If you're a Hollywood assistant, the expectation from your boss will be that you’re “young and hungry,” with a no-task-is-too-small attitude, and that you’ll be able to meet her every need. And when asked to do menial tasks, you should be able to accomplish them without too much effort and with a positive attitude. If you scoff at a simple administrative request, you can kiss your Hollywood career goodbye—if you’re not willing to pay your dues, you’re never going to be able to move up the ladder. In fact, one of the most important things to remember about all the random things your boss asks you to do: The answer is (almost always) "yes." Do whatever you can to fulfill your boss's requests -- aside from learning tons of new things along the way, it will help you advance in your career much more quickly. You'll be trusted with bigger projects once you've proven that you're capable of accomplishing smaller tasks.
But what about the requests that aren’t so simple? When your boss asks you to get a random New York-based PR person who she’s never met and does not have contact information for on the phone at 10pm ET on a Friday, how on earth can you be expected to succeed? You may have no idea how to accomplish this task, but don't immediately say "No, that's not possible." Instead, respond with “Let me see what I can do,” and spend the next hour searching Google and your network of assistant contacts for someone who can get that person’s cell phone number for you. If you can be resourceful, you might actually be able to do it (pro tip: Google searches will save your life no less than a million times while you’re an assistant). This is why being a Hollywood assistant is one of the most insane learning experiences you can have—you’ll realize that you have the power to accomplish things you never thought possible. And again, it's these moments of going above and beyond that will get you opportunities to try your hand at higher-level projects.
Unfortunately, sometimes you’ll fail. There are some requests that will be beyond your control, like when your boss needs a last minute flight, only wants to fly on the Alaska Airlines red eye from LAX to JFK, and refuses to sit in a non-premium non-window seat, but they're all sold out. If your boss isn't powerful enough for a private jet, they're not powerful enough to rearrange seating on a commercial airline, but they might not see it that way. Still, don't say no outright. Take the time to present an alternative. Is there a similar flight on a different airline? A flight leaving from Burbank instead of LAX or that gets in at LaGuardia instead of JFK? Think about what's driving your boss's very specific desires and try to find a solution that meets the underlying causes. If you can present viable alternatives or try to get ahead of problems, you'll impress your boss.
Sometimes, you’ll have a difficult boss who will berate you for not having the perfect solution or for not fulfilling a crazy demand quickly enough. Or, they may ask you to do something illegal or unethical. Any of these things are awful, and if they happen, you should consider finding another job. You do not have to suffer workplace abuse.
Regardless of the situation, do your best to stay calm and solution-oriented in the moment. Your can-do attitude will be noticed by the other people in your office and external contacts, and that will help you build your reputation as someone competent and pleasant. That’s the type of attitude that’s going to get you ahead in this business.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
The key to crafting a great resume and cover letter is using the job posting as your guide and tailoring your application to the specific requirements of the posting. If you can understand what the company is asking for, you’ll know how present yourself as the candidate they are looking for. But to do this effectively, you need to know how to read the posting. It seems simple, but a lot of job seekers are so excited to work at a particular company or get a particular title that they don't read a job posting carefully. Not only does that make their resume less effective, it can also lead to applying unnecessarily for jobs that don't align with their interests or qualifications. Let's break down how to read job postings section by section:
Company Profile: Often, job postings will contain a paragraph or more that describes the company, with particular attention to the company's values. If this is the case, it signals that the company has taken the time to define their company culture and has implemented policies that will align with these values. You may be inclined to gloss over this section, but read it carefully! Every company will try to present themselves in the best light, but you have to know what’s right for you – if they are describing things that are at odds with your preferred way of working, you may want to think twice about applying. For example, if you read “At XYZ company, we are all about collaboration. We have an open office plan and encourage conversation across teams and levels. You might say we're a family,” but you prefer working independently and minimizing hours at the office, this might not be the place for you. Conversely, if you’re loving what you’re reading and can give concrete examples of how some of these elements really speak to you, this may be something to include in your cover letter to give yourself that extra boost.
Culture sections like this also include words that have hidden meanings. In the above example, "family" often means that the company values loyalty, may not have a strict corporate structure or HR department, and expects that employees do things to pitch in beyond their job descriptions. "Fast-paced environment" often means you'll be working long hours to meet tight deadlines. Too much mumbo jumbo can indicate that the firm prioritizes external showmanship over internal grit, or that the company leans into buzzwords without substance. Mentions of diversity and inclusion don't necessarily mean the company delivers on those fronts, but indicate that they're aware, at the very least, that it should be a value.
Note that if there is nothing about the company culture in the job posting, a culture fit might not be the most important thing this company is looking for in a candidate. That’s not to say that the company doesn’t have a culture – all companies do – but it might not be the thing the company prides itself on above all else, and it may mean there aren't a ton of resources devoted to formalizing culture (or other aspects of HR). This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you're looking for in an employer.
Role Description: In addition to a company overview, there's often a brief summary of what the role is and what department it's in. You may have read Netflix's culture deck and know you want to work there, but you might not be happy in any department there -- a technical producer job at Netflix is a wildly different job from a creative producer role, even though "Producer" at Netflix may sound like your dream. Make sure you're applying for a role that aligns with your interests. This section in a posting is a quick way to tell if you're on the right path.
Responsibilities: This section is meant to describe the overall and day-to-day function of the role. The first few entries in this section are the most important, as postings tend to lead with the things that you’d be doing the most often. If you lack knowledge about several areas that are listed at the top, this role might be a stretch for you. Similarly, if there are more than one or two acronyms, jargon words, or task descriptions that you don't understand, even with a rudimentary Google search (i.e. the post asks for someone who's skilled at agile project management, and you have no idea what that is or why it's mentioned), then you're probably not a fit for the job. But if you think you have a pretty good overall sense of what the role is and feel confident you can do the job, you should apply, even if your skillset doesn’t precisely match every single one of the responsibilities on there.
The fun part about the responsibilities section is that you can often copy-paste language from it directly into your resume or cover letter. If the posting says “soliciting samples and pitches from agencies and reviewing submissions,” and you have something like this on your resume already, it’s worth updating the phrasing to match the posting – it will call attention to the fact that you have the EXACT skill they are looking for.
Qualifications/Requirements: Job postings often have an extra section at the bottom with some core skills and desired qualities they’d like to see in an applicant. Some of these qualifications will include familiarity with certain computer software or other hard skills, and in this case, make sure those keywords are on your resume (if they're true!). But it may also list intangible skills like “great communicator.” Don't put these soft skills in your skills section, but instead, double check that you have at least one bullet point that starts with “communicated” and shows that you have developed this skill through your duties in a previous position. There also might be some “nice-to-haves” listed -- include those as a bonus for the employer if you have them. Again, don't worry too much about not hitting all the requirements. The word "required" is misleading; they aren't going to toss an otherwise awesome resume into the trash just because you have six years of experience, not 7-10.
Short Postings: Often, and especially for entry-level or production roles, you'll see a paragraph instead of a formal posting. You may not even know what the company or show is! In this case, you have to know the job itself pretty well and what skills are required. The few that are listed are going to be the most important, and you should call them out on your resume and in your cover letter if you have them (i.e. if a posting lists rolling calls, make sure rolling calls or answering phones is on your resume; if you've never answered phone professionally, lean into customer service, multi-tasking, and organizational skills).
Application Instructions: Do not ignore this section! If the posting is on LinkedIn but asks for applications via email, apply via email, and not LinkedIn. If it asks for a resume and cover letter with a certain email subject line, attach all requested materials and follow directions EXACTLY. This is a test of attention to detail and also helps ensure that your resume won’t get lost. That said, you should always ask for a referral if possible, but you should also apply formally, as this is often required by HR departments.
By taking the extra time to read the job posting carefully, you'll make sure you're focused on applying for jobs you're interested in and qualified for, and that you're applying with a strong, tailored resume. Hiring managers sift through tons of applications that don't seem aligned with what they're looking for, but by making the clear case that your skills and experience match their posting, you'll stand out from the rest!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
We get lots of clients who have parallel career trajectories – they’ve been a producer for years but have also worked in events, or they’ve worked equally in TV and branded content, or they write while holding down a steady day job, or any number of other dualities (as resume writers and entertainment professionals ourselves, we fall into the same category)! But what does this mean for your resume and LinkedIn profile? How can you prove to a hiring manager that you’re interested in a specific job, when half of your experience is in a different part of the industry (or a different industry entirely)?
First of all, you will almost certainly need at least two different resumes, one focused on each trajectory. The particulars depend on the specifics of your situation -- that's why we advocate for letting your story guide your resume format, not the other way around. Generally speaking, there are two ways to go about this: 1. If you can leave one path out without creating gaps, only include related jobs in your timeline and allude to your unique perspective in another way, like a call-out in your professional summary or skills & interests section; 2. Include both sets of jobs in your timeline, and for the divergent career path, only include transferable, relevant skills. If your timeline overlaps, put the more relevant jobs first. If you're looking to combine your two skillsets for an entirely new role, you'll need a strong professional summary or even a functional resume that allows you to organize your work by core skills -- these being, of course, the skills you'll bring to the new role.
But what about LinkedIn? You can’t have two LinkedIn profiles.
Before you write off LinkedIn as a tool for your career, consider that it offers a huge upside compared to your resume. LinkedIn lets you write in first person and tell your story in a truthful way -- it's an opportunity to add context to the simple chronology and explain what your unique perspective is. And with two backgrounds, you certainly have a lot to say!
If there’s one side of your two career paths that you’re leaning toward more heavily, focus more on those skills on LinkedIn as well and express the other work as a side interest, highlighting what you've learned from those experiences that enhances your work in your primary path. But even if you’re looking for jobs in two fields equally, you can use your professional summary section to outline your unusual career trajectory and explain that you have two different passions, each one informing the other in its own way. Explain that you're open to roles on either side, and frame it as a value-add. Take the opportunity to give reasoning behind your career choices and explain how the things you have learned through each enhance your business approach.
However, there are some times when you may want to be a little more vague with your LinkedIn profile -- if your boss doesn't know you're looking for jobs and expects your profile to reflect your full-time position, if you use LinkedIn as a sales prospecting tool in your current role and need to show focus to potential clients, or if there are other political reasons you need to maintain a level of privacy, that's fine. We still recommend you have a profile so that you can connect with people, but you may prefer to keep your profile sections short and sweet. When you've moved on to your next role, you can build your profile out more.
One key thing to remember – no two people have the same career trajectory. In fact, the things that make you an unconventional candidate might be the same things that make you stand out from the pack! Take pride in your ability to excel in more than one area and come up with a few different frameworks to express your skills and background, so hiring managers get the information they need to see. It may take a bit more work to craft your story for your audience, but with two careers, we know you're no stranger to hard work, and in this industry, no stranger to storytelling!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
"Industry Spotlight" is our newsletter 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 a reality TV producer who spent time as a COVID Compliance Officer. We've granted her request for anonymity so that she could be candid. While CCO may not be a long-term position in the industry, production safety touches everyone who works in the industry, and we appreciate the opportunity to learn about how we can all contribute to a safe environment.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: In one sentence, how would you define what a CCO or COVID Testing Manager does?
CCO: The CCO establishes a plan to communicate COVID-19 safety guidelines from the CDC to the cast & crew, notifies production of any significant changes in safety recommendations and protocols, schedules and manages COVID testing, conducts contact tracing, and serves as the first level contact and response for COVID-19 safety and compliance concerns.
HR: What is your day-to-day like?
CCO: The CCO is the first person on set. The CCO makes sure all cast and crew fill in their medical questionnaire, get the COVID test, and have their temperatures taken. They make sure PPE is handed out to all, cleaning stations are fully stocked, and schedule cleaning routines with production on the agreed-upon schedule. They also take the appropriate action if someone tests positive on set.
HR: You come from a background as a reality TV producer. How did you prepare to take on a new role in the industry?
CCO: I prepared by taking the COVID-19 Compliance Certificate Program for LA County, the John Hopkins COVID Certificate Program, and OSHA. Knowing how production and filming works is a must.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in this position?
CCO: Management, understanding how production works, logistics, planning, extensive training in COVID-19 protocols, communication, time management, robust rules implementation, medical knowledge of COVID-19, collaboration, and managing crew. I can’t stress enough the importance of appropriate COVID training. This role is for a PM or project manager who understands the risks associated with COVID-19. This is not an entry-level position, since we are dealing with people's lives.
HR: How has COVID safety changed the way productions run from a logistical and creative perspective?
CCO: COVID safety has added a lot more stress to an already very stressful environment. It has also limited the creative locations we can use. Since health and risk factors can be very high on any given day, it has added a terrifying element to filming. Before the vaccine, you put your life at risk just being part of a show. If the COVID-19 protocols are not followed correctly, the show could shut down due to COVID infection and spread.
HR: What are the biggest challenges or surprises you faced in the role?
CCO: The amount of pushback from grown adults who should know better is unbelievable. I did not expect the lack of cooperation or pushback—the networks and EPs turning a blind eye to unqualified COVID-19 CCOs, and flawed COVID plans and testing just to do a show. It has been heartbreaking to see the lengths some people will go in this industry to film a show unsafely with no regard for the crew.
HR: What's something you wish people understood better about COVID compliance on set?
CCO: Hiring unqualified PAs with no training as CCO or having a nurse do both CCO work and testing is cutting corners. Not enough PPE, cleaning stations, or paying the CCO a PA rate is unacceptable. The CCO needs to be a trained professional with a high understanding of logistics and COVID training. Taking a set COVID certification [minimal certification] is not enough. It's most frustrating when you have networks and EPs on the show that do not adhere to COVID -19 protocols -- it seriously endangers the crew, just to get a show done! Executives who never stepped on set during the pandemic do not have an understanding of how it should work, which can then trickle down to the crew and cast, creating a toxic, unsafe environment. Because everyone is eager to work, some risk their health and life by working on sets that are not following the CDC guidelines. It must stop. We need to unite and demand a safe working environment, no matter if it is a union, scripted, or non-union show.
HR: Let's end on a hopeful note -- if you could give any piece of advice to someone trying to break into the industry, what would it be?
CCO: Work hard, be kind, and give back once you move up. Do it with class, integrity, and honesty.
HR: Thanks, CCO!