How to cope when all your friends have jobs after graduation and your Hollywood career hasn't started
Graduation is inching closer, and you don’t have a job secured yet. Meanwhile, all your roommates and frat brothers have their post-college plans figured out. Maybe they’ve been accepted to grad school, or they got a job offer months ago from a campus recruiter. It’s hard not to second guess yourself when your future is up in the air.
In reality, you don't need to worry. Take that in. Breathe. You’re not behind at all.
The entertainment industry is really tricky and operates completely differently from other fields. You can’t get a job in LA (or New York) if you don’t already live there, and most entry-level jobs require you to start immediately, so no employer is going to hire you before you move (or if you already live in LA/NY, graduate). Therefore, it’s a complete waste of time to send out your resume before you’re ready to start working. And since college is the best four years of your life -- especially if you’re looking at a few years of slugging through the assistant trenches -- enjoy your freedom!
That’s easier said than done, of course. It’s hard to feel good about goofing off (or finishing your thesis) when your friends and family don’t understand what your life plan is. But if you employ a few simple strategies, you’ll get through this.
1. Come up with your elevator pitch. Practice what you’ll say when people ask you what you’re doing after graduation. For example, you can try: “I’m moving to LA to pursue a career in entertainment. I hope to get a job as an assistant at one of the talent agencies there.” If you’re confident, you’ll only get positive responses. And you may be able to parlay the conversation into an intro to someone you can meet out in LA!
2. Find a way to save money. Moving to a new and expensive city without a job is daunting. But you’re in a catch-22 where you can’t get a job if you don’t move and can't move until you get a job, so you’ve got to find a way out. Consider getting a job in your hometown for a few months before moving if you need to save up -- and that’s a job you can probably find before graduation, which will ease a lot of this tension. If you're still feeling anxious, create a version of your resume that highlights retail or service skills, so you can hit the ground running with a temporary gig when you move out.
3. Stay focused on your goals. Feel free to get a head start on life after graduation, and work on some of your pet projects. Finish that screenplay, make a short film, and start networking with alumni or professors’ contacts. Just because you can’t get a job yet doesn’t mean you can’t develop your career.
4. Maintain a positive mindset. The key is to remind yourself that you’re not looking for the same things after graduation that your friends are, so their LSAT studying is comparable to you finishing your pilot, and their job offer from Goldman Sachs is akin to your intro to your brother’s friend at CAA. Celebrate seemingly small accomplishments -- they may turn out to be a lot more important than you realize.
At the end of the day, your entertainment career aspirations will require a far different path from that of your friends, and that doesn't make you any less talented or valuable than they are. The sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be. Your friends may make more money than you or rise to higher positions while you’re still rolling calls, but you can't compare yourself to them -- you're on a completely different journey. And look on the bright side, you might be starting off as an assistant, but you can always impress your college friends with stories of all the cool celebrities you've met on the job. It can get rough sometimes, butHollywood does have its perks!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
When you open up a Word document to start writing your resume, your software will probably default to Times New Roman or another very standard font. And, since that's the font you used all through high school and college to type up your term papers, you might think it’s a safe bet to use on your resume -- after all, your teachers seemed to like it, right? But on your resume, Times New Roman really isn’t a good choice. For one, it makes you look lazy -- if you couldn’t take the time to select a more interesting font, how do you expect to convince a hiring manager that you’d show attention to detail in other aspects of your work? Secondly, it’s boring. Although your resume must be concise and to the point, it doesn’t need to look like a college essay. Plus, so many people use Times New Roman as a resume font, you risk having your resume get lost in the pile.
A great font can make your resume pop, and the best strategy is to find one that fits your personality. Don’t pick something that’s completely wacky and off the wall, but spend some time trying out different fonts until one stands out to you. Make sure you select something that’s clean and easy to read -- an unreadable resume is much worse than a boring one. We’re fans of sans-serif fonts, but if you prefer serif, there are plenty of non-Times New Roman options to choose from. With so many cool fonts available, there’s no excuse for having a boring resume!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
So you’ve made it all the way to the end of your interview and are feeling pretty good about it, but there’s one final portion that can really bring the interview home: the questions you ask at the end. When the interviewer asks if you have any additional questions, don’t just say no and leave! There’s no way you’ve learned everything there is to know about the company and position over the past 30 minutes, even if the interviewer was very thorough in communicating the job description. Asking two or three brief questions at the end of the interview is a great way to show that you’re really engaged and interested in the position, and that you’re the type of person who will take the time to learn more about the company once you’ve landed the job. But what should you ask? Here are a few suggestions to consider:
As a bonus, you can also ask questions about specific projects that only someone who has done their research about the company would know. It shows you are truly invested in the work and will certainly impress the interviewer!
One final tip: Be aware of how many questions you’re asking and how much time you’re taking up. If the interview was very long, you might want to move straight to the question about the hiring timeline (this is always a good question to end on). But if you feel like you’ve been in the room for only a few minutes and didn’t get a chance to show off your personality or get your main points across, you can strategically use this last portion of the interview to make a personal connection or relay some extra key information. And whatever you do, don't ask a question that's already been answered. All that does is indicate you don't know how to pay attention or listen.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
When you’re unemployed or completely burned out in your current position, hunkering down to find a job can be emotionally exhausting and overwhelming. It's no fun to send out resume after resume every day and not get any traction. Even with the perfect resume, you’ll still get radio silence more often than a call for an interview, since so many jobs are filled internally or by referral before you’ve even seen the posting. And yet, you know you’re supposed to send your resume out anyway -- so how can you make the whole process less disheartening?
One trick is to mentally reframe how you approach your job search. Often, candidates feel like they don’t know how to apply for jobs, since it’s not something they do every day. Especially if you’ve been at your last position for a while, or you’ve primarily landed jobs through referrals, the job search might feel really daunting. But what if you were to approach the job search in a less personal way and think of it as a task you might encounter at work? For example, if you work in representation, one of your main responsibilities is selling your clients’ projects, and you've probably developed a methodical process for getting your work done that allows you to succeed. You could easily translate that mentality to the job search. Instead of freaking out about your seemingly impossible task, think, “The next client I’m going to focus on pitching is me.” Then, hustle to get yourself a job the same way you would for your clients. Imagine yourself as the project or product you’re selling (not a desperate job seeker), and the job search will come more naturally. Even if pitching and selling aren't your strong suits, pick a skill you're comfortable with and figure out a way to make use of it -- maybe you're great at building relationships, so you can focus on utilizing your network, or you're an Excel whiz and can quickly compile detailed spreadsheets to track your job search progress. You can ease your mind a bit by building up your confidence with familiar tasks.
Another approach -- and these are not mutually exclusive -- is to break up your job search-related tasks so your days don't feel repetitive. Maybe on Mondays and Wednesdays you focus on meeting with your contacts. You can spend the morning grabbing coffee and the afternoon reaching out to set next week’s meetings. Then, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can respond to job postings. And consider doing this outside your home -- it will help curb some of the monotony. On Fridays, take a break. Most people aren’t going to want to meet then anyway, and the majority of listings are posted earlier in the week. This is a good time for you to focus on professional development -- skim the trades to stay current with the industry, read a script or two so you’ll be armed with fodder for meetings and interviews, take a Coursera class to learn a new skill like coding or business development, or become YouTube Certified. And then take your weekends to relax.
Remember: Looking for a new job is tough for everyone, and you’re not alone. You won’t be unemployed or stuck in a crummy position forever. By reframing how you view the job search and creating a weekly routine, you can reduce stress and hopefully land a new job quickly.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan