If you work in entertainment (or are trying to work in entertainment), you've certainly heard the phrase “it’s all about who you know” about a thousand times. And there's a good chance this phrase has given you some anxiety at one point or another. It's easy to fall into the trap of assuming that everyone who is working in Hollywood has an awesomely large network, one that you could never cultivate, and therefore you won't be successful. Perhaps you've even blamed the small size of your network during a frustrating job search. But often, the problem isn’t in how big your network is. Rather, it’s how you use it.
Consider the idea of six degrees of separation. Even if you move to LA from a small town with no industry connections, you won’t be more than 6 degrees away from someone in the industry. Instead of lamenting that you don’t have any connections in the industry, start building your network through the people you do know. That means friends, relatives, and fellow alumni. Tell everyone you know what you want to do and ask if they know anyone who can help you -- or anyone who might know someone. Your best friend’s new boyfriend might have an aunt who works as an editor on a TV show, but if you haven’t shared your eagerness to meet anyone in the industry with her, how would she know to make that connection?
Often, people don’t put two-and-two together -- your best friend in the example above may know you want to meet people in Hollywood, but maybe she thinks of her boyfriend’s aunt as the lady who posts about her cats on Instagram, not as a well-known editor. This is where you’ll have to get a bit more assertive. We recommend using LinkedIn to find connections to your connections. Connect with everyone you know -- industry or otherwise -- and search their connections. You can filter by location or industry type or company. Conversely, if you have a dream company you want to make inroads with, type that company name into LinkedIn and see if any 2nd degree connections come up, or if you can reverse engineer your third degree connections based on alma mater or previous work history. Politely reach out to your direct contact and ask for a warm introduction for an informational meeting, or (if your direct contact is a close contact) see if they know the person well enough to pass your resume along for a specific opening. Boom -- you’ve got a connection!
Of course, you'll want to maintain your network as much as possible on a regular basis -- meeting up for (virtual) drinks and reaching out with a friendly update, congratulatory note, or holiday wish -- but as your network grows, that’s a bit unrealistic. Just because you lose touch with someone doesn’t mean they’re lost to you forever! There’s no harm in reaching out to get back in touch (politely -- we can’t stress this enough) to make a simple ask. It’s important not to sell yourself short here, either -- if you had a good relationship, the contact may be happy to hear from you, or even excited about a potential collaboration or opportunity! You can also see if anyone you have a stronger relationship with is still in regular touch with that person and ask if they’d be willing to put in a good word for you -- like “I was talking to Jane Doe -- remember Jane? -- and she mentioned she’s looking for jobs in film sales, and your company has an opening. Would you mind if I put you two back in touch to chat?” Remember that the worst thing that can happen is the person ignores you or refuses to connect, which leaves you in the same position you're in now. The cost/benefit analysis yields only benefit potential, no cost.
Even if you’re starting with zero first degree connections (like we did!), you will accumulate a network of people in the industry, and once you do, you just have to remember to tap into it. Sure, it takes some work, sleuthing, and confidence, but those are skills we know you can master.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Career transitions. They can be super scary. Or at least seem that way at first. But the truth is, not all career moves are full-blown transitions, and if you play your cards right, your next job may be closer than you think. Let’s break down the different types of career transitions and how to navigate them.
When you’ve been on one level of the corporate ladder for a while, it can seem like a huge jump to get to the next level. Think: assistant to coordinator, PA to AP. A lot of entry-level jobs are really different in scope from the next tier up, and you’ve got to prove you’re ready to take on the advanced responsibilities. The best way to do this, of course, is to get promoted from within -- but let’s be real, sometimes you have to move to a new company or show to be seen for what you’re truly capable of (or to get the appropriate monetary compensation). How do you convince hiring managers you’re ready for that next title when you’ve never had it before? Try integrating some higher-level duties into your current role while you search. If you’re a development assistant, that means offering your own script notes when appropriate, or if you’re an agency coordinator, hip-pocketing a few clients. If you’re an AP looking to get into story producing, ask if you can create a string-out or sit with the editor and give notes. This is important both because it allows you to include these necessary skills on your resume and because it’ll prove to the people you’re working with that they can vouch for you to do these higher-level tasks.
MOVING TO A NEW SIDE OF THE INDUSTRY
If you’ve been working in one side of the industry for a while -- say freelancing as a producer -- and you’re looking to get a role as an in-house executive, you might be tempted to time travel back into assistant-land and start your career over. Don’t. Please, please don’t. Transitions to new areas of the industry are not full-blown career transitions, and you shouldn’t discount or discard your hard-earned skillset because you’re not looking for replica role. Instead, think about what you bring to the table that’s relevant to the side of the industry you want to be in. In the example of producer to executive, you have the management and development experience they’re looking for. Maybe you never managed a content pipeline, but you’ve managed an episode delivery schedule. Plus, you have knowledge of what makes a show successful on the ground and a new batch of creative contacts to work with. Even if you want to move to a totally different side of the industry -- like talent agency to content acquisitions -- you still have applicable skills and industry knowledge that you shouldn’t disregard.
MOVING TO A SIMILAR ROLE IN A DIFFERENT FIELD
More and more people are leaving Hollywood for content creation jobs in fields like Big Tech or advertising. With this type of transition, there’s a similar fear that you have to start at the bottom, but it’s simply not true. In fact, hiring managers at companies outside of Hollywood are a bit more industry agnostic and focused on whether you can do the role than whether you’ve always worked in that field (especially tech companies whose products didn’t exist a decade ago). Resist the urge to start at the bottom, and instead, boast about your ability to produce high-production value content or develop and pitch great concepts. The big thing to consider here is how to communicate your skills. You’ll need to rework your resume to avoid industry lingo (think “grids” or “hot sheets” or “slate”), delve more into descriptions of your responsibilities and accomplishments than a simple credits list, and create more context overall -- don’t assume everyone outside of the industry has heard of major production companies or high-rated cable series. Use the job posting as a guide -- consider why you’re able to meet the qualifications listed and write that on your resume! Just note: Ijf there are more than 1 or 2 requirements you don’t understand (and can’t decipher with a quick google search of the jargon), the role is not as similar as you think.
MOVING TO A NEW ROLE IN A NEW FIELD
The biggest and most challenging career transition is when you’re starting from scratch. Let’s say you’ve had enough of Hollywood and want to be a nurse. Your experience won’t translate, even if you worked on multiple seasons of GREY’S ANATOMY. In this scenario, you’ll need to go back to school -- which means your resume should open with education, even if you graduated from college years ago. Even for roles with fewer prerequisites than nursing, your resume should clearly explain your current interest so the hiring manager doesn’t think you applied by mistake. Consider drafting a professional summary indicating your interest in the switch (“Media professional with 10+ years of experience seeking transition to hospitality management.”) and craft your bullet points to explain the elements of your previous roles that are relevant to the job at hand. Similarly, if you’re looking to break into entertainment from a totally different field, consider taking courses in the area of the industry you’re looking to break into, joining a professional organization (like JHRTS), and highlighting relevant skills on your resume. If there are any roles in the new field that are more similar to what you’ve been doing (whether you’re transitioning into or out of entertainment) even if they aren’t your dream role, it may make more sense for you to move to a similar role in the new field and then to a different role in the new field (ie marketing executive at footwear company → marketing executive at TV network → development executive at TV network) than for you to start at the bottom, but that’s a personal decision based on how happy you’d be if the ultimate dream job didn’t pan out, how much time you’re willing to invest, and how much money you need to make.
The biggest thing to keep in mind when going through a career transition is that everyone does it at some point, and you’re not alone. Hiring managers have seen it all before, and if you tell your story well through your resume and cover letter, build a strong network of people who can champion you, and develop a strong set of skills, you don’t have to be stuck in a career you’ve outgrown. And if you know you want to transition to a new role but don’t know where to start exploring, consider our career coaching services.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Over the years, we have seen some pretty ridiculous skills sections on resumes, like when the skills take up half the page and don't correlate logically to a previous role, or list every software known to mankind. We blame the internet -- a lot of generic resume advice you'll find online includes listing as many keywords as possible so you'll get past the evil ATS robots. On the other hand, we also find that many resumes are missing relevant skills that would be helpful to a hiring manager. Here are some tips for crafting the skills section of your resume:
1. Avoid intangible, "soft" skills. "Self-starter," "strong communicator," and "detail-oriented" all sound interesting, but you can't prove them out of context. Instead, illustrate those skills in your bullet points.
2. List relevant software/tools. If the job posting calls out a specific software, make sure you list it (even Microsoft Office -- don't get weeded out by an applicant tracking system for a role because you left out such a basic skill). And if you're applying for very technical roles, it's even more crucial to list the requested software on your resume. But also think about what programs might be useful in a role, even if they're not listed. If you're applying for a writers' room support staff position, you should include knowledge of Final Draft, as it shows you understand the requirements of the job. Any design or post-production position should include the design tools you're proficient in. You should also include cameras or lighting equipment if the position requires that knowledge. But don't list every tool you've ever used -- you might know Jira, but the development executives considering you for a coordinator role likely don't know what that is and don't care.
3. Don't list anything too basic if it's not specified in a posting. Everyone knows how to use Zoom by now. Most people can organize their files with Box, DropBox, or Google Drive. Unless the posting specifically calls out these everyday tools (or you're applying for a job at one of those companies), leave it out! Same goes for social media -- unless the job is related to social media (i.e. digital marketing, account management, or influencer talent representation), at a social media company, or you're an influencer yourself, you can leave it off.
4. Include any foreign languages you speak. Many Americans don't speak more than one language, so it's pretty impressive and a great talking point if you do. Definitely include any language skills that would help you in the job you're applying for (i.e. fluency in Spanish or Mandarin is almost always helpful, and you'd want to highlight your command of Japanese if you're applying for a job in anime), and strongly consider including a language skill that isn't as relevant if you have the space (For example, you likely won't be using Latin at work, but listing it makes you memorable!). You don't need to be fluent to list a language, but if you're not fluent, make sure to indicate your level, like conversational Spanish, advanced French, or basic Italian.
Remember: Your skills section is an important footnote for your resume. It's there to illustrate relevant qualifications that don't fit properly anywhere else, but it shouldn't overwhelm your overall story. Oh, and make sure it's all true.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Cover letters should be simple and to the point -- they are not college admissions essays, and they should max out at half a page. A good cover letter concisely explains how your skills and experiences align with the most important qualifications of a role. A great cover letter includes all that and a little "something extra" -- a single sentence that explains why you'd be a great fit.
Employers want to hire people who are excited about working for them, but they're not going to assume you're legitimately enthused simply because you sent in a resume! They also don't want to spend valuable time reading a suck-up style sonnet about how great they are -- they know they're great and are trying to determine if you're qualified. That's why you just want one simple sentence at the end of your opening paragraph indicating what moved you to apply in the first place.
The best version of this sentence is something specific, like calling out your alignment with the company's mission. For instance, if the company is dedicated to social justice, and you've been volunteering at an organization dedicated to social justice for years, mentioning the connection will give context to your enthusiasm, show that you might bring some useful knowledge to the team, and indicate that you’ll be committed to the company’s work. Or maybe you're passionate about the genre of content the company produces -- if you wrote your senior thesis on the impact of science fiction on real-world technology, it's a no brainer that you'd be applying for an assistant role at a production company specializing in sci-fi! If there's not anything that specific -- either because the posting is too vague or your interest in the company is more broad, that's okay, too. Explain what led you to apply, even if it's just as simple as "I'm looking to take the next step in my career as a creative executive at a network."
A different way to include this "something extra" is to highlight an element of your personal or work history that could bring added value to the company, regardless of whether it’s listed in the job posting. Perhaps you are a non-traditional candidate, but the work you’ve done in a different industry (or side of the industry) will give you perspective that a more obvious candidate might not possess. For example: Someone coming from the healthcare world who wants a writers' room support staff role on a medical drama would bring knowledge to the room that someone with a purely entertainment background wouldn’t have. The thing that sets you apart won’t always be that apparent, but considering that no one has your exact work and life experience, there’s always something to draw from that could help you stand out. Think about what you could do for a company that they might not have even realized they needed, and make that argument in your “something extra” sentence. Just make sure it’s relevant!
But remember: We're talking about one sentence -- not a paragraph, a lengthy diatribe, or a bullet list. The bulk of your half-page cover letter should be about your qualifications for the role, and you want to make sure that information isn't buried too so far down the page that the hiring manager never gets to reading it. Keep it short, simple, and specific, and you're good to go!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan