Let’s face it: Some days, even if you love your job, you want to do more. You want to live beyond your desk, your inbox, your projects, and your coworkers. This is especially true when you don’t love your job. It can be hard waking up every morning, shuffling to the office, and focusing on a goal you’re just not feeling any more. So what can you do about it? Glad you asked! We’ve found that having an extracurricular activity outside of work not only boosts your mental health, but can help make you more productive at work, yield connections you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, and yes, even enhance your resume.
First off, volunteer work or a side hustle can help you develop some great leadership skills that might otherwise be reserved for your superiors at your current job. For example, if you were to join the planning committee for a nonprofit’s annual gala, it would teach you fundraising skills, how to negotiate with vendors, and digital marketing strategies. You never know when those types of skills might come in handy at work, but more importantly, they'll likely expand the types of opportunities you're qualified for when you start exploring other jobs.
Okay, sure, but isn't that also work? What about an extracurricular that's just totally fun, without the stress of volunteering, endless committee meetings, and time commitments? Yup, that's great too -- it’s actually still beneficial for your career if you pursue a hobby. Let's say you enroll in a dance class. In addition to burning off calories and steam, you’ll likely make friends. And maybe your new dance BFF’s roommate works at your dream company and can refer you when there’s an opening! The more you expand your social circle, the more you expand your professional network -- and the best way to get your resume into the right hands is through a contact who really knows you ... AKA a friend.
I get it, but how is this stuff going to boost my actual resume? Well, your extracurriculars are fair game for the experience section of your resume if you're learning transferrable skills, but even those purely fun activities can be useful. We’re big fans of including an interest section on your resume to help prospective employers see you as a person, not just a list of skills. This way, a hiring manager can potentially relate to you -- maybe they dance too, or they volunteer with a similar charitable organization. Or, maybe your hobby is so interesting that they’ll want to bring you in to learn more about it -- like you play Quidditch, collect airline miles, or have run marathons in 12 cities.
Expanding your life beyond your desk is better for you as a person -- which makes it better for your career. The workforce hasn’t been taken over by robots (yet), and hiring managers are looking for happy, well-rounded people. So be happy, and take advantage of the added value your hobbies will contribute to your career!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Hollywood Resumes' Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan were interviewed by Hollywood Hustle podcast about breaking into the entertainment industry -- we shared our own career stories along with tips for how to search for jobs, build a network, and craft a strong resume and cover letter.
Listen to the full episode here, or on your favorite podcasting platform! We also helped cohost Daniel Tuttel revise his resume on the spot in a fun bonus preview episode!
"Industry Spotlight" is 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 Ashley Griffis, Executive Director, Children's Entertainment at The Jim Henson Company.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: What is your main job function?
ASHLEY: My main job function is to find and develop new properties into shows that are responsible and relevant for kids and audiences today. I work with the creator/showrunner on the creative of the show to make it the best it can be, including packaging the project with talent, art, scripts, co-producers, animation, curriculum advisors, and so on. It is also my job to go pitch the shows to networks in order to sell them to series.
HR: What is your day-to-day like?
ASHLEY: My day to day is doing whatever I need to do to move each of my projects forward. On paper it looks like emails, meetings, and calls, but in reality it's pitching shows to networks, taking meetings with writers, giving notes on creative, brainstorming, checking in on deals, meeting with new talent, reaching out to agents, researching curriculums, focus group testing with children, taking new pitches, searching for new projects/books, and staying updated on what is relevant and popular with kids, parents, and teachers.
HR: What's different about working in children's programming than other parts of the industry?
ASHLEY: I believe the main difference between children’s programming and other parts of the industry is when you work on children’s entertainment you are not working on content for yourself (or other adults), but for a demographic that is developmentally and a psychologically different than you. Although many of us remember our favorite shows when we are kids, and we are able to tap into that inner child, it is important to remember how different it is to be a child today and what entertains them.
HR: What do you like most about your job?
ASHLEY: My favorite thing about my job is working with talented people with different backgrounds, stories, and ways of thinking. I love being genuinely surprised and inspired by an interesting story/character. I also love being creative with other people and working together to come up with a story or solution to a problem.
HR: How did you get your current job?
ASHLEY: I have always been very vocal about my passion for children’s entertainment and made that clear in college to my professors. So when my professor met a woman who worked at Henson, he recommended me to her. I was then able to get an internship with Henson, and while I was an intern I covered various assistants’ desks. I was then lucky to be asked to stay and work as an assistant. I continued to be vocal about my desire to help with children’s television, and when opportunities arose to help on shows, I was first to volunteer, while remaining a full time assistant. After a few years of being an assistant and helping on productions, I was able to transition out of being an assistant and into the children’s entertainment department. I was then able to work my way up and focus more on development.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in your position?
ASHLEY: The skills someone would need to succeed in my position are patience and persistence. It can take years for a show to become a series. One of my shows took over 9 years from inception to production. A lot of people think you can come up with an idea and make a show right away, but it takes a lot of time to incubate an idea and to package it with the right talent. In addition, it also takes a lot of time sell an idea to a network -- it all depends on the executives at those networks and their tastes or what’s already on their slate. You could have the best project in the world, but if it doesn’t fit their strategy or needs, or they have a show that's similar, you won’t be able to sell it. However, if you love a project, don’t give up on it. There are always new networks, executives, and avenues to get your story told -- just be open to the ebb and flow of the industry.
HR: If you don't like ____________, you won't like my job.
ASHLEY: If you don’t like selling, you won’t like my job very much. A large majority of my job is pitching my shows and the talent that's attached, including myself as a creative executive and my company. Pitching and selling is very difficult. You are trying to convince people who are looking for a reason to say no to love your project as much as you do or at least see the potential in it. You receive way more “nos” than “yeses” but you have to put the same amount of love and heart in each project even if they don’t sell -- and you have to keep on selling.
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!)?
ASHLEY: Something in my job that an outsider wouldn’t expect is how much I have to understand about deals, unions, rates, and credits. It’s important to understand all of these things because I need to be able to manage a budget for each project and also be an advocate for the talent to get them their rates. It’s also important to be a responsible producer and create within the confines of budget so the project will be able to be made. It is also important to manage expectations and work with your own BA to make sure you are advocating for the correct fees for your company and know your own worth and what you will be providing for each project.
HR: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career?
ASHLEY: I made many mistakes early on in my career. I became an assistant straight out of college and had no real formal training on a desk. The biggest mistake I probably made was sending my boss to a meeting on a the wrong day! I somehow wrote it in the calendar a week early and she drove all the way there to find out it was the following week. I double checked every date after that incident. You can learn something from every mistake.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
ASHLEY: The best advice I was ever given is to take as many general meetings as you can, and when you are in those meetings ask if they would feel comfortable introducing you to someone else that would be beneficial for you to talk to. Most people will be happy to put you in contact with others that have similar interests, and this helps you quickly get to know more people in your area of interest and allows you network.
HR: Thanks, Ashley!
Job interviews freak most candidates out. It’s hard enough to talk about yourself and your achievements, and it can be intimidating to meet a brand new person, but in a job interview, you have to do both. So much pressure!
That’s why preparing for a job interview is so critical. But there are two ways to prepare: One is to cram the night before the interview, and the other is to flex your muscles continuously. We’re big fans of the latter.
If you’re consistently preparing for an interview, you’ll get really comfortable answering common interview questions and come across as super confident during the real thing. We recommend telling yourself your story (out loud!) when you’re in the shower or stuck in traffic. Imagine yourself 20 years from now, telling the story of how you made it inHollywood. Maybe you’re talking to a group of students at your alma mater, maybe you’re teaching a class at UCLA Extension, maybe you’re just telling your kids how their parent got to be a total badass -- whatever imagined scenario makes you feel confident and at ease. Let your story flow freely, hitting on the things you’ve learned throughout your career, from mistakes you’ve made to moments you’re really proud of. You can pose an initial question to yourself -- like a moderator asking what piece of advice you’d give -- and take it from there. If you do this on a regular basis, you’ll take full ownership of your story without any pressure attached, developing a conversational tone about your experiences along the way.
Then, when you have a job interview scheduled, you’ll have a lot of material to pull from. You’ll be used to talking about strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities. Instead of practicing stiff answers the night before a job interview, you can focus on researching the company and executives and getting a good night’s rest.
Interview skills are just like muscles -- the more you build them over time, the stronger they’ll be. So get to the [mental] gym!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan