will even hire you to do X"). Are you applying for something totally out of reach? That's no good, either. Make sure you read the job posting carefully to make sure it's a fit.
2. Are you applying for jobs that interest you? Hiring managers can see through a generic cover letter pretty easily, and they can tell when you've fired off the same generic resume for 100 postings. They want to hire someone who wants the job, so you need to make it clear that that's you -- and not waste your time or theirs if it isn't.
3. Is your resume reflective of your experience? Make sure you're telling the appropriate resume story for the job. With an inundation of applications, it's more important than ever to keep your resume clear and concise -- that means one page, unless the position is super senior. Beyond that, think about what you can put on your resume that will set you apart from the crowd. What unique responsibilities, conflicts, or projects have you dealt with in past roles that other applicants might not share? Consider what would make you an asset to a team, and find a way to include it on your resume if possible. Feel free to think outside the box here, as more companies are placing value on diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
4. Are you making the best use of your network? Everyone knows someone who is looking for work, so it's vital that you try to get your resume into a hiring manager's hands via a referral. Spend a little extra time on LinkedIn to see who may have a connection to a company you're interested in -- and find a friend or two who would be willing to check their LinkedIn network and reach out to their 2nd degree connections on your behalf. People are feeling generous with their networks these days, so don't hesitate to ask.
Now, you may be doing all of the above and still getting no hits. That's terribly frustrating, but not unusual! We are living through a global crisis right now, and its impact is felt far and wide. But that's not on you. You are not less worthy, talented, qualified, or smart because you happen to be looking for work in 2020. You weren't laid off because you don't have value. You aren't dreaming too big or thinking too highly of yourself. You will find a job if you're persistent. And if you target your search to your skills and passions, you'll be more likely to connect with a hiring manager at a company that actually interests you. Looking for a job is a lot like dating -- you just need to find "The One," and you can't control when you do. Keep your head up, keep trying, and when you're feeling down, remember that we believe in you, and you're in really good company with other qualified people feeling the same way.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Thank you notes are arguably the easiest part of the job application -- they’re short, conversational, and don’t take all that much brain power to write. However, you’ve still got to be extremely meticulous about proofreading your thank you notes before clicking send. When writing a resume, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on perfection. You’ve probably gone through your resume line by line multiple times to avoid the sneaky errors and typos that resumes are known for. But have you made a habit of doing the same thing with your thank you notes? If not, it’s time to start. Spelling and grammatical errors in a thank you note indicate that you lack attention to detail and/or are a poor writer. Neither of these things are acceptable to a hiring manager.
Because we don’t expect to find errors in thank you notes, they’re easy to overlook. Once you’ve written your thank you email, slowly re-read it several times out loud. You’d be amazed at how often you’ll inadvertently leave out a word or include some repetitive verbiage. And if grammar isn’t your strong suit, have someone else proofread your thank you note for you. It may seem silly to put that much work into such a short paragraph, but taking this extra step will always be worthwhile. Don’t let the easiest part of your job application be the thing that trips you up.