It's 2021...finally! But let's be real. You might be dating important documents differently, and there's a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine, but the stresses of working in 2020 are still here. We're so used to planning fresh starts at the new year, but that's a lot harder to do when you're not sure what day of the week it is anymore. Should you even bother making resolutions this year?
Yes, but they might look a little different. Here are five career-related resolutions for your job in an uncertain year.
1. I resolve to...know what I can and cannot control.
If 2020 taught us anything, it's that we can't take anything for granted. But that doesn't mean we have no agency -- it simply means we have to know what our limitations are. You can't control the job market -- whether you've been actively looking for work since last March, graduated jobless into a pandemic, or are gritting your teeth working from your kitchen table at a job you can't afford to leave, know it's not your fault that there's very little hiring going on. But that doesn't mean you should kick up your feet and wait until the economy ticks back up. Instead, think about what you can do. If money is tight, is there a part-time or freelance gig you can take on? If you can hang on a little longer, is there professional development you can do, like taking a course or filming a short? Now's the time to get your resume and LinkedIn profile into tip-top shape, to set some professional and lifestyle goals, and to reach out to your network to let folks know you're looking.
2. I resolve to...figure out what work/life balance means to me.
We're not going to be working remotely forever, but for the next few months, it's likely to be the norm. Now's a good time to think about the overall vision you have for your life, at least in the near future. Do you miss the office? Do you love working in your PJs all day? Have you been going to set, terrified of catching COVID but equally terrified of losing your income, or loving that your job gets you out of the house and working with a team? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but life usually gets in the way of us really reflecting on them. Work culture and work/life balance are huge factors in overall job satisfaction, but we usually focus our career trajectories on other things, like whether the company is prestigious, or the salary is competitive, or the title is sexy. But right now, we have a rare opportunity to consider the way our jobs impact the rest of our lives -- think about all that has happened over the past few months and use that information to make a plan for your future.
3. I resolve to...keep my hobbies.
Did you bake sourdough bread in 2020? Take up knitting? Read every Shakespeare play? Do yoga every morning? We invented new ways to entertain ourselves when the world shut down, and some of those things should stick around, even when everything's back open. We always encourage clients to include an "interests" section on their resumes, as it shows hiring managers that they're more than just a robot who can do a job, but rather an interesting human with unique qualities. We've learned about some pretty extraordinary hobbies over the years, like urban dog sledding, airline mileage collecting, and gemology. But most people get deflated when we ask this question during our consult. "What do I do besides watch TV and work?" is a common refrain, uttered by people we know wish they gave themselves permission to explore other interests. Keep giving yourself permission to do the things that you discovered in 2020. Not only because it'll make your resume stand out, but because you'll be happier.
4. I resolve to...stay engaged in civic action.
If a global pandemic wasn't enough for a year, the civic unrest and political engagement in 2020 was historic. So many of us found ways to get involved in our communities in myriad ways, whether through volunteer work, protesting, phone banking, reading/learning, or even raising awareness on social media. It may be difficult to keep that momentum going when you're back to regular life, but it's not impossible. There are so many reasons it's important to stay engaged in the causes that are near and dear to your heart, whatever they may be. But one you may not have considered is how volunteer work or civic engagement can help your career. Your network grows when your community grows, employers like interviewing well-rounded candidates, and you may be able to get involved in corporate charitable giving or other work-based initiatives that help your cause. Don't think about civic engagement as something you can do when you "have time," because work priorities get in the way. There's always time -- and even a career benefit, if you need an additional reason -- for the things that matter in the world.
5. I resolve to...remember that I'm human, and so are my colleagues and boss.
Hollywood can be a toxic industry, and it's likely that you've worked with or someday will work with people who forget that we're making movies, not curing cancer (or COVID). When this happens, it's okay, vital even, to prioritize your mental health and humanity. You don't have to stay in an abusive environment because "someday the boss will be a strong reference." Similarly, practice outward sensitivity. Many of us have learned to be a little less strict with deadlines this last year after learning that a colleague's relative passed away from COVID, or to be more open-minded about employees who need to take a mental health day here or there. We've seen inside one another's homes on Zoom calls, we've learned about our coworkers' toddlers' potty training schedules, and we've seen our boss accidentally turn his camera on when he's wearing loungewear. This vulnerability is going to change the workplace in ways we don't fully understand yet. One potential upside is that we'll remember that the people we work with are people. Sure, some of them might be toxic or irresponsible. But most of our colleagues are just people who are doing the best they can to manage their work and home lives. Let's have 2021 be the year we embrace workplace empathy.
Whatever your resolution, we wish you health, happiness, and success in 2021!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
We're all about holiday cheer at Hollywood Resumes, but we know that the job search can have you feeling down, especially if you haven't been getting many interviews lately. But we're here to remind you not to give up. Just because something is hard, doesn't mean you shouldn't try -- even during a pandemic, you are still worthy of a great job!
If you've been struggling to get interviews over the past few months, do your best to shift the blame from yourself to the situation. This is hard -- we know. But instead of getting distracted and questioning your self worth, you should focus on the task at hand. Here are four questions to ask yourself as you try to get the job search back on track:
1. Are you applying for jobs that are appropriate for your skill level? Hiring managers are not interested in hiring candidates who will be bored at the job, and if you're under-applying, you are not likely to get calls (and remember, that just means you're applying wrong, not that you're "so unqualified no one will even hire you to do X"). Are you applying for something totally out of reach? That's no good, either. Make sure you read the job posting carefully to make sure it's a fit.
2. Are you applying for jobs that interest you? Hiring managers can see through a generic cover letter pretty easily, and they can tell when you've fired off the same generic resume for 100 postings. They want to hire someone who wants the job, so you need to make it clear that that's you -- and not waste your time or theirs if it isn't.
3. Is your resume reflective of your experience? Make sure you're telling the appropriate resume story for the job. With an inundation of applications, it's more important than ever to keep your resume clear and concise -- that means one page, unless the position is super senior. Beyond that, think about what you can put on your resume that will set you apart from the crowd. What unique responsibilities, conflicts, or projects have you dealt with in past roles that other applicants might not share? Consider what would make you an asset to a team, and find a way to include it on your resume if possible. Feel free to think outside the box here, as more companies are placing value on diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
4. Are you making the best use of your network? Everyone knows someone who is looking for work, so it's vital that you try to get your resume into a hiring manager's hands via a referral. Spend a little extra time on LinkedIn to see who may have a connection to a company you're interested in -- and find a friend or two who would be willing to check their LinkedIn network and reach out to their 2nd degree connections on your behalf. People are feeling generous with their networks these days, so don't hesitate to ask.
Now, you may be doing all of the above and still getting no hits. That's terribly frustrating, but not unusual! We are living through a global crisis right now, and its impact is felt far and wide. But that's not on you. You are not less worthy, talented, qualified, or smart because you happen to be looking for work in 2020. You weren't laid off because you don't have value. You aren't dreaming too big or thinking too highly of yourself. You will find a job if you're persistent. And if you target your search to your skills and passions, you'll be more likely to connect with a hiring manager at a company that actually interests you. Looking for a job is a lot like dating -- you just need to find "The One," and you can't control when you do. Keep your head up, keep trying, and when you're feeling down, remember that we believe in you, and you're in really good company with other qualified people feeling the same way.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
One of the most important parts of the job application process is understanding how to read a job posting. It seems simple enough on the surface, but job postings can be tricky! Some job seekers misread the posting and end up highlighting all the wrong skills in their resumes and cover letters -- which means they don't get called in for an interview. Others get so intimidated by all the "requirements" that they never bother to apply. This really boils down to a misunderstanding of what qualifications are most important in a posting -- how can you read between the lines to figure out what a hiring manager really wants? Here are six steps for breaking it down:
1. Read beyond the title. Many jobs will use similar titles for totally different jobs -- producer, for instance, can mean just about anything! Read closely to make sure the description sounds like something you'd be interested in doing, in a department that makes sense for your career trajectory.
2. Assess the general responsibilities and requirements. Without digging into the nitty gritty of specific skills, do you understand the job on a macro level? Can you picture the day-to-day of the role? Could you explain the basic functions of the job and why you're interested in applying to your best friend? If there are a bunch of acronyms you don't understand or you can't envision how the department fits into the company's business model, that could be a red flag that it's not right for you. But if it mostly makes sense, read on.
3. Analyze the qualifications. You don't need to meet every single one of the qualifications listed to apply -- most of the time, companies will list more than are actually necessary in order to weed out super unqualified candidates. However, you should be able to meet around half of them (more if they only list 3-5, less if they list 10+). Some requirements will matter more than others -- generally, the most important ones will be listed near the top of the posting, so make sure those skills are covered in your resume and cover letter. Specific technical skills and software proficiency are more important for some jobs than others (i.e. you'll 100% need to know Avid for an editing job that requires Avid proficiency, but for a creative director job, Avid might be more of a "nice-to-have"). Look at the job posting to see what skills and keywords come up most often, as those are the most critical to the job.
4. Consider the seniority level. Contrary to popular belief, the number of years of experience is actually the least important qualification in a job posting. If you have four years of experience and the posting calls for 5-7, apply! You may have done enough in your four years to merit the job. The listing of years of experience is meant to indicate the level of the position -- entry-level, low-level, mid-level, senior, or executive -- so think about your own experience in those terms instead of in dates. If you have 10 years of experience and apply for a job that only asks for four, be aware that the salary might be lower than you'd like it to be. If you're applying for something that requires far fewer years of experience than you have, you'll need to decide if you would feel challenged enough in that role.
5. Measure your interest. You may understand the job and be capable of doing it, but do you want to? There are often clues to the true nature of the position in the job posting. "Thick-skinned," for instance, is code for "The boss is a jerk who will yell at you." A job posting that lists a ton of different responsibilities -- like a posting for a marketing associate who is responsible for monitoring the front desk, ordering office supplies, planning events, submitting payroll, writing a blog, monitoring social media accounts, designing flyers, creating pitch decks, sourcing new clients, and "other tasks as needed" -- is likely the company's way of rolling multiple jobs into one for the same low pay and long hours. Even if the posting doesn't include these red flags, consider the responsibilities alongside your own preferred work tasks. If you hated making data-driven decisions at your last job, you probably don't want to spend a significant chunk of time making data-driven decisions at your next job, even if you're good at it.
6. Prove you read the posting. You'll need to communicate to the hiring manager that you read the posting with this level of intensity. The way to do this is to mirror the posting in your resume. Read the job posting and your resume as a call and response -- add the question "Can you" to the beginning of each listed responsibility and write your resume bullets as though the words, "Yes, I can, and the proof is that at my last job, I..." appear before each one. This will show the hiring manager that you didn't just shoot off your resume to hundreds of job postings hoping one stuck, but rather that you're invested in this specific role.
Remember: Applying for a job is not a commitment that you'll take it if it's offered, so you don't need to get caught up in analyzing the posting endlessly to make sure it's truly the perfect dream job. If the posting is vague, or the interviewer presents a different picture of the job than the one you understood from the posting, or the company gives you a weird vibe during the hiring process, or you get a better offer elsewhere, it's okay to walk away! Take it one step at a time: Read the job posting thoroughly, submit your best application, and take it from there!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Ask anyone how to get a job in entertainment, and they'll tell you to start as an assistant, preferably at a talent agency.
But is that good advice?
Sometimes. But for many, a different route may be a better approach. Let us break it down for you...
If you're seeking your first entertainment job at the beginning of your career, getting a job as some type of assistant is the most straightforward path to success. In particular, working at an agency will help you form relationships with a "class" of peers who grow in their careers alongside you, hone your skills on a rigorously-paced desk, and expose you to the nuances of multiple aspects of the business -- that's why it's such a popular suggestion. But plenty of people launch their careers in Hollywood without doing a year on an agency desk. We're proof! Especially now, when agencies aren't hiring floater pools, there's no reason to focus your search exclusively on agency desks unless, of course, you want to be an agent.
That said, not all assistant jobs are the same, and they won't all lead you down the same path. If you want to work in development at a network, you'll likely need to prove yourself as an assistant for a year at a smaller company -- a network executive's assistant is expected to understand the business of Hollywood and have mastered the basic assistant tasks. If you ultimately want to be an editor, a post-PA job will be more beneficial to you than a year at an agency, and similarly, a writers' PA job will get you to a staff writing job faster than a production company desk will. As we always say, target your job search. Focus on those assistant positions that will get you closer to your long-term goal faster.
But what about those who have been working in entertainment for many years and are looking to make a career transition to a new side of the industry? Is an assistant position the right move? No! If you have several years of entertainment experience under your belt, you should not be seeking assistant jobs! Unfortunately, we work with many clients who have been told they need to start their careers all over again as an assistant in order to make a career transition. But that's simply bad advice. You don't need to throw 10 years of field producing experience out the window and start as an agency assistant in order to become a development executive. In fact, no one will take you seriously if you attempt that; they'll think your resume got lost in the wrong pile. It's not always easy to move from one side of the industry to another, but you can do it by highlighting the added value your unique background will bring to a role and taking the time to craft a strong job search strategy.
Similarly, if you've held jobs in adjacent industries and want to break into entertainment, you don't necessarily need to start anew. For example, someone who has been working in event planning can probably get a job as a production coordinator or production manager for event broadcasts, instead of starting as a PA. Or, an ad agency executive may be able to transition to a role in integrated marketing at a network. Before you discard your past experience, consider how it may translate to the new role you're looking for.
There are cases when your experience simply won't cut it for higher level entertainment roles, and in those instances, you'll need to think about what you value most in your career -- is a pay cut worth it to pursue your passion? If the assistant path doesn't align with your lifestyle, consider if there's a blended role that may be more satisfying (i.e. if you've worked in social media marketing and want to get into scripted development, a job at a branded content firm may scratch your creative itch without requiring you to relive your 20s). But if you're truly committed to a 100% career overhaul, go for it!
The next time someone tells you to start out as an assistant, consider whether they fully understand your current situation. A lot of people assume that everyone has to take the same path to success, and this often results in generic advice. But your career trajectory may look different, and that's ok! Just remember that starting as an assistant can be a great way to get your foot in the door -- but if your foot is already in the door, you should probably keep walking through.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan