"ASK HR" is our advice column where we answer readers' questions about pressing work dilemmas, job search queries, resumes, and navigating Hollywood. If you have a career-related question, email us, and the answer could appear in a future newsletter! All submissions will remain anonymous.
Dear Hollywood Resumes,
I've been on the hunt for an entry-level Hollywood job since before COVID hit. I'd been volunteering for a local film festival, but the event was cancelled due to the pandemic, and many of the industry jobs I applied to postponed their hiring processes. I took a job at a fast food restaurant to pay the bills in the meantime. Is it worth including this job on my resume? How will hiring managers perceive this experience?
-- Dollar Menu Dilemma
Dear Dollar Menu Dilemma,
Ordinarily, it's perfectly reasonable to cover a gap on your resume with a non-industry job, even if the job is in the service industry. There are a ton of transferable skills between food service and entertainment, especially when you're looking for an entry-level role -- a lot of an assistant's job comes down to customer service, whether it's handling clients or dealing with a boss who has an endless list of requests.
However, the pandemic is an unusual circumstance. Hiring managers know that there's unprecedented unemployment and underemployment right now, and the memory of the pandemic won't fade even when the economy ticks back up. You're better off starting your resume with the film festival job, since that's industry related. A hiring manager will see that your tenure with the festival ended in the spring and won't bat an eye -- of course the event was cancelled, and of course you haven't secured a new position in this time. If you were to open your resume with your fast food job, the hiring manager may not look further down your resume to see your relevant roles. In this case, it's smarter to have a gap.
If you're asked in an interview what you've been doing since March, feel free to share that you're currently working in food service to pay the bills. There's no shame in that. You can also mention any non-work activities you've been up to, like volunteering, attending virtual industry events, and engaging in social activism. Be confident as you explain how you've spent your time, and use this opportunity to convey that you're a go-getter who doesn't just watch the world from the sidelines.
-- Angela & Cindy
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