The job search can be frustrating -- especially when you feel like you’ve been submitting tons of job applications and aren’t getting any bites. But if you’ve sent out 50 applications and haven’t heard a word on any of them, it’s likely that you’re doing something wrong. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you assess the problem:
Are you qualified for the jobs you’re applying for?
Go back and take a look at the jobs you’ve been applying for. Re-read the job descriptions -- do these jobs actually make sense for you? Will the skills and experience you put in your resume prove you can do the job? If you’re an assistant applying for director-level jobs, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get any calls. It’s okay to reach a bit, but be realistic with your expectations. Conversely, you don’t want to apply for jobs you’re overqualified for either. If you’ve been an assistant for five years, it’s probably time to start looking at coordinator positions -- employers aren’t interested in hiring people who will get burned out quickly or start asking for a promotion after three months. Besides, you start to seem desperate if you’re applying for jobs that are too far below your level. Compare your resume to the job postings to see how well they align. If you don’t have a lot of the key required skills or are already doing work beyond what’s asked for, you may not be applying for the right jobs. Be a little more selective with your search, and try to focus on those jobs that match your qualifications.
Are you excited about the jobs you’re applying for?
Aside from being qualified for a job, it’s also important that you’re excited about a prospective position. It’s easy to spot a generic cover letter from someone who isn’t particularly passionate about the role. So don’t waste your time with applications you’re not excited about. A good test to figure out which opportunities are right: Try writing your cover letters from scratch -- you’ll find that they’ll flow much more easily for the jobs that really are a fit. Then, focus on those opportunities. You’ll have more luck if you’re going for quality over quantity.
How are you actually applying for these jobs?
If you’re both qualified and excited about the jobs you’re applying for but aren’t hearing anything back, you may be going about the job application process wrong. In Hollywood, most people are hired through referrals or promoted internally, so if you’re only using the online application to submit your resume, that’s probably your problem. Try to find a direct contact that can get your resume into the right hands. If you don’t know someone at the company or in the department you’re applying for, you can use LinkedIn to try to find a connection. Ideally, you’ll find someone who knows someone who can pass along your resume, but if this isn’t possible, a cold email can work too. Make sure you’re taking extra steps to get your resume to the hiring manager -- it will help prove how much you want the job.
Do you have a strong resume and cover letter?
If you’re doing everything above right, your problem is probably your resume or cover letter. A disorganized resume or cover letter with typos and poor writing is obviously not going to get you an interview, but that’s not the only thing that can make for a bad resume and cover letter. Do your resume and cover letter tell a story? And is that story one that shows you’re right for the job? You MUST tailor your resume and cover letter to the job posting. You should always try to create a new cover letter for every job application, and sometimes, you should create a new resume as well (or at least make some tweaks) -- especially if you’re applying for executive level jobs. Take note of the nuances in the job posting, and make sure your resume and cover letter reflect the core skills of the role. A strong resume and cover letter match the job posting and demonstrate why it makes sense for the company to hire the candidate.
We recognize that all of this may sound like a lot of work -- and it is. But if you can be a little more targeted in your search and thorough with your process, you won’t have to send out nearly as many applications to secure an interview, and you'll be less stressed out in the process!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
You're probably wondering: What is a professional bio, and do I need one? Have I not been getting calls for interviews because I'm sending an old fashioned resume and cover letter, and hiring managers are looking for newfangled materials?
A professional bio doesn't replace a resume in any way, and you should absolutely, unequivocally, never submit one in lieu of a professional resume or cover letter when applying for a job. Rather, a bio is a supplemental tool that will help you present yourself to your colleagues in a variety of settings and boost your career in a more general sense.
In particular, a bio can be useful for writers, directors, or other creative-types when sent as a precursor to general meetings (generally, an agent or manager would send it for you). Resumes for these types of professionals typically take the form of a credits list, but a bio will allow you to showcase some information that might not make it into the resume -- awards, fellowships, uncredited development experience, interesting personal anecdotes, and even some humor. By sending a short bio in advance of a meeting, you save executives from Googling you and trying to piece your story together themselves.
Bios also make up a part of your online presence. Many companies feature C-level executive bios on their websites, and some smaller firms have short blurbs on every person at the company! If you have a personal website, you should certainly include a bio somewhere on it. It allows you to summarize both your personal and work experience in one place, and it will help a viewer decide whether they want to learn more about you and guide them to the parts of your portfolio that are most relevant. Additionally, if you’ve ever been asked to speak at an event or contribute an article to a website, you’ll probably need a bio that will likely live online somewhere. This can only help you in your professional career -- having your bio posted on another organization’s site will inevitably give you some extra credibility. Bios are also a component of fellowship applications, and if you’re accepted, your bio will typically be featured on the program’s site. Needless to say, given the public nature of a bio, it’s important that you make it GREAT!
But writing a bio can be tricky. You want something well-written that flows nicely, so if grammar or written storytelling aren’t your forte, you’d do well to have someone write your bio for you. Plus, an outsider can often help you identify the most impressive aspects of your career and lay them out in an organized way. Writing a bio can sometimes feel like you’re being forced to brag about yourself, and most people are uncomfortable doing so. Remember those awkward times that your professors asked you to write your own letters of recommendation for them to sign? Bio writing can sometimes feel a lot like that. At the very least, we suggest having a friend or family member help you with your bio. But that’s why we’re starting our new service -- to help you with this very important component of your professional career.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
You want to tell stories. You're pursuing a career in entertainment because you have the urge to create. Clearly, you should be a writer, actor, or director -- right?
Not necessarily. Just because you have a story to tell doesn't mean that there are only three possible job paths that will allow you to tell them. Many people make the mistake of thinking the only creative roles in entertainment are the ones that win high-profile Oscars and Emmys. They come to Hollywood hoping to be the next Spielberg and figure out the hard way that they don’t have any interest in working freelance or that the management aspects of overseeing a set detract from their artistic vision. When starting your job hunt, you should be aware that there are a ton of other creative jobs that may be easier to obtain and more up your alley than writing, acting, and directing.
So what are these other creative jobs? It would take an entire book to list all the possible careers in entertainment, but here’s a jumping off point for you to reference as you think about your long term goals. We recommend setting informational interviews with people who are in the roles you’re interested in to learn about their experiences.
PRODUCER: For some reason, film schools like to teach that producers are just the banks behind the movies. And sure, that’s often the case, that financiers get producer credits. But there are many, many other types of producer jobs in entertainment that are on the creative side. Some producers find scripts, hire cast and directors, and sell projects to studios or networks. If you're not into reading and writing, you could consider a reality TV producer job, where you may come up with show concepts, find unique characters, direct cast in the field to achieve the overall story goals, and work with editors to build the story from raw footage. Every producer job is different, but there are tons of opportunities for creative-types in this category.
DEVELOPMENT EXECUTIVE: Do you love coming up with story ideas and giving notes in writing workshops but hate staring at a blank screen and trying to put words on a page? You may enjoy development, where you find projects you're excited about and work closely with writers to improve their scripts.
EDITOR: Editors are the last line of storytelling before the project is complete. They often work with directors and producers as they manipulate footage to tell a story. Good editing can be the difference between a joke hitting hard or falling flat. As an editor, you play a pivotal role in shaping the film or show, including finding the best takes, setting the pace, and ensuring continuity.
MARKETING: You won’t actually be making movies or TV shows when you work in marketing, but many people find joy in the creativity behind developing campaigns, working with brands to develop and produce branded content and/or integrations, and selecting scenes for promos/trailers. Plus, there’s a lot of creative problem solving involved as you deal with executives at the studio/network and collaborate with your team.
CREW: A movie doesn’t come to life just because a director yells, "Action!" Each member of the crew participates in building the creative vision, from the DP who sets up the artistic shots to the production designer who figures out the look of the set and costumes to the sound engineer who makes the world come to life. Sometimes, people start off on movie crews hoping they’ll rise in the ranks to director but realize that they can flex their creative muscles and make a good living elsewhere in the crew.
We’re not saying don’t pursue a career as a writer, actor, or director. Dream big! But it’s always worth exploring other options -- if you can unequivocally say at the end of a good, long soul search that yes, you do want to be a writer/actor/director, you’ll be even more driven to achieve that goal, which is half the battle. And if you find happiness in other areas -- well, you can be glad you won’t have wasted your time chasing a dream you don’t truly want.
One of the toughest aspects of networking is maintaining relationships. You can schedule all the informational interviews in the world to learn more about companies and roles you’re interested in and follow up accordingly with a thank you note and some check-ins. But let's be realistic -- with time, you’ll get busy and let a few of your contacts slip away. It may feel awkward to get back in touch after you've let communication lag, but if you handle your approach gracefully, it's actually not that a big of a deal to reconnect. Here's how to go about it:
As uncomfortable as this may seem, you're going to need to reintroduce yourself. Especially when it comes to informational interviews, you must remember that you are not the only person your contact has met with to conduct an informational interview. In fact, an informational is likely the least memorable meeting a person will have in a given day. So when you’re reaching back out to these contacts after a month or more has passed, you’ll need to help jog their memories a bit. One great way to do this is to reply to the original email chain from when you scheduled the meeting or sent a thank you note (this is the reason that an emailed thank you note is much more important than a handwritten one). If for some reason you have to start a new email chain, you should give the person a little recap of who you are. For example, “I’m the NYU student studying documentary film that you met with last July while I was interning at NBC.” It might sound weird to do this, but it helps the person on the other end by not forcing them to dig back through emails to figure out who you are.
Starting your email this way gives you the opportunity to transition into explaining what you're currently doing. "Since we last met, I've been working as a development assistant at Imagine Entertainment." You can share a tidbit or two about your current position -- something as simple as how much you've learned, or if you think they'll appreciate it, a little nugget about how something they mentioned back when you met helped you. Don't kiss up too much, but if there's something simple and true, it's worth sharing.
Then, you can get to the impetus for your outreach. It's probably best to avoid asking for a favor for yourself after too much time has passed (unless it's particularly timely, like their department is actively hiring for your dream job), but it's within bounds to ask on behalf of someone else -- passing along a friend's resume or trying to set up an informational for a colleague shows you're willing to pay it forward. You can also reach out when there's nothing you need -- just reconnecting for the sake of it, or because you read something interesting about your contact in the news.
The new year is actually the perfect time to renew these connections. There's a good energy in the air to meet up for drinks and re-establish a relationship. And you never know how you may be able to help your contact with their 2019 career goals! That said, this advice does work year-round as well. It's not ideal to lose touch, but life happens, and it's good to know there's a fail safe way to maintain your network when you get too busy.