There’s a persistent myth in Hollywood that you should accept whatever job you’re offered, at the rate that’s being offered, and be grateful for the opportunity. The myth continues once you’re in that role, that you should perform beyond expectations in the hopes that you’ll eventually get a title bump commensurate with your increased responsibility, and maybe that bump will even be accompanied by a raise, as long as you keep your head down and don’t make too many waves.
But the truth is, you have to do more than just earn your promotion or your raise. You also have to ask for what you deserve. While every company’s policies for advancement and increased compensation are different, here are some general principles you should follow to advocate for yourself.
Know your worth. Prepare a list of accomplishments you’ve achieved for the company or show. Where have you brought significant value? What are you doing that’s beyond the original expectations of your role? How have you gotten better at the work you’re doing? What knowledge do you have that a new hire replacing you wouldn’t? In some cases, you’ll want to show this list to your boss, but some bosses won’t read a long document, and instead, you’ll want to have it memorized, so you can cite examples of your work in a conversation.
Know what’s reasonable for your role. Research the current market rate for your position, both through your network, websites like Glassdoor, and tracking boards/Facebook groups. It’s illegal for employers to take action against you for discussing wages with your peers, so you can safely talk to your coworkers about their rates, too – this is one of the best ways to increase pay equity generally. If your peer with the same level of experience is getting paid more for the same work, you can and should leverage that information (especially if you think there may be unlawful discrimination involved).
Have a formal conversation. Getting paid appropriately for the work you’re doing is serious business, so it warrants a serious conversation. In our social industry, it’s easy to assume it’s best to have a conversation about raises casually, so you don’t ruffle any feathers with your ask. But that’s not going to be the most effective way to get what you deserve! Even if your boss is your friend, they still have a job, and that job includes caring for and retaining their employees. You’re not bothering anyone by asking for a conversation – it’s a perfectly normal and expected part of doing business. Ask your boss or the person in charge of pay for time on their calendar, and come prepared to the conversation as you would for any important meeting.
Make a plan for next steps. It may take some time for your raise to go through, so follow up regularly with your boss to check in on the status. Make it clear to them that you take pay very seriously – it’s okay to give off the vibe that you work for money, because that’s a very big aspect of work! Additionally, know that just because you ask for a raise doesn’t mean you’ll receive one. If you don’t get the bump in pay that you deserve, it may be time to move on to a role where you can negotiate a more appropriate salary. If you decide to stay because there are other factors keeping you at the company, ask your boss if there’s anything you can do to get a raise down the line, when you can revisit this compensation discussion, and mark your calendar to follow up.
Remember: You’re not volunteering, the work you do and the perspective you bring are valuable, and conversations about money are not taboo. You got this!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Imagine you’re a hiring manager looking to fill a new opening on your team. You’ve put up a posting on all the major Hollywood job boards and asked candidates to send their application materials to a dedicated email address. The postings go live, you open your inbox, and within 2 hours you’ve got hundreds of submissions. Overwhelming, but exciting.
You open the first application. It’s a totally blank email with a resume attached. Is this attachment spam from a spider that got a hold of your now very public email address? Even if it’s real, if this person can’t be bothered to compose a simple email like a normal professional when their own career is on the line, are they really right for your team? Maybe if you didn’t have 199 other emails to open, but you do. Next.
The next email just says, “Resume attached.” That’s better, you suppose. It’s not spam. But it’s not a shining endorsement of the candidate’s communication skills. You decide to see what awaits you in the other 198 applications.
You open the next email, and you see a short message. A greeting, followed by 3 sentences explaining who the candidate is and why they’re interested in the role. It’s pleasant and friendly in tone, there are no typos, and their story makes sense. You open the resume, and it looks good. You can only interview about 10 people for the role, so you reset the bar. Surely, you can find 10 qualified people in that stack of 200 who took the extra 5 minutes to compose a professional note.
Back to reality. When you’re applying for jobs, you want to stand out from the competition, and one of the ways to do that is to convey your professionalism, dedication, interest, and conscientiousness throughout the hiring process. A cover email is important because it does just that, and it takes very little time on your end! We’re not talking about a full, three-paragraph cover letter. You might need one of those, too, if the job posting requires it. That does not absolve you from the need for a cover email that’s a short-but-sweet introduction of yourself and indication of your interest. The next time you apply for a job over email, don’t forget this important step!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
A common refrain among our clients is: “I just want to get any job, and I’ll take the rest from there.” There’s nothing wrong with needing a new job right away -- life costs money, after all -- but the whole process is easier if you can figure out what your long term career strategy is. Plus, going after jobs that will lead you toward your ultimate goal will mean fewer big, challenging transitions overall.
Having a career endgame in mind can be a specific title – like Head of Development at a streaming network – or more general – consistent work as a camera operator on reality TV series. It’s also totally okay for your career endgame to shift as you evolve. Even if you decide to pivot and take a different road, it’s best to start out with a destination in mind.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to figure out what your career endgame is:
1. What day-to-day tasks do I enjoy doing? Do you enjoy managing others? Actively creating something? Developing ideas? Implementing logistics? Selling? Pitching? Communicating with clients? Generating reports? Building decks? Editing footage? Rigging lights? Designing graphics?
2. How much responsibility do I want to take on? Do you want to be judged on your work product alone, or do you want supervise a team? Do you enjoy mentoring others? Making strategic business decisions? Hiring and firing people? Managing budgets? With great power comes great responsibility, and it’s equally okay to decide that you do want to take on all the responsibilities that come with senior-level management or that you don’t.
3. What kind of content am I proud of? Is there a certain type of story you want to tell? An impact you want to make? Do you enjoy working on the same kind of content you like to watch, or would you rather preserve the magic of your favorite shows and movies and get into the behind-the-scenes of something you’d never watch? What kind of audience do you want to serve? How important is it for you to work on a hit show, an Oscar-winning film, a cult classic, or a beloved kids’ show? Do you care more about the process than the content?
4. Who do I like to work with? Do you prefer big teams or small teams? Do you like to work with the same people consistently, or switch it up? Do you prefer a client-vendor relationship or a boss-employee relationship? How independent are you in your work? Do you prefer a competitive environment or a collaborative one? Do you want to be surrounded by overachievers, or do you work better around people who are more chill and less ambitious?
5. What purpose does work serve for me? If you didn’t have to work to pay your bills, would you still work? How important is your work/life balance? How much does your job impact your conceptualization of your self-worth? Are there life goals or values you have that won’t align with a certain type of job or career?
We recommend checking in with yourself every 6 months to a year to ask these questions and make sure you’re on the right path. If you’re leaning into a job search, these questions are even more important, as they’ll help you target your search to those jobs that align with your ultimate goals. Be honest with yourself about what your dreams are, be open to those dreams changing, and be unafraid to pursue them.
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan
If you're a college student seeking an internship, or a recent grad (congratulations!) seeking your first post-college job, you're probably overwhelmed by all the competing resume advice out there. One of the reasons we founded Hollywood Resumes was because we had so few resources at our disposal when we first broke into the industry. College career centers aren't always equipped to guide students on the specifics of the entertainment industry, and most resume writing advice is tailored to professionals further along in their careers. But we've got you covered -- here are the top 5 things you should know about your entry-level resume:
1. Education belongs at the top, 99% of the time. Your resume tells your story, and like all good stories, it establishes context through character and setting. If you're looking for an internship, your story is that you are a current student looking to grow your career. The fact that you're in school and the things you're accomplishing there (coursework, leadership activities) are the most important anchors to your candidacy, and any jobs you've held are made all the more impressive with the context that you were simultaneously completing coursework. This holds true for recent grads as well, and it's important for employers to know that this is your first foray into the full-time workforce. There are some times when recent grads might include education at the bottom of their resumes, like if you've worked full-time while completing your degree, or if you're on your second career, but these are rare.
2. Context is critical! When you're in college, it's easy to get swallowed by the bubble of campus life and forget that the outside world has no idea what goes on at your university. Most hiring managers won't recognize the names of your programs or awards (even if they are prestigious!), and unless a club name is super obvious (think: UCLA Screenwriting Society), they won't know what it is. Your tenure with a campus improv troupe is very relevant if you're pursuing a career in comedy, but listing that you were president of Duck Duck Moose on your resume is pretty silly without the context that it's an improv troupe. Make sure you explain anything that an outsider wouldn't know, either with a bullet point establishing context or an added clause, like "Recipient of Jane Doe Award for outstanding campus leadership" instead of just "Jane Doe Award."
3. Your experience doesn't all have to be paid or professional! It's perfectly normal not to have much professional experience while you're a student. And your experience is valuable, even if it wasn't paid or professional. Leadership activities, volunteering, internships, and practicum courses can all be relevant, and may be included in the experience section of your resume. Don't fall into the trap of separating your experience into "relevant experience" and "other experience" -- any experience on your resume should be relevant. If you were involved in a club that isn't really relevant -- like intramural fencing -- you can list it as an activity in the education section. But if you were captain of your intramural fencing team and don't have too much other experience, feel free to list it as a job and highlight all the logistical and leadership elements of that role.
4. Consider what skills entry-level Hollywood roles require. This is a little different for internships and assistant jobs. Internship hiring managers are looking for people who are eager, leaders, good at research, organized, and willing to learn. It's a good idea to lean into impressive achievements from your work, past internships, extracurricular activities, and coursework. On the other hand, hiring managers who are looking for an assistant want someone who can answer phones and handle scheduling, is humble enough to do administrative work, and is resourceful. If your resume showcases only major achievements but doesn't indicate any administrative abilities, it likely won't connect with the hiring team. Unlike most fields that want to hire the best of the best out of school and train them to grow, Hollywood is all about whether you are capable of doing the very basic administrative tasks. You probably can, but make sure that's clear to the hiring team. It can be hard to let go of some of your bigger achievements, especially if your peers applying in other fields are showboating on their resumes, but it's worth it, and you can always save those achievements for interview anecdotes!
5. Student films are great, but not professional. Similar to the above, you don't want to oversell your student films. It's wonderful if you had the opportunity to produce and direct films as part of your coursework! But a resume filled with the title "Producer/Director" is going to confuse hiring managers. They'll either think your resume got lost in the wrong pile, or that you don't have the humility to work your way up the ladder. If your student projects won festival awards, list that as an achievement, or if you can pull skills for PA roles from your time on set, list them as jobs with the clear indication that they were student projects. However, if you're not applying for roles on set, and your projects didn't break out of the school circuit, you may want to minimize them on your resume. You should also consider whether the project is your best work. If the first film you did as a freshman is on your resume and searchable on Vimeo, you can bet the hiring manager can find it and assume that your touting the project is an indication of your skills and taste. The whole point of student films is to practice and refine your skills, so there's no shame if your project isn't perfect -- but it's also not necessarily relevant beyond your overall coursework.
Finally, remember that you can get and do deserve your dream job! And with a great resume, you'll be sure to stand out from the crowd. Good luck!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan