The job search can be frustrating -- especially when you feel like you’ve been submitting tons of job applications and aren’t getting any bites. But if you’ve sent out 50 applications and haven’t heard a word on any of them, it’s likely that you’re doing something wrong. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you assess the problem:
Are you qualified for the jobs you’re applying for?
Go back and take a look at the jobs you’ve been applying for. Re-read the job descriptions -- do these jobs actually make sense for you? Will the skills and experience you put in your resume prove you can do the job? If you’re an assistant applying for director-level jobs, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get any calls. It’s okay to reach a bit, but be realistic with your expectations. Conversely, you don’t want to apply for jobs you’re overqualified for either. If you’ve been an assistant for five years, it’s probably time to start looking at coordinator positions -- employers aren’t interested in hiring people who will get burned out quickly or start asking for a promotion after three months. Besides, you start to seem desperate if you’re applying for jobs that are too far below your level. Compare your resume to the job postings to see how well they align. If you don’t have a lot of the key required skills or are already doing work beyond what’s asked for, you may not be applying for the right jobs. Be a little more selective with your search, and try to focus on those jobs that match your qualifications.
Are you excited about the jobs you’re applying for?
Aside from being qualified for a job, it’s also important that you’re excited about a prospective position. It’s easy to spot a generic cover letter from someone who isn’t particularly passionate about the role. So don’t waste your time with applications you’re not excited about. A good test to figure out which opportunities are right: Try writing your cover letters from scratch -- you’ll find that they’ll flow much more easily for the jobs that really are a fit. Then, focus on those opportunities. You’ll have more luck if you’re going for quality over quantity.
How are you actually applying for these jobs?
If you’re both qualified and excited about the jobs you’re applying for but aren’t hearing anything back, you may be going about the job application process wrong. In Hollywood, most people are hired through referrals or promoted internally, so if you’re only using the online application to submit your resume, that’s probably your problem. Try to find a direct contact that can get your resume into the right hands. If you don’t know someone at the company or in the department you’re applying for, you can use LinkedIn to try to find a connection. Ideally, you’ll find someone who knows someone who can pass along your resume, but if this isn’t possible, a cold email can work too. Make sure you’re taking extra steps to get your resume to the hiring manager -- it will help prove how much you want the job.
Do you have a strong resume and cover letter?
If you’re doing everything above right, your problem is probably your resume or cover letter. A disorganized resume or cover letter with typos and poor writing is obviously not going to get you an interview, but that’s not the only thing that can make for a bad resume and cover letter. Do your resume and cover letter tell a story? And is that story one that shows you’re right for the job? You MUST tailor your resume and cover letter to the job posting. You should always try to create a new cover letter for every job application, and sometimes, you should create a new resume as well (or at least make some tweaks) -- especially if you’re applying for executive level jobs. Take note of the nuances in the job posting, and make sure your resume and cover letter reflect the core skills of the role. A strong resume and cover letter match the job posting and demonstrate why it makes sense for the company to hire the candidate.
We recognize that all of this may sound like a lot of work -- and it is. But if you can be a little more targeted in your search and thorough with your process, you won’t have to send out nearly as many applications to secure an interview, and you'll be less stressed out in the process!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Most of the time, college career counselors and other resume writers don’t specialize in entertainment and/or haven’t worked in the industry. While they might have a useful resume format for you to work off and some tips for creating strong bullet points, there are a few things they might not know to tell you. Three examples you should be aware of as you create your resume:
1. Only include relevant information.
When crafting your resume, your goal should be to minimize the number of words on the page. Think carefully about what hiring managers actually want and need to see. First of all, no one cares about your GPA, and you should only include scholarships and awards that are widely known as prestigious or are specifically related to the industry. Remember that priorities within academia -- meaning the things that have been your top priorities for most of your life -- are not the same as those in the working world. Instead, experience is what counts; if you have industry internships, these should be the central focus of your resume because the skills you learned there will be the most relevant information for a hiring manager. If you have enough internship experience to fill up the page, leave all the other stuff off. Otherwise, include any non-industry professional experiences (internships and otherwise) or campus leadership experiences that have transferable skills, and list them in chronological order. You might even include some of your coursework in the education section to show additional knowledge of the industry. Bottom line, remember to be selective as you decide what experience and information to include on your resume. No one expects you to have a robust resume when you're first starting out, so less is more: Relevant = important, unrelated = unnecessary.
2. Don’t overdo it.
When applying for entry-level jobs, you want to demonstrate that you know your place and aren’t expecting to run the company. No one wants to hire people who are too big for their britches, so you have to find a way to show off your most impressive skills and experiences without sounding presumptuous. Listing student film projects on your resume can lead to this trap if you're not careful. If the entire experience section of your resume is organized by film titles and roles like executive producer, director, and writer without context, it will look like you’ve produced a bunch of content no one has ever heard of, and you’re going to sound like a quack. Instead, make it clear that these were all student films. Student film projects provide valuable experience but aren’t necessarily representative of working in the industry, so if you call attention to the fact that you worked on these films within the school setting (you may even want to list them in the education section if you have enough internships in the experience section), you’ll come across as a candidate with reasonable expectations for your first job. Which leads us to our next point . . .
3. Administrative skills matter.
Your first job in the entertainment industry will likely be some sort of assistant position -- executive assistant, writers’ assistant, production assistant, etc. And all of these roles require administrative skills that are far below what you’re capable of. Yes, it’s weird that you have to start your career off as a glorified secretary, but that’s just the way it is. And because of this, you need to remember to include administrative skills on your resume -- rolling calls, managing schedules, booking travel, reconciling expenses, maintaining office organization -- the job posting will list specifically what’s needed, so use it as a guide for what keywords to include on your resume. It can be tempting to brag about how you were the chairperson of your campus's business association, leading meetings, drafting proposals, and managing club members, but it's actually more important to list the administrative and organizational skills you gleaned from that experience. It's counterintuitive, but your resume is about proving you can do the job at hand, not about listing every achievement in your life.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
It's time for another "Industry Spotlight," our monthly series where we interview professionals from across the entertainment industry about their current jobs and career trajectories. Our hope is that you will learn more about the positions you're already interested in, discover new roles you may not have considered, and utilize the wisdom of those who've paved the way before you to forge your own path for success.
This month, we sat down with Heather Blanda, Director, Programming Planning at Crackle.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: What is your main job function?
HEATHER: I lead the strategic planning, network scheduling, and curation of all content, including premium TV series and features (both licensed and original) across the OTT digital streaming service, Crackle. Planning includes annual, monthly, and daily schedules as well as themed playlists to achieve the network KPI [Key Performance Indicator] goals and increase viewership. I am also responsible for determining the content merchandised on Sony Crackle’s primary promotional levers (Multiplex Channels, Homepage Slideshow, and Featured Sections), based on data analytics, insights, and network priorities.
HR: What is your day-to-day like?
HEATHER: In my current role at Crackle, every day is a snowflake -- you never know what's going to pop up. The industry is evolving at such a fast pace that it is necessary to be nimble and pivot at a moment's notice. The first thing I do when I get in the office is check the network and make sure it looks good and that everything is working properly -- always. Daily, I am in a lot of cross-functional meetings to align strategy and business solutions, and I answer emails and field questions from my team that pertain to the daily and monthly schedules.
I also manage a three person scheduling team to create and implement data-driven, curated network schedules across OTT and VOD platforms including desktop, mobile, connected TV (e.g., Roku, Amazon FireTV), and gaming consoles (Xbox, PlayStation).
HR: What do you like most about your job?
HEATHER: I love that programming is the information hub for the network. We are the center of the wheel, and all work starts with our planning. I had always wanted to work in entertainment, but I wasn't always sure in what capacity. Programming sort of found me, and it is the perfect blend of creative and business -- working within a corporate structure affords me job stability and business experience. What I like about Crackle is that it has opened up all sorts of opportunities. While running the network, I have also produced a short form series, acquired a wealth of tech knowledge, and gained a lot of exposure to acquisitions, development, and marketing that wouldn't typically happen at a larger, more established entity. It has given me a 360 degree perspective on the business. I also really like working on a studio lot, but that is a unique characteristic of Crackle. Typically, programming teams work out of headquarters.
HR: How did you get your current job?
HEATHER: I was referred by two separate colleagues for this position. My skill set from my linear programming days really lent itself to this role, as they were looking for someone with that background.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
HEATHER: My first job in the industry was an unpaid internship at a small production company called AXIAL Entertainment. I was an office PA, and we produced one of AMC's first unscripted original series called INTO CHARACTER. I loved it, but I wiped out my savings while paying my dues! That's the business though...at least it was when I started. My first paying job in LA was with Nickelodeon -- they relocated me across the country to run the programming division on the West Coast and provide a communication bridge from network to studio. I worked closely with the executives in charge on both the animation and live action teams. It was probably one of my favorite roles I've had in my career.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in your position?
HEATHER: Programmers are the most detail-oriented people. We are the information center for the network, and it is our job to ensure communication is flawless. One mistake could risk violating a contract and cost a lot of money. Programmers are the network police, and customer experience is our number one priority. A great colleague of mine used to say, "Programmers cancel shows," but what she meant was that if our audience doesn't want it, we won't keep it. If they love it, we will. Her words may have been little callous, but also true -- we make business decisions based on data.
To be a great programmer, you need to be a strong communicator, hard-working, strategic, analytical, and above all -- you must love content. Programmers can be a little nerdy -- we geek out on TV and movies...it's our passion. It's the core of our business, and it's what we live and breathe.
HR: If you don't like _____________, you won't like my job.
HEATHER: Offices, Excel, meetings, or politics.
HR: What’s something you do in your job that an outsider wouldn’t expect (and maybe you didn’t expect before you took the job!)?
HEATHER: There is always a misconception when I say I'm a programmer. I'm not writing computer code or script. Additionally, programmers are on the receiving end of the production/acquisitions timeline -- we receive final projects and put them on the air. It's broadcasting, business, data, budget management, crisis management...and a lot of team management. My mom always asks me why she can't see my name in the credits -- it's because I didn't produce the show.
I also am heavily involved in app development and have gained significant knowledge on back-end product management. I never thought I'd be working with tech in this way, but it's a big part of this job. Engineers and programmers need to collaborate in the streaming universe a lot.
HR: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career?
HEATHER: I let others determine my value. It took me a long time to give myself the credit I deserved and take my career into my own hands. If I had to do it again, I probably would have left my last job sooner to develop my career a little faster. But I worked through two major recessions -- I was lucky to have a job, and security was important to me. I don't have regrets -- it was circumstantial.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
HEATHER: There isn't one track, and there is no "right way." Hard work pays off, and networking is critical. But just because you are somewhere for two years doesn't mean you will be promoted -- that said, everyone's path is different. Be patient with yourself and the process. Sometimes you have to sidestep before you move up. From my experience, you have to do the job before you get the promotion or the position. But -- it's a passion industry, and we do it because we friggin' LOVE it! :)
HR: Thanks, Heather!
If you’ve applied for a writing or directing fellowship, grad school, or another professional program, you’ve probably encountered an application that requires a personal statement. And then you’ve probably groaned, because writing a personal statement can be really tough, emotional, and confusing. But if you want to tell your story in a truthful way, you've got to be the one to write it, so it's time to learn how. Keep these three tricks in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to crafting a great essay!
1. Use an authentic voice
Why do professional development and school programs require a personal essay? Because they know that a person is more than their resume. Your personal statement is a chance to showcase who you are and what unique perspective you'll bring to the table. It’s critical that your personality is reflected in the essay’s tone. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re poetic, be poetic. If you’re conversational, be conversational. Use details to illustrate your story and paint a picture of the world as you see it. Keep in mind that this isn’t an academic essay; words like “therefore” and “hence” don’t really belong in your story, unless that’s how you actually speak. Your voice also extends beyond your writing itself -- you’ll want to showcase the lens through which you see the world and how your work is impacted by your background. Which leads us to…
2. Develop a clear thesis
Some personal essays have specific prompts, which makes it easier to figure out where to start. But more often, the prompt is nebulous, like “How does your background offer a unique perspective to your writing?” or “Why do you want to be a director?” The worst part is that you generally have to keep the essays short -- how do you tell your entire backstory in one page or less? The short answer: You don’t. Instead, pick a hook that you can rest your story on. Find one aspect of your personal history that you think adds something extra to your resume and/or sample and thread that through your essay. An essay isn’t abiography (in fact, many programs require both), but rather an opportunity for you to tell one story with a beginning, middle, and end.
3. Keep your writing clean
What’s the most effective way to hammer home your thesis? Through clear, concise writing. First, focus on getting rid of extraneous words and tightening up your sentences as much as possible. We often like to play a little game called "make each paragraph one line shorter." Try it, it's fun! One easy way to streamline your writing is to minimize clauses like “I think” or “in my opinion.” This essay is personal, and it’s already clear to the reader that you’re the one telling the story -- and that story should be as simple as possible. Secondly, consider outlining your essay before you sit down to write -- that’ll ensure the details you’re including are necessary to enhance your voice, and not part of a rambling tangent. If you break down the specifics of the story you want to tell, you’ll find your way in and out easily.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan