Every time a job is posted on the UTA joblist or a tracking board, hundreds of resumes start to pour in. So there's no room for dillydallying when it comes to submitting your resume -- it’s really important to apply as soon as you possibly can, definitely within the same day of the posting. A lot of employers will cap the number of resumes they’ll accept, so the faster yours gets in, the better.
But take heed and don't rush your cover letter with something generic. Take the time to write a brand new cover letter, and do a once-over of your resume to make sure it's tailored to the job posting. This is one of the few times that you're at an advantage if you're unemployed -- you can shift your gears for the day and apply immediately. But if you do have a job, and your boss isn’t aware that you are looking to work elsewhere, don’t apply while you should be working. Use your lunch break or wait until you’re done with work for the day, whichever is first. It’s respectful to your current boss, and this will go a long way should the new job call for references.
We talk a lot about how to create a very focused and targeted resume that will get you a particular job, but it’s also important to realize when your resume is too specific. This is especially relevant if you’re trying to jump from one side of the industry to another, like the transition from production to development. Once you’ve set yourself on a track, it can be hard to make a switch, especially if you’ve worked at several jobs within that track. If you’ve been a PA on a few shows to pay the bills, but your dream job is in development, you’re going to need to prove that a) you don’t really want to do production long-term, and b) you have the knowledge and skills to succeed in a development job.
The best way to do this is to pick out aspects of your current and past jobs that demonstrate the skills that are valued in a different kind of position. For example, if you worked on a busy set, you probably know how to keep your composure on a high-volume desk. There’s always a way to spin your experience to align with what hiring managers are looking for. And if you find yourself in a position or track that you don’t enjoy, try to switch over as soon as possible -- it only gets harder the longer you wait.
Congratulations, you’re nearing the end of your internship! You’ve successfully got one toe in the door of Hollywood, but in order to get the whole foot through, you need to make sure the connections you’ve built this semester stay strong. If you leave a great impression on your internship supervisor and other employees at the company, you’ll have an easier time relying on those contacts when you apply for jobs in the future.
So, how can you stand out among the myriad of other interns who’ve worked for your company? Here are a few ideas:
Bring in a “goodbye" gift.
Bribing a future employer with donuts isn’t a good idea, but handing out tasteful goodies to your internship supervisor and their department as a parting gift is a great one. It shows your gratitude for the learning experience you just had and will help you stand out. You don’t have to get fancy (definitely don't do anything over the top), but put some thought into it. We've received several particularly memorable gifts over the years -- a few notable ones include Rice Krispies Treats decorated like characters from the company’s shows, special popcorn from the boss’s hometown, and artisan olive oil gift sets -- and we haven't forgotten the interns they came from. A little bit of extra effort goes a long way.
Write thank you notes.
Hand out or mail handwritten thank you notes to your supervisor, the team you worked with, and anyone who met with you for an informational interview or offered you help in some way. Gifts are great for the people you worked with the most, but a thank you note allows you to express gratitude to more people -- aka more contacts. These thank you notes should be a little more personal than your typical email, but be sure to keep them professional.
Finish your work.
All the Captain America cupcakes in the world won’t mean a thing if you’ve left behind incomplete projects. Make sure you finish all the assignments you’ve been given and that your work doesn’t get sloppy just because you’re daydreaming about your upcoming break. If you need to ask your supervisors to write a letter of recommendation or fill out intern evaluations or other paperwork from your school, make sure to give them enough time to complete those as well. And be sure to ask if they’ll act as a reference -- if you’ve finished all your work, written a great thank you note, and supplied the office with delightful treats, they’d be hard pressed to turn you down!
Your lasting good impression is only lasting if you stay in touch with your contacts. A day or two after you’ve completed your internship, connect with the people you worked with on LinkedIn. If you got along really well with your direct supervisor, you can add them on Facebook as well -- and it should go without saying that your Facebook profile should be utterly professional when you do. Staying linked on social media will remind you to follow up at appropriate intervals as you continue to move forward in your career.
We’re often asked by undergrads and recent LA transplants if grad school is necessary or helpful for a career in entertainment. Is it a good idea, or is it a waste of money? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here – the decision to attend grad school is a very personal one, but if you’re struggling with the question, there are a few things you should take into consideration.
In most cases, a graduate degree is not necessary for a career in entertainment (unless you’re trying to get into entertainment law or another specialized position). For those interested in business development, an MBA or similar degree might be something to consider down the line, but for creative positions, an undergraduate degree is enough. In a competitive industry where everyone starts from the bottom, a graduate degree isn’t going to help you negotiate a higher salary, and it can be frustrating when your friends start getting promoted to coordinator positions while you’re still an assistant because you got a late start. Even worse, sometimes your internship supervisors will be younger than you are. Grad school is also expensive, and scholarships are rarely available, so if you don’t have parents willing to help you out, you’ll be paying off your student loans for years to come. If you don’t particularly love school, a graduate degree might not be for you, especially if you’ve already had the opportunity to complete entertainment industry internships where you were able to learn about the business and build up a network. In this case, you’ll probably be able to land a pretty solid assistant position right after graduation and get a head start on your career.
However, for some people, a graduate degree will be extremely valuable. If you have a passion for learning and have always wanted to continue your education beyond college, grad school can be very rewarding, especially if you enroll in one of the top programs in your field. Master’s programs provide the opportunity to pursue a course of study that personally interests you, and professors will encourage you to tailor your program to support your individual career goals (unlike the undergrad experience that often forces students to take core courses across disciplines). These programs can be hard work, but you’ll feel proud of your accomplishments and will develop some extra expertise that could help give you an edge over other candidates once you start the job hunt. Plus, if you decided to get into entertainment late in the game and didn’t complete any relevant courses or internships during undergrad, you’ll have a chance to learn about the industry and develop the skills you need to succeed. Many graduate programs offer evening courses, allowing you to take on internships, build your network, and gain practical experience, so if you’re coming to LA with no idea how to get started in the industry, grad school can help you forge a path forward.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to decide what’s right for you. Grad school can be an exciting and useful experience for some, and for others it may be a waste of time. Weigh all factors to determine how much you need grad school and how much you want it, and if you feel strongly that it’s going to be beneficial, it might be a good thing to consider.