We often see extremely lengthy “cover letters” -- particularly from current students and recent grads -- that wax poetic about the things that shaped their childhood and totally skip over the information that a hiring manager wants to see. These candidates typically have not been on the other side of the hiring process and think that their version of a “cover letter” is going to help them stand out. What they don’t realize is that they have actually submitted a personal statement for a role, rather than a cover letter, and unfortunately, it’s going to hurt their chances of getting an interview. Let’s look at the differences between the two documents:
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan
If you’re thinking about making a career transition out of entertainment, chances are you fall into one of two camps: either you’re worried you’re not qualified for anything, because all you’ve done is work in entertainment, or you’re super confident that you can switch to any role in any industry, since you’ve successfully navigated years of Hollywood nonsense. However, both of these mindsets can derail your job search.
If you feel under qualified, take a step back and think about the micro-tasks you did over the course of your career. If you had a successful screenwriting career, you did more than just write screenplays – you came up with ideas, drafted pitch materials like decks and treatments, presented your ideas to a room full of executives, developed relationships with key stakeholders across the industry, implemented notes, and adhered to deadlines. You can take those skills to virtually any kind of writing or editing role, like content marketing, communications, or copywriting. Or you can stretch your imagination further, to totally different roles, like research or sales. This holds true for virtually any job – instead of thinking about your work holistically, think about what you actually did day to day and how you might replicate that in another field. You develop professional skills in any role, and your unique perspective may be just what potential employers in the new industry are looking for.
If you fall into the second camp, we applaud you for your confidence! However, there are plenty of jobs out there that require specific expertise, whether that’s training or work experience. Obviously, being a talented production manager doesn’t mean you can be a surgeon. But even though you’re incredibly gifted at drafting budgets and schedules with unattainable parameters and lots of egos and pressure doesn’t mean you can automatically fall into a tech project management role without any upskilling. You’ll probably need to take a course in Agile project management, learn some software, and maybe even learn basic coding principles. You might be able to handle the creative aspects of marketing, but you likely won’t get a job as a brand manager where you’d be dealing with intricate analytics, setting KPIs for campaigns, and driving sales. You could certainly acquire some of these skills with courses – Coursera and LinkedIn learning have great free and paid options – but you’ll waste a lot of time, energy, and confidence applying for roles that are too unrealistic.
The key to making a successful career transition is to clearly establish what you want to do, understand the skills you bring to the table that will resonate with potential employers, and cultivate the necessary additional skills to fill in the gaps. If you know who you are and recognize your value, you’ll be able to communicate a convincing case to potential employers with just the right amount of confidence.
LinkedIn has changed a lot over the years, and while it wasn’t the best fit for entertainment professionals back in the day, it’s increasingly effective for our industry. That is, if you know how to use it! Here are 5 ways you should be using LinkedIn to boost your entertainment career – whether or not you’re currently looking for work.
1. Fill out your profile. If you want recruiters or potential professional contacts to find you, you’ll need to spend some time filling out your profile. Since LinkedIn is a social media site first and foremost, you’ll want to write in first person and include details and anecdotes that you won't find on a resume or professional bio. The tone of your profile should be inviting and authentic. The specifics of what you’ll include will vary depending on how you want to use the site – if you’re looking for a new job, you’ll want to have each section filled out thoroughly, but if you’re balancing two career paths, you may want a leaner profile. Regardless, it’s a good idea to make sure your roles are up to date and your skills section reflects your relevant skills. And don't forget to add a picture!
2. Engage with your newsfeed. Your LinkedIn newsfeed can be a treasure trove of valuable information. For example, you’ll see when someone you know gets a new job – and if that new job is at a company you’d like to work for or do business with, you can note that you have a connection there and reach out when it’s appropriate! Similarly, people often post job openings at their companies before the posting goes wide to source people from their networks. This is an open invitation for you to get your resume directly into the hiring manager’s hands. It’s also an opportunity for you to pass along a posting that’s potentially helpful to one of your contacts – paying it forward is an essential element of being a good networker. To that end, your newsfeed will also give you a heads up when a contact has an exciting announcement or was featured in the news – all excellent opportunities to reach out and nurture your relationship. Of course, you should be posting updates about your own career as well!
3. Follow companies of interest and public personas. Your newsfeed is populated by more than just your human contacts – it’ll also highlight posts from company pages and people in the public eye. This is a great way to keep your pulse on the industry. Maybe you want to follow a journalist whose industry insights you really appreciate. Or an analytics company that posts regular breakdowns of the state of the industry. Or a company you’d love to work for that posts relevant news and project updates. LinkedIn is a great aggregator for this content, but beyond that, you’ll have the opportunity to like and comment on these posts and potentially build online connections. This is especially important for job seekers – if you follow a company on LinkedIn and engage with its content, the hiring team will be able to see you’re really passionate about the work and not just applying willy nilly. Note that some companies also have a feature where you can express interest in working there in the future, which we highly recommend, so you can show up in recruiters’ feeds more readily.
4. Use the platform as a research tool. Our industry is small, and it’s likely you’re only a few steps away from the connection you’re looking for. Whether you’re trying to find a contact who can refer you to an open role or hoping to meet someone at a company you’d like to do business with, you can use LinkedIn to find them. Type the company name into the search bar, and you’ll see a list of your connections, starting with first-degree contacts (people you already know), followed by second degree contacts (people your contacts know). You can see who the link is to your second degree contact and ask that person (via email, not LinkedIn message!) for a warm intro. Similarly, you can browse your close contacts' connections to see who they may be able to introduce you to.
5. Find job openings. This is the most common use of LinkedIn – applying for jobs. LinkedIn’s algorithm is scarily on point, if you know how to teach it. If your profile has strong keywords that match the roles you’re targeting, LinkedIn will recommend appropriate roles. The platform will also tweak its recommendations based on what you search for and click on – we see this unfold in real time as we personally get recommendations based on whatever roles our most recent client was targeting. You can also set up job alerts for specific companies and role types. But one thing to keep in mind – avoid the “easy apply” feature. If you have the option, send a formal resume to the company that’s tailored specifically to the role – which your LinkedIn profile won’t be.
We know it's a lot of work to keep up with LinkedIn on top of your job, personal life, and other social media activity. But if you can dedicate just a little bit of time to at least some of these steps, you'll see that it can have a big impact on your career!
A lot of job seekers are caught between the seemingly-contradicting axioms of “finding a job is all about who you know” and “asking for help is a sign of weakness.” It’s as if they think the key to success in the industry is having connections who will drop opportunities in your lap without you ever having to make a peep. Sure, this does happen for some people in rare circumstances, but it’s the exception, not the rule. Most of us need to ask our contacts for help, whether we’re looking for introductions to new people or seeking referrals to open roles.
Asking for help can be scary! It’s easy to get trapped by your inner critic telling you that you’re unworthy of the favor you’re asking for, or that the person you’re reaching out to will be annoyed to hear from you. A lot of us buy into the negative self-talk -- that our networks pale in comparison to those of our friends, that our contacts won’t remember us, that asking for help is somehow simultaneously a sign of icky hustling and laughable vulnerability.
It’s time to silence that voice in your head. The truth is, plenty of people want to help their contacts. Not only does it feel good to pay it forward, but it’s a good way to stock up on owed favors. Plus, so many of us lose track of our contacts, so when one reaches out to ask for help, it’s a good revitalization of that relationship.
A good rule of thumb is this: If you’d be pleasantly surprised to hear from a particular contact, and you’d be willing to help them if they needed a favor, assume they are just as generous and kind-hearted as you are. It’s still possible they’ll say no – maybe they aren’t in a position to help you with this particular request, or they’re going through major life stuff and now’s not a good time, or they’re secretly a jerk. But let them be the one to make that decision. As long as you’re polite, straightforward, and professional, there’s no harm in reaching out. If they say no, it’s the same result as if you never asked – but they can only say yes if you’re bold enough to ask.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan