"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,
How do you manage your network? I have a lot of contacts, but I'm not sure how to stay in touch with them. Is there a way to know whether someone's not responding to an email because it got buried or because they're annoyed by the outreach? I don't want to come off as a bother to them, nor do I want to waste my time chasing down a contact who isn't interested in a relationship...but I also don't want to fall off someone's radar entirely if they were just busy when I happened to reach out! How can I decide when to "let go?"
-- Persistent or Pesty?
Dear Persistent or Pesty,
There are a few ways to manage your network, like meeting contacts for drinks/coffee (in person or virtually) and sending check in emails from time to time, including around the holidays. Eventually, you amass different tiers of contacts -- close friends, people you work with regularly, and people you can reach out to a couple of times a year. You might find it helpful to track your contacts in a spreadsheet, especially if you're currently searching for a new job and planning to reach out with requests for referrals. This way, you can note who's responding, when, and what you discussed, and you can easily set reminders for yourself to get another date back on the books. It's also okay to let the relationships form and grow naturally and reach out to your contacts when there's a specific reason, like congratulating them on a promotion or because you really want to get together. It's impossible to maintain the perfect relationship with every single person you meet, so you'll have to find a balance.
When it comes to staying in touch, the best answer -- as unsatisfying as it may be -- is to use your gut. If someone hasn't responded to an email after one follow up, and they aren't someone you know very well, it's not worth being too persistent unless there's a very specific reason to reach out -- like you just applied to a job at their company, or you saw that their pilot got picked up to series. If the person not responding is someone you've met a few times in person or worked with directly, and you didn't do anything offensive to them, it's likely that they're just busy -- reach out again in a few weeks.
In general, with contacts you don't know too well or haven't been in touch with recently (think: someone you did an informational interview with 6 months ago, or an internship boss you haven't spoken to in a year), it's helpful to give context when you're reaching out, either by emailing on top of an existing thread and/or reminding the person who you are and how you know them, and then including a little sentiment about why you've decided to contact them. Is it to congratulate them on something? Ask for a favor? Check in because there's something exciting happening with you? You should be reaching out from time to time without a specific "ask," but it's always good to give the person something direct to respond to, like a question, kudos about a new project announcement, or a request to meet up. Simply asking, "What's new with you?" won't generate a lot of responses from casual contacts who are likely too busy to offer a rundown of their goings on to a virtual stranger.
Overall, your most useful contacts will be people who go from being "contacts" to people you have relationships with. It can be hard to make that transition, and don't expect it to happen with everyone you meet. Lean into the relationships you have with colleagues, people you've worked with on various projects, friends of friends, and anyone you've met that you had an easy time talking to. With time, you'll build a rapport with enough people, and as your career grows, you'll have a wider net of people you can reach out to with ease.
-- Angela & Cindy
It sounds like a bad pitch for a sci-fi movie -- the only way the hero gets her dream job is to win the battle against a resume-reading robot, only to fight a war with an AI-interviewer, before finally meeting a human being (or many!) who will judge her on her skills, personality, and viability.
Yes, recruiting is getting more tech-advanced. But in Hollywood, personal relationships are still critical. So no matter what the internet tells you about hiring practices, in our industry, leveraging your network is more important than finding ways to get around applicant tracking systems (ATS) and AI-powered video interviews. The only reason companies rely on those tools in the first place is to streamline the hiring process and find candidates who won’t be wasting their time, and nothing does that better than a strong referral from someone they trust.
However, that’s not to say that no one in Hollywood uses these tools. They do, and as the line between tech company and entertainment company gets blurred, automated tools may increase in prevalence. But it’s important not to get too worried about how they’ll impact you -- quite often, the best practices for resumes and interviews that you are familiar with already will still apply. But to ease your mind even more, here are a few simple guidelines that can help you get past ATS/AI systems:
Most importantly, remember that your real dream job is the one where you’ll get to work on projects you care about, with people you enjoy being around, for an employer who will value you as a human being. That job will come in due time, even if you have to battle some bots along the way.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
What’s better: one versatile resume you can send to any employer, or different resumes for each job you’re applying for? It's a question we get asked all the time. And the answer is never satisfying: It depends. But here are some general guidelines you can rely on.
If you’re looking exclusively for the same type of job -- whether it’s an assistant desk or a drama development executive role -- you can have one resume that you consistently send out. This is especially true if you’re applying for jobs off 2-sentence descriptions on the UTA job list or having friends pass along your resume to their contacts before there’s a publicly available job posting. For any higher-level positions, you might consider tweaking your professional summary to add in something specific that’s worth calling out -- for example, if you’re bilingual in Spanish and up for a development job at Univision, noting that would be super relevant for that one job, but less important for the same job at Starz. Beyond that, you can keep the one resume.
If you’re open to a multitude of positions that are all sort of similar but not exactly the same, you may be able to craft one resume that you can tweak for different jobs. For instance, if you’re applying for marketing roles, you might have one version of your resume that’s tailored more to agency jobs, one that’s geared toward the brand side, one that shows your creative direction experience, and one that highlights your relationships with influencers. The content might be the same across all four, but you’d likely reframe parts of your professional summary, reorganize your areas of expertise/core skills section, and reorder the skills and achievements in your bullet points to align with the priority of the job posting. To take it a step further, you could cross check your resume against each posting you’re applying for and ensure you’re using the right keywords -- if you wrote “third party vendors” and they only reference “external production teams,” you should make that quick fix. To make this entire process less overwhelming, we recommend having one strong resume that encompasses everything you want to bring to the table and making minor edits as needed before sending it off. Just remember to proofread! It's really easy for typos to sneak in when you are making small tweaks.
There are some times when you’ll want multiple entirely different resumes. If you’re applying for jobs on two totally separate career paths -- for example, freelance story producing and in-house development roles -- you will be best served by having two resumes that each tell the version of your story that will get you hired. In this example, one would be a simple recounting of what you’ve done that clearly aligns with the role and the other would involve leaning into transferable skills. The more different the career paths, the more different the resumes will be. For example, plenty of writers and directors have a creative resume, a credits list, and a separate resume tailored to their day jobs (even if those jobs are within the industry).
The main thing to keep in mind is that the goal for your resume is to tell the story of why you’re right for the job that you applied for. Lean into your story skills to get this right: Jobs that are largely the same will need the same plot points from your career story, jobs that are somewhat similar might need you to repurpose some resume B-roll, and jobs that are totally different will need different arcs altogether.
It's impossible to read the news these days without seeing a headline about all the workers quitting their jobs. We all learned a lot about ourselves over the past year+ of the pandemic, including what we want/need/deserve from our employers. Plus, there's something exciting about the change of pace that comes with quitting after the world was so stagnant for so long.
But keep in mind that Hollywood isn't like other industries. It might be easy for a coder at a tech firm to quit their job and find another, better one. Our industry is fickle, though, and all about relationships. Many people are afraid that quitting will make them look like they aren't tough enough to handle Hollywood, or raise questions about their level of commitment during future interviews. It's one thing to quit if you already have another job lined up (congrats!), but it's a totally different story to walk off the job with the hopes of finding something better, especially if you haven't been at the company for a substantial amount of time. Sometimes, sticking around a little longer will give your career a boost, but in other cases, leaving is certainly the right choice. So how do you decide what's best for you?
First, think hard about why you accepted this job in the first place. Is it a stepping stone that is likely to lead to a position you are going to enjoy? For example, many agents ask for a one-year commitment on the desk and then will offer to help their assistants find their dream jobs. If this is the case, consider sticking it out. Combat burnout by putting your energy into networking and completing tasks at the office that will boost your resume to help pass the time. Another reason you might consider staying is if you're on a show that just isn't the best fit but isn't toxic. Finishing out the shoot can be worthwhile to fortify relationships and maintain your reputation, but you don't have to agree to come back next season if it's just not your thing.
If you're thinking about quitting because you're eager to transition to a new side of the industry, but there's nothing particularly bad about your current job, try to hang in there until you land the new role. We say this mostly because transitions within the industry can take longer than expected, and you want to make sure you can afford to live and can avoid an unnecessary gap on your resume. That said, you should create time to lean into the world you're trying to transition to! Attend workshops and events geared toward that sector, tell everyone you know you want to make the leap, apply regularly, and see if there are any projects you can take on in your current role that can improve your resume for your next step.
With all of this said, if you are in a truly bad situation, we'd suggest leaving. If your boss is one of those crazy Hollywood execs that will scream and throw a stapler at you because they’re angry that you dropped a call, or that their computer is frozen, or that it’s raining, you don't have to deal with abuse. The same thing goes if your paychecks mysteriously stop showing up on time or in full or if your role shifts without fair compensation (think: you're a production coordinator who also gets tasked with COVID safety). You may worry that you’ll burn a bridge by leaving, but think about it — anyone who will abuse you is not going to help you down the line! Even if they like you, they’ll resent you when you leave regardless of when you do it, and all you'll have to show for staying is worsened mental health.
Of course, this is a personal choice — you may want to stay until you find something else because you need the money or because a project you've poured your heart and soul into is about to get released. It's up to you, but however you make the decision, know that quitting will not ruin your chances of ever working in Hollywood again. You’ll need to carefully figure out how to address it in an interview, but sometimes quitting is the best choice. Trust your instincts and look out for yourself. After all, companies look out for themselves all the time, laying off employees without a second thought. You don't owe anyone anything, and your career should serve you.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan