Accepting a new job is a BIG deal. And if you end up in the wrong position, you could potentially have a few miserable months ahead of you or a much harder time making a career transition later on. Yes, the entertainment industry can be competitive, but that doesn’t mean you should always take the first job you’re offered.
The beginning of your job search is when you should be most picky. Assess what jobs are available and make note of how many interviews you’re landing. If you’re getting called in for tons of interviews (even if they aren’t working out), you’re probably a strong candidate for the types of roles you’re applying for, so if you can financially afford to take your time with the job search, it’s a good idea to wait until a position comes along that aligns with your interests and sets you up for future success. It’s also important to consider who’s on the team you’ll be working for -- if a potential boss has a terrible reputation, you’d probably be better off passing on the position and finding a more pleasant working environment.
We understand that some people won’t have the luxury of passing on a job offer, and in that case, you’ll need to be a little more strategic about your search. If you aren’t getting interviews (and you’re 100% confident that your resume and cover letter are stellar), you may want to re-evaluate the positions you’re applying for. If employers aren’t seeing a match, perhaps you should broaden your search -- it’s possible that something you hadn’t considered before could be a better fit.
Most importantly, go with your gut. Do your best to avoid taking a job because you’re desperate. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not the perfect job for you. It’s okay to pass on an opportunity that you aren’t excited about -- you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
An informational interview is one of the best networking tools you can use during your job search. But how should you go about setting one up?
The ideal way to set up an informational interview is through a referral, where one of your contacts introduces you to someone he knows via email, and the two of you set up a meeting from there. Sometimes this will come about as the result of a casual networking conversation or drinks with a friend, but you can also be proactive about setting up informational interviews. Identify the top companies you want to work for and target people at those companies for potential meetings. LinkedIn is a great tool for figuring out who you know that could refer you to someone at a company you're interested in. Because they allow for someone to vouch for you, you'll have the most luck with setting up informational interviews via referrals, so use this strategy as much as possible.
However, you probably won’t want to ask the same contact to refer you to a ton of people (unless that person is more of a friend than a contact), but you can build your network quickly by turning each meeting into another one. For instance, if you ask a question in the informational that someone in another department might have a better answer to, ask for an introduction when you send your thank you email. Or, if you really hit it off with the person, you can ask if he knows anyone else you should be meeting with. You’ll build a long list of contacts if you can keep up this pattern. But be cautious not to ask for the next meeting until you've built a solid rapport -- no one wants to feel used or mined for their Rolodex.
What if you don't know anyone with a connection to someone at your dream company? There's no harm in sending a cold email -- the worst thing that could happen is that you get ignored and never have the meeting, which is the exact same outcome as if you had not reached out at all. See if there's anyone you can email that you have an organic connection to, even if it's thin -- maybe you share an alma mater or are both members of a certain professional organization. If that’s a challenge, you can always email someone blindly and hope that they write back. As long as you're professional and courteous, there's nothing to be afraid of!
One final thing to remember -- put the other person's priorities ahead of your own. Shift your schedule so you’ll be able to meet them at their preferred location and time. The last thing you want to do in setting up an informational interview is to pose any inconvenience to the other person – after all, they’re doing you a favor.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
This is a guest blog post by Samantha Wilson of Any Possibility.
Many young writers use a Hollywood assistant position to launch their screenwriting careers. Becoming an assistant gives you a couple of advantages. It’s the ideal playing field for networking and making contacts. You’ll also become familiar with the ins and outs of the industry, whether you’re near a writers’ room or taking notes in a development meeting. It’s essentially an education and foundation for a thriving career.
How do you choose the right position? Here’s a breakdown of the various types of available roles that can help you get where you want to be.
A writers’ production assistant helps the writers’ room with every menial task known to man. You stock the fridge, do a daily lunch pickup, make photocopies, and run errands, all with a smile on your face. When the opportunity comes up to cover another position in the office, you have a chance to gain extra experience. For instance, you might get to fill in and learn the writers’ assistant job if they’re out sick, or if the room decides to split up into groups and needs someone to take notes, you’re essentially a second writers’ assistant for the day.
A writers’ PA is one step below a writers’ assistant. But it would be a mistake to think it’s beneath you. The writers’ PA position can be one of the hardest jobs to get in the industry because it’s in high demand. With the right attitude and an office that promotes from within, you can obtain the right experience and rise through the ranks from WPA to WA, then eventually to staff writer.
A writers’ assistant sits in the room with the writers on a show and takes notes. When the writers pitch their ideas or work out the season’s arc, the WA types furiously on his laptop, outlining and organizing all the essential information. Grab every detail! After the room wraps for the day, the WA combs through his notes, proofreads, and does any additional organizing to send the room notes for the writers to use.
It’s a demanding job. You learn a lot by osmosis. By watching the way the room works every day, you become familiar with the workflow, as well as solidifying your own understanding of how to write for TV. If you land on a supportive show, the opportunity might come up for you to write a freelance episode for the season. Make sure you have a solid writing sample to take advantage of this opportunity. You might even get staffed.
A showrunner’s assistant is the right hand to the person (or people) in charge of the room. You aren’t inside the writers’ room, like a WA would be, but rather, handle more of the scheduling for the show/showrunner and communicate with the network, studio, executives, and so on. This position allows you to learn how a show operates as you generally coordinate and take notes on calls with the showrunner.
There are opportunities as a showrunner’s assistant to have your boss read your writing sample after you’ve built a rapport (and they ask). Many showrunners’ assistants take this position with the hope that they can make a lateral move to become a writers’ assistant next.
Writer’s Personal Assistant
A writer’s personal assistant has nothing to do with the writers’ room. A personal assistant takes care of -- yes it’s redundant -- personal tasks. Many writers and showrunners lead busy lives. Maybe they need someone to take out their dog during the day, pick their kids up from school, do their dry cleaning, and occasionally help them type up their notes. Sometimes it’s all menial tasks, while some writers want an actual assistant to help with their writing process. It’s a mixed bag that depends entirely on your employer.
Agency Assistant or Management Assistant
Working at an agency or management company is a great stepping stone for any recent graduate or newcomer to the industry. Big tier agencies or management companies like CAA, ICM, WME, UTA, Gersh, Verve, Paradigm, Anonymous, Untitled, etc. are names that other future employers will recognize on a resume.
Working for agencies and management companies helps your career in a couple of ways. Many of these places represent big writers who will need assistants down the line. You might hear of the jobs first, which is a huge advantage, since hiring managers for coveted writers’ and showrunner’s assistant positions are inundated with resumes as soon as a job opens up. Your boss can also vouch for you, and you might have built your own relationships with her writer clients who already trust your competence.
Another way working in management or at an agency can help you is that these places represent writers…and you want to be a represented writer. Through a lot of hard work, networking with other agency and management assistants, and so on, you will find yourself in the inevitable position where someone asks to read your writing. It might be at your company or at a completely different company where one of the assistants or junior reps has become a good friend. Opportunities will present themselves if you’re good at your job, take networking seriously, and let the fact that you are a writer come up organically.
Long-term, understanding the way representation works is a huge benefit of working at an agency or management company. The entire experience will be a big learning opportunity.
Your job will be rolling calls, scheduling, coordinating talent appointments, assisting your boss, and so much more.
A production company is a great place for a writer. Producers at these companies work with writers, agencies, and management companies to kick off new projects in television, features, and digital. Because of this, you are exposed to working with all of these professionals too. You take notes for your boss on phone calls, put together grids of hot new writers and their reps, network with assistants at agencies and management companies, and read a ton of scripts.
A development assistant position helps you make connections with people who can eventually read your work and do something with it. You will meet a broad spectrum of individuals from assistants in representation to people at studios. In the event that you want to work as an assistant to a specific writer or show that your company handles, you might hear about and apply for a job there after you’ve put in one to two years on the desk. There’s so much to learn from a development desk and so much to gain from networking while on it.
For more from Any Possibility, check out the site HERE or grab THE WRITE TRACK workbook on Amazon.
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Cover letters can be very helpful tools in your job applications—they provide context to your resume and can give you an opportunity to explain any unique circumstances that don’t otherwise come across. Cover letters aren’t hard to write...if you know how to write them. Here are five tips that will help you craft the perfect cover letter:
1. Keep it short. Recruiters are busy people – they don’t have time to read long cover letters. Get your point across clearly and concisely and keep your cover letter to half a page or less.
2. Avoid sounding like a robot. Write in a professional yet conversational manner, as if you were explaining to a friend why you want to work at this company. And don’t use the same cover letter for every application.
3. Tailor your cover letter to the posting. Each role and company has something that differentiates it from others – what specifically draws you to this particular position? And why are you uniquely qualified for this role? If you’re having a hard time answering either of these questions, you may want to reconsider your application — this may not be the perfect job for you.
4. Include only the most relevant pieces of information. Look at the posting and highlight the key skills you have that match the qualifications that are listed. Sure, you have other skills that might be impressive, but save those for your resume or an interview.
5. Focus on what you can do for the company, not the other way around. Although you should briefly express why you’re interested in a company on a personal level somewhere in your cover letter, the majority of the letter should demonstrate what you have to offer the company. Spend time outlining your main qualifications instead of going on and on about your passions.
Remember: Simpler is always better when it comes to a cover letter. Think of it as an elevator pitch — if you can get the basics of who you are and what you’re looking for across, a hiring manager will easily be able to decide if it’s worthwhile to consider you as a serious candidate.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan