We’re often asked if temp agencies are worthwhile as part of the entry-level Hollywood job search. How likely are they to get you where you need to be in your career? The answer isn’t that simple and depends very much on individual circumstances. Let’s look at the pros and cons of using them.
Temp positions can be very helpful for those who are between jobs or are looking for a first job and need immediate income. If you can’t financially afford to commit to the job search full-time, a temp agency could be very helpful for you. Temp positions can also help fill resume gaps while you're between jobs. On the other hand, temp positions don’t offer benefits, so they won’t provide the same level of financial stability as a full-time job would. Plus, they require you to pull focus from your regular job search -- you won’t be able to apply for as many jobs while temping as you would if you could spend full days on your applications, so keep this in mind when making your decision.
Another pro: Temp positions will give you valuable administrative experience that can help when applying for full-time roles. In entry-level entertainment positions, it’s crucial for assistants to have strong phone, scheduling, and other administrative skills, and a temp position could help you build up those skills for your resume. That said, there is often an expectation that temps will have a strong administrative background coming into the job, so be aware of this when applying to the temp agency itself. (And know that a temp agency may redo your resume to help promote the skills you'll need for their available jobs -- but this resume may not work as well as an entertainment-focused resume for assistant jobs. We can help with that.)
Finally, temp positions can get you on the right career track and will sometimes even lead to a permanent role at the company. If you’re looking for a development assistant position and have the opportunity to temp on a development desk, this will look great on yourresume as you apply for jobs down the line. However, there’s no guarantee that you’ll land in the right role -- you could end up on a business affairs desk and have to work your way back into the field that you’re interested in at a later date. In addition, many supervisors hire temps with no intention of transitioning them into full-time staff members, and this can limit learning opportunities. If you’re on a short assignment, you can be assured that this is the case. On a longer assignment, you may have a chance to showcase your skills, but you’ll really have to go above and beyond to secure that full-time position, as a supervisor is unlikely to assign anything more advanced than administrative tasks. The exception to this rule is when a job is listed as temp-to-perm, in which case you may not even need to go through a temp agency. If this type of posting pops up, don’t hesitate to apply!
No matter what, you need to be careful when you apply through a temp agency. Some agencies take cuts of your paycheck or promise only to send entertainment opportunities your way but actually put you up for many other types of jobs -- and because of the nature of the business, your rep may border on pushy in her pitch to you. If you need the cash, or it's a short enough job, go for it. But don't get scared and commit to a longer term assignment that doesn't align with your goals just because it's something. You will find another job if you try hard enough -- don't sell yourself short.
Ultimately, you’ll need to look at your personal circumstances to evaluate if the temp agency route is the best option for you. If this is something you are considering, Sam Wilson at Any Possibility has come up with a comprehensive list of agencies you can contact.
If you haven’t yet, get in the habit of reading the industry trades every day. Set up email news alerts for Deadline Hollywood, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter, and sign up for newsletters that are relevant to your side of the industry. Doing so will help with your job search, maybe even in ways you hadn’t thought of before. Here are three things reading the trades can do for you while you’re looking for a new job:
What’s the purpose of a cover letter? The obvious answer is that it allows you to explain your intentions to a potential employer. It’s the place where you can briefly describe why it makes sense for you to work at a particular company. But that’s not the only way a cover letter can be useful to a hiring manager – it can also measure writing ability and attention to detail.
A typo-filled cover letter is a dead giveaway that you didn’t take the time to proofread or that you simply don’t have a good handle on grammar. Triple check each cover letter before you send it off. If writing isn’t your strong suit, have a friend read it over to make sure it’s perfect.
You should also pay attention to the submission instructions in the job posting. If a posting asks you to send resumes only, don’t send a cover letter! The hiring manager probably won’t read it, and by sending one, you’ve failed to follow directions. Similarly, if a posting asks for you to include a specific phrase in the subject line, copy it word for word. This is a test to see if you can follow directions.
It’s easy for a hiring manager to discard an application because of errors in a cover letter, so don’t let this easily-avoidable mistake cost you an interview!