Don't let a typo ruin your Hollywood career
For obvious reasons, it's very important that you proofread your resume and avoid common grammatical errors. But a resume isn't the only document that will determine your career trajectory. Especially in Hollywood, where content is distributed widely, you need to proofread EVERYTHING you write. Emails, social media, pitch documents...everything. In a business as small as ours, people tend to hire people they know or by referral. When you send an email to your boss’s client that’s littered with typos or other errors, not only do you make your company look bad, you also take yourself out of the running when that client needs a new assistant.
Even when you’re not at work, you should be mindful of seemingly insignificant errors. Your social media profiles are accessible to almost anyone looking to hire you, and if the first thing a hiring manager sees is “there” instead of “their,” you’re done, no matter how “detail-oriented” your cover letter claims you are. Be particularly careful when using tracking boards or professional Facebook groups -- typos in those forums are akin to showing up hammered at a networking event. Double checking your work is worth the extra time -- it's a great way to stand out in the crowd.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Did you get too drunk at a networking event?
Somewhere in between Mad Men and Office Christmas Party lies the reality of drinking with colleagues. Especially in Hollywood, socializing is a part of the job, and alcohol is often a part of that socializing. But how drunk should you get when you’re out in a professional capacity? The basic rule of thumb: not very. But let’s break it down further:
If you’re meeting a contact for drinks after work, you might think it’s safe to get hosed. After all, you don’t work at the same company, and you’re off the clock. Nope. Unless it’s a good friend who happens to be in the industry (in which case, stop calling them a “contact” and don’t refer to your plans as “work drinks”), this person is potentially someone you hope to work with in the future. Getting sloppy when you don’t know someone too well is not a great prelude to asking him to refer you to position at his company. Also, it’s after work, and you have no idea what obligations this person has at home. Don’t expect him to stay out all night. One drink is always fine. Two is acceptable if there’s time, you're having a great conversation, and you can hold your alcohol. Three’s too many. And if you drove, remember to keep track of how long it takes you to sober up -- if you only have half an hour of the person’s time left, skip round 2.
Like work drinks, the majority of people you’ll be interacting with at a networking event are new or not well-established contacts, so your goal is to make a good impression. Going shot for shot with the drunk dude at the bar will not accomplish this. Instead of making one temporary drunken bestie, you want to talk briefly with a multitude of people, which means your drinking should be on the conservative end. For one thing, you don’t want to waste too much time getting the bartender’s attention. But more importantly, you want to be sober when you make an initial introduction with a new face. A larger industry holiday party is the only exception to this rule. If the event is at a club with an open bar and DJ, you don’t want to be the stick in the mud only talking about work. That’s not to say you must drink to be cool, but if you want to, you’re welcome to enjoy a light buzz. Just don’t get sloppy, sick, handsy, or twerky.
When you’re at an event that’s exclusive to your coworkers, err on the side of conservatism, especially if HR or your boss is there or you’ve got a lot to do the next day. An official work party is not a place to get trashed and should be treated more like work drinks. That said, if you’re close with your coworkers, no one with the power to fire you is around, and the gathering is more of a happy hour than a sanctioned event, consider yourself 95% off the clock. It’s still never a good idea to get so drunk you do something embarrassing or inappropriate, but if you truly trust your coworkers as friends, you can let loose. If you’re out with a mix of people -- close coworkers and some folks from another department you don’t really interact with -- don’t let your guard down completely.
And what if you don’t drink? It can be hard to avoid alcohol in Hollywood, but it’s doable, and totally okay. Grabbing coffee instead of drinks or ordering a soda at the bar is totally fine. Never let anyone pressure you to imbibe anything you don’t want to -- even if it will “get you ahead,” you probably won’t be happy running in a crowd where you’re judged more on how many tequila shots you can down instead of how many scripts you can sell.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
How should you phrase the "room for growth" question at the end of a Hollywood job interview?
You’re coming to the end of your interview, and your interviewer asks if you have any questions. You should always try to ask at least one question (ideally two or three depending on how long the meeting has run), and there are several standard questions you can use that will seem thoughtful and will provide you with useful information. But one of these questions can be a little tricky — the question of whether there’s room for growth in the position.
In some cases, especially among recent grads, a job applicant will be looking for a one year gig to get his foot in the door somewhere and won’t be particularly concerned with where this job may lead. Some hiring managers recognize that — many agents have verbal agreements with their assistants that after a year on the desk, they’ll help a rockstar assistant find another job. If you know that the job you're applying for is just a stepping stone, don't even bother with the room for growth question.
However, as you develop your skills, you'll want to look for a more satisfying career trajectory. You’ll be interviewing at companies that you’re passionate about and hope to stay at for several years. At the more senior levels, asking about growth potential is a pretty standard question, but if you’re applying for an assistant position, you have to be a little more careful. In many cases, hiring managers are looking for someone who cares about the company and wants to grow into a more advanced role down the line, but sometimes when an executive hires an assistant, he wants just that. He's looking for someone who will be able to manage the administrative parts of the job and can make his life easier, not someone who gets so caught up in giving script notes that he forgets to answer the phone. It's not always easy to assess exactly what the hiring manager is looking for, so if you're genuinely interested in long-term employment that eventually goes beyond the assistant level at a particular company, you'll need to handle any questions about upward mobility delicately.
So, how do you ask about potential growth? You could start by inquiring how long people typically stay at the company. This may be enough to prompt an answer about a potential promotion down the line, but at the very least, it will give you a sense of whether or not employees at the company are happy. Alternatively, you could be a little more straightforward and ask if there’s room for growth in the department or if assistants typically get promoted within the company. If you choose this route, add a caveat that you know you’re being hired as an assistant and are ready and willing to spend a couple of years on an entry-level desk. If you can get this across while also demonstrating that you are enthusiastic enough about the company that you’d be the type to go above and beyond and eventually earn that promotion, you’ll sound like a great candidate.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Are you padding your resume?
The world of job seekers is divided into two kinds of people -- those who pad their resumes and those who try so hard not to pad their resumes, they wind up leaving off some important skills. So, how can you tell if your resume is padded -- and more importantly, how can recruiters tell?
A resume is nothing more than a marketing document. It’s a highlight reel of the skills you bring to the table for an open position. A lot of applicants mistake it for an autobiographical log of their day to day work life, and that’s where this fear of padding comes in. Let’s say your job as a junior reality TV executive is primarily to write treatments for reality projects in development, but you’re looking to transition to the role of story producer. If you’ve ever given notes on a sizzle or other footage -- even if it wasn’t your primary job -- you can and should include that on your resume! The idea is to sell that you can do the job -- and if you know you can do it because you’ve had some experience, it’s fine to say so.
You get into dangerous territory when you actually lie or warp facts in such a way that you can’t back them up. One way people tend to teeter into padding territory is through their quantifiable achievements. Sure, it’s nice to include numbers on your resume, but you have to be able to explain them in an interview, so they better be meaningful. For instance, if you doubled the social media following of the boutique production company you interned for, but there were only a handful of people following when you started, that’s not really that impressive, nor can you speak to it eloquently if asked in an interview.
Another way padding becomes obvious is if your lie about your position. Hollywood is a small town, and if you’re applying through contacts (as you should be), it’s likely your potential future boss knows about your current company. Don’t say you’re a coordinator if there’s an actual coordinator who may have a relationship that can get you in trouble, and certainly don’t bump yourself from intern to assistant! Unless your boss will back you up on the position -- and some bosses will give you permission to boost your title on your resume -- stick to the truth.
Ultimately, anything you can confidently explain when asked about it and that your references will corroborate is fair game for your resume, even if it’s not one of your primary responsibilities. If you know you’re stretching the truth, a recruiter will figure it out, too.
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