When you first come to Hollywood, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you probably have an idea of where you want to be “in ten years” and the good sense to know you’re not going to start at the top. You get advice to start at the bottom of the totem pole, as an assistant or a PA, which you happily do. One job leads to another, and before you know it, you’re ten years in, and you’re not where you imagined you’d be. Or, you’re exactly where you imagined you’d be, only...it’s not what you expected.
This is perfectly normal! Our industry is so competitive that it can sometimes feel like simply having a job is enough. The pace is so fast and the hours so long that you don’t organically have time to think about your career satisfaction. But it’s important to take the time for a self assessment. You only get one life, and there are too many sacrifices we make for our jobs to keep doing them without a level of intentionality. So take a moment. Close your eyes, take a breath, and contemplate: Are you doing what you want to be doing? Does your work align with your personal values? Your work/life balance goals? Your financial needs? Your skills?
If so, great! Keep on keeping on! Make sure you set a time to check in with yourself again in 6 months, and regularly after that, to see if you’re still on the right track.
But if you’re yearning for something more, listen to that voice. It’s time to start thinking about what you want to be doing, and why. If you still haven’t achieved that initial ten year goal, take a moment to decide if it even is still your goal. Have you learned anything about yourself in the last ten years that's made you reconsider? If so, that’s okay! People change. They learn things about themselves, their personal needs evolve, and the world’s not the same as it was a decade ago. That’s life. You don’t have to stay committed to your initial goal; you only have to stay committed to yourself and your joy. Think about what your interests, skills, and values are NOW, and what paths might align with that. And then set some new targets.
However, if your heart still pounds in your chest with excitement when you picture that dream job, it’s time to take the reins and pursue it. It’s okay if along the way, different opportunities or obligations presented themselves, and your career took some interesting twists and turns. There’s no shame if your path isn’t linear. But you don’t have to be trapped, either. There’s no time like the present to invest in yourself and relentlessly pursue your dream.
If you’re working your initial dream job and not finding fulfillment, it’s likely that something’s changed for you since you started your career journey. Maybe the company culture isn’t what you expected, and the same job somewhere else would be just fine. Or maybe your interests have changed. Or the job you fantasized about all those years ago is just...different than you imagined. Consider what you like about your day-to-day work and what aspects you find grating. Are there other careers out there that might check more of your boxes?
The important thing is to be intentional with your next step and honest about what you want to get out of your career. Then, commit yourself to that vision by strategically looking for jobs that align with your goals. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t listen to people who try to pigeonhole you. You probably won’t get your dream job overnight, especially if it’s a pretty big transition. But you definitely won’t get your dream job if you don’t aim for it.
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan
"ASK HR" is our advice column where we answer readers' questions about pressing work dilemmas, job search queries, resumes, and navigating Hollywood. If you have a career-related question, email us, and the answer could appear in a future newsletter! All submissions will remain anonymous.
Dear Hollywood Resumes,
I finally got hired at what I thought was a great job, only to find out a few weeks in that the company was a nightmare to work for! I ended up resigning and am now back searching for jobs, but I'm nervous about the same thing happening again. I'm wondering if there's a way to tell whether a company is horrible to work for before you apply.
-- Scared of the Search
Dear Scared of the Search,
Kudos to you for prioritizing your well-being and walking away from a situation that didn't feel right! That takes a lot of bravery and strength.
It's not always possible to know what a company is like until you're already working there, but there are some red flags you can look out for along the way. When you a read a job posting, you should consider if anything sounds sketchy, like a promise of money down the line only after your work is done, an application fee, or other any other financial or invasive personal information request. If you haven't heard of the company previously, Google it to see if you can find a website. No online presence at all is a red flag, and if any articles come up about past lawsuits or allegations, avoid applying.
Even if the company is reputable, there may be other red flags in the job posting. Does it describe a position that sounds like it really should be multiple roles (meaning: can you envision one person being responsible for all of the tasks, or are there so many disparate responsibilities listed that it would be more typical for 2-3 people to share the duties)? Are there any trigger words, like "thick-skinned" and "no ego?" These can often mean you're expected to keep your head down and be yelled at from time to time.
It's also important to read the posting carefully to see whether the role matches what you're looking for, as not all jobs that are wrong for you are objectively bad. Read the company overview section (if there is one) to find out if the organization's values align with yours. Ask yourself if you're interested in spending your day doing the responsibilities listed and if they match your expectations for the position's title. Note whether the posting includes information about limited work/life balance -- sometimes, this is transparent, like "Must work long hours and occasional weekends," and sometimes it's less so, like "Looking for a dedicated team-player to contribute at a high level in our all-hands-on-deck, fast-paced, maximum-output environment." Keep an eye out for culture indicators, like the types of benefits offered; you might be the type of person who wants a relaxed, fun atmosphere with free lunch and a ping pong table and a gym on site, or you want to keep your head down at your desk from 9-5 and leave your socializing and fitness regimens out of the workplace -- sometimes you can find clues about these things in the posting.
Often, you can't determine everything about a company's culture or whether it's bad to work for before sending in your application, especially if it's a large company, and you're trying to assess one small department. Luckily, you have additional opportunities to evaluate during the interview process. Ask questions at the end of your interview, like "What is the company culture like?," "What is your day to day like?," or "What would success look like for a candidate in this role?" If there are yellow flags that come up in your interview, you can also address them -- "I noticed our interviews have all been scheduled for 8pm; is it typical to work into the evenings here?" While it's important to put your best foot forward at an interview and not ruffle feathers, it's equally important to protect yourself and make sure the company is a good fit for you.
Lastly, you can see if any of your contacts have experience working at the company or with anyone on the team and ask them for their insight. You can also check sites like Glassdoor and read reviews, though they're not always 100% accurate. If you're part of a tracking board or other networking group, you can ask if anyone has experience with X company and would be willing to chat with you, but know that these groups are often quite large and not as private as they may seem.
All this due diligence can be helpful, but it's not foolproof, as companies will sometimes act very differently in an interview than in practice, you might not meet some of the more problematic managers or get enough insight into problematic practices in the interview process, and your contacts may have had different experiences with the firm than you'll have. Ultimately, you'll just have to trust your gut, and know that if you end up somewhere that's not right, you can always do what you've already done: have the strength to quit.
-- Angela & Cindy
When it comes to social media, LinkedIn is typically viewed as the go-to job search platform. And it's definitely a great resource! But it's not the only social platform you should be using. In Hollywood, Facebook is one of the most helpful tools for finding jobs, and more importantly, finding someone who has an in at the company that could get your resume into a real person’s hands.
Even if you've dropped off of Facebook in favor of trendier social platforms or because of concerns about their policies or social media overuse in general (for the record, it's totally fine to use social media however feels good to you in your personal life), we recommend keeping a Facebook profile for the purposes of networking and job searching (whether or not you are searching at this very moment). Here’s why:
Facebook groups are one of the best ways to learn about new opportunities. There are Facebook groups for just about every aspect of the entertainment industry, and you’ll probably fit into many of them! For the most part, these groups have replaced tracking boards as a source of information, including job postings. There are groups for all job types and levels (assistants, executives, writers, crew, producers, etc.), and if you just search your job title or the type of content you work on (or want to work on), you’ll surely find a group of peers that already has a conversation going around your line of work. You’ll likely have to share some credentials with the moderators to be accepted, but once you are in, you will see job postings come through frequently, often directly from the source!
Facebook groups make networking easy. The most active Facebook groups usually have multiple posts added per day, not just job postings. Often, people post to source a key piece of information or a contact, announce a big achievement, vent about an industry issue, or simply ask for advice. As a result, members have an opportunity to engage with each other in a very natural way. If you are in one of these groups, get active! Like and comment on posts, especially those where you feel you can offer support or advice. The more your name pops up in the group, the more of a reputation you will build for yourself as an informed member of the community. And this could lead to some offline relationships as well. But the nice thing about it is that you don’t have to get all dressed up and meet someone for drinks. It’s a way to stay on top of what’s going on, learn new things, and help out your peers, and this will only help you with your long term job prospects.
Facebook makes it easier to maintain professional relationships. Much like LinkedIn, it’s a good idea to friend your professional contacts on Facebook. But because people use Facebook differently than LinkedIn, Facebook provides an opportunity for you to get a glimpse of your contacts’ personal lives and connect on a separate level. The more you engage with the content they post (in a non-creepy, genuine way), the easier it will be to connect more overtly when you have business (like a referral for a job!) to discuss.
Facebook is a good platform for self-promotion. Your contacts are probably equally curious about what you're up to, and sharing your professional achievements on Facebook can be a great way to help them keep track of you! Plus, the platform is designed to promote major life events, like a new job. You can also share new project announcements, interviews, articles, and anything that features good news about you or your company. It gives people a reason to reach out to you and can keep you top of mind for a long-ago contact or friend who's hiring. This is a great way to get noticed for a job without even searching for openings yourself.
All of this said, if you want to use Facebook professionally, make sure your account looks professional, isn't too polarizing or political, and any photos are appropriate.
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan
You’ve heard that your resume should be more than a list of responsibilities -- it's a story that explains why you’d be great for the job you’re applying for. But a lot of our clients struggle with what belongs in that story, especially when they're trying to convey results and accomplishments. Should you craft a bullet point about the time you saved the production $25K by switching to off-brand snacks for crafty? What about the new spreadsheet you designed to make reporting more effective, because your boss was using post-its to track everything instead of Excel? Is it relevant that you rolled calls for three bosses, one of whom had a serious temper? How much information is too much information?
We often see candidates make the mistake of listing their key skills and illustrating them with overly specific highlights like the detailed anecdotes above. Doing so often makes your resume harder for a hiring manager to parse through and may feel redundant. You'd do best to save some of this more nuanced information for the interview.
On your resume, you should focus on the big picture -- what are the key takeaways that will match the skills listed in the job posting? In the above examples, you might say “Managed production budgets and implemented cost-saving solutions,” “Created new tracking system,” or "Supported three executives." Or you can take it a step further by including top-level results: "Implemented cost-saving solutions that saved $25K." Alternatively, you may want to add a little more context about how you did something: "Created new system for tracking project submissions using Excel." But you'd want to avoid: "Converted supervisor's post-it reminder system into an Excel submissions tracking system to increase departmental efficiency." See the difference? Don't make a mountain out of a molehill. It's a waste of valuable resume space and makes you sound silly.
But don't discount all of these great stories and accomplishments -- even if they don't belong on your resume, they're still very important! Save them for the interview. When you're asked about an achievement you’re particularly proud of, your biggest strengths, or how you managed a challenging situation, use these anecdotes as examples to bolster your argument.
It can be frustrating to look at your resume and not see the full picture of who you are as a worker. No one wants to be boiled down to a one-page document that relies on bullet points and white space! But it’s important to remember that your resume is step 1 of your job application. You can supplement it somewhat with a cover letter, but the real moment to shine is the interview. Your resume should be simple, concise, and effectively communicate that you would succeed at the job you're applying for -- the last thing you want is for a hiring manager to get overwhelmed by the details and miss the bigger picture of your capabilities.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan