Congratulations, 2020 graduates! Though your ceremonies may not be traditional, and the future feels uncertain, you deserve to relish in the fact that you completed a major milestone in your education. But we know that beneath the pride, there's anxiety about what's next. You're entering the job market in an unprecedented global pandemic, there's an economic downturn, and the media is forecasting only very bleak news. What's there to celebrate? What should you do? How do you navigate a world in which the rules you prepared for have suddenly changed?
Our advice this week will be more personal than usual, because we can relate. We both graduated from college into The Great Recession -- Cindy in 2008 and Angela in 2009. We'd entered college with one expectation for how to find a job after graduation and were faced with an entirely different reality when we were ready to enter the workforce. Neither of us had connections in the entertainment industry, and the competition was more fierce than usual. We each took a different approach; Cindy spent a year interning while living at home in New York and interned/PA'ed again after moving to LA, while Angela enrolled in grad school at USC and completed internships as part of her degree. Meanwhile, our peers took a multitude of different paths, depending on their connections, financial resources, and previous work experience. We all had to navigate a new economic landscape. But over a decade later, we've learned the most crucial lesson: No matter what path you need to take now, you will be okay.
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to figuring out what to do next. You might have the economic freedom to hold out for the perfect first job, or you might have to take the first job you can get. You may not be able to move to LA immediately like you'd planned. That's okay. Don't compare yourself to other people who may have what looks like an easier time than you do. Don't worry that you'll never catch up. You can't control those external factors, so your time will be better spent focusing on the things you can control, like honing your skills, assessing what your true goals are, and building a job search strategy that meets your specific needs.
Trust that everything will work out in the end, as long as you continue to self-assess and consider what you truly want for yourself. Keep in mind that while transitioning into an unfamiliar role can be hard, it's completely doable! And remember that you'll always have a shorthand to explain to future employers why the beginning of your career may not be standard. In fact, your resilience as a 2020 graduate will make you an asset -- you're currently learning critical life and job skills, like creative problem-solving, adapting to new technological realities, and pivoting to find new solutions.
It can be hard to swallow optimism in the face of trying times, but trust us: You will find success on the other side of this. That's not a platitude; it's our truth.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Looking for a job when you can't leave your house and the economy is halted may seem like a contradiction. But surprisingly, there are a few ways you can continue your job search during lockdown. Whether you were looking for a new job before COVID-19, need a new job due to layoffs or cutbacks, or are planning your first-ever job search after graduation next month, here are five strategies you can employ now that will put you ahead of other job seekers when the world opens up again:
1. Decide what's important. When considering what your next job should be, think about what you really want. Is it more pay? More challenging work? A better culture fit? You might know the answer instinctively, but if you don't, take some time to think it through. Write down what you like about your career so far, what you haven't liked, what interests you, and what skills you have. As you write, look for patterns and truths that may not have been apparent before. Are there skills you're sick of using? Do you need to develop a new skill to get into a field that interests you more? Do you love your work but hate your boss? Make a list of the criteria your next job should ideally have, understanding that no job is perfect. Use this to guide your search.
2. Narrow your targets. While you might be open to taking any job that will pay you, you'll actually have an easier time getting hired if you set specific targets for your next role. Make a list of 10-15 companies that match the criteria you selected (or up to 5 types of shows, if you're looking for production roles). Think about what drew you to the industry in the first place and what drives your passion and look for companies that match that. Is there a specific genre or type of content you're into? What do you watch, and how closely do you want your work to relate to your pleasure viewing? Do you have a secondary interest like social justice, politics, marketing, research, criminal justice, education, etc. that you could potentially explore with the right firm? Let this information drive your approach -- it's good to be selective!
3. Build your network. Comb through your LinkedIn and alumni networks to see who you know who either works at your target companies or can introduce you to someone who does. Set up Google and LinkedIn alerts for those companies' job boards, so you'll get pinged when they are hiring. Tell everyone you know that you're focusing your job search on a specific company or type of organization -- slip it into Zoom happy hours or email closer friends. It's a lot easier for people to help you when you give them a specific request, like, "Do you know anyone who works at Hulu in development?" as opposed to "I'd love to be a development coordinator." One begets a "Yes, I'd be happy to connect you," while the other is met with "Cool, I'll keep an ear to the ground." You may not be able to set meetings just yet, but it's good to have a list of targets ready to go for when you're able to get back to in-person networking.
4. Prepare strong application materials. You'll want to apply for jobs as soon as they're posted, especially as the market grows more competitive. Make sure your resume is up-to-date and that it's telling the right story. Look at some job postings in your chosen field, even if they're outdated, and select relevant keywords to include. Since you'll be doing a lot of networking to get your resume into the right hands, you'll also want to make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete, that your summary is up to date and indicates what you're looking for, and that all your jobs match your resume. Of course, we're here to help with this portion of your job search if you want a hand!
5. Practice your interview skills. The best time to prepare for an interview is when you don't have the pressure of one the next day! Now's a great time to develop strong answers to common interview questions, including perfecting short anecdotes you can share to illustrate your strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and accomplishments. Practice your answers out loud in the shower, or even ask the people you're isolating with if they'd be open to conducting a mock interview (People are bored! They really might be willing!). We're also available for virtual mock interviews if you need more extensive feedback.
Most importantly, don't stress about finding a job right now. If you need to focus on the more immediate future, these strategies can still be implemented post-lockdown (and we're proof that they have been!). Whenever you do decide to look for a job, keep in mind that a targeted and strategic approach is always better than applying to 50 jobs a day and hoping for a call.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
If you've been laid off, furloughed, or on a longer-than-expected or indefinite hiatus, we are here for you. This is a hard time for everyone, but it's additionally concerning for those at financial risk. Though it may seem like no one is hiring anymore, we've done some research for you and curated a list of places where you might find openings. They aren't necessarily entertainment industry-related, but they'll help pay the bills during this uncertain time.
First and foremost, if you're in Los Angeles, consult the newly created LA Jobs Portal for information about opportunities and unemployment resources (if you live outside of Los Angeles, consult your local coronavirus information hub to see what resources are available in your area). Additionally, Indeed is offering a webinar on March 31 at 11am ET/2pm PT about how to find work quickly and effectively search for work from home jobs.
In the meantime, there are tons of job portals and other online resources for finding remote or short-term work that you should be considering. The best place to start is Facebook Groups -- there are tons of groups for those working in entertainment, and many are extremely active. Monitoring these groups regularly is a good way to find job postings (and you may be able to connect directly with the hiring manager). Alternatively, you'll find a range of remote work postings across industries on sites/apps like Steady, Pangian, and FlexJobs. You could also try UpWork, a platform where freelancers can find new clients and bid on projects in a variety of fields.
As you search for work, consider the industries that are being stretched thin now. Medical services companies, consumer goods manufacturers, shipping services, and customer service help desks need more workers. Consider searching in those sectors on job sites like Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn.
Grocery and big-box stores are also increasing their hiring to meet consumer demand during coronavirus. Instacart, GrubHub, Caviar, DoorDash, Shipt, Amazon Flex, and Saucey are all hiring new delivery drivers as demand for their services increases. Similarly, childcare apps like Trusted, Urban Sitter, Care, and Bambino and cleaning services apps like Tidy are accepting new workers. Websites like Nextdoor and Thumbtack allow you to offer your services to your neighbors who may need odd jobs done. These could all be promising options for those who aren't immunocompromised or living with/caring for a relative who falls into a high-risk category (and it should go without saying that you should practice excellent hygiene and social distancing in any of these jobs).
You can also consider making ends meet without a job. Self-quarantine is a great time to go through your home and get rid of items you don't need -- you can sell them on ebay, OfferUp, Poshmark, or ThredUp if they're in good condition to make a little extra cash. And if your items have seen better days, you can always donate them and clear up space in your house!
And while we recognize that this is an exceptionally tough time if you don't know where your next paycheck is coming from, we're also big believers in giving what you do have to make the world a brighter place. If you have a little extra time on your hands while you look for remote work, consider helping others in need. You can donate time if you can't donate money -- there are plenty of virtual community service opportunities. Consider creating or joining a phone tree of people who are socially isolated, delivering food and supplies to a high-risk person you know, or donating blood through the Red Cross.
Obviously, there are many other resources for getting through this tough time, but we hope this list is a good starting point. We appreciate all our loyal readers and wish you the best of luck in finding work in the coming weeks.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
You got a job offer – yay! You’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself right now. You beat out a whole bunch of other candidates and your job search is finally over! You may be 100% confident that this is your dream job, and if it is, that’s great, go ahead and accept! But if you have even the slightest hesitation, take a moment to consider whether this is the best move. Here are a few red flags you might want to think about before accepting an offer:
1. The salary is lower than what you’d expected. In this case, you should try to negotiate. You should be getting paid what you’re worth. If a company really wants you, a few thousand dollars shouldn’t be that big of a deal given the value that you’re going to bring to the table. But if there’s not much wiggle room, carefully assess how this will impact your lifestyle. Are you going to love the job so much that the lower pay won’t even matter? Look at all other factors before deciding to accept. There are long term-consequences to taking a pay cut or getting paid less than market rate, so you need to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs before you settle.
2. The boss has a bad reputation. If you’ve heard bad things about your potential new boss, you should proceed with extreme caution. You can give them the benefit of the doubt if you want – maybe it was just one person’s experience that you’re basing your decision off of. But if you’re hearing from multiple people that the boss is an ultra micromanager, doesn’t give direct reports credit for projects, or is downright abusive, you probably want to stay away. You may not realize it, but your boss has just as big of an impact on your experience at a company as the actual work does, maybe even more. Try to find out what other people have to say about this person, especially if you got a questionable vibe during the interview. And of course, if there are red flags that come up in the interview process -- the boss yells at an employee, runs excessively late, or assigns you trial work without pay -- know that it only gets worse when they're not trying to woo you.
3. You aren't aligned with the company's mission. This is particularly relevant for start-ups, where the company's future is up in the air and dependent on its mission. If you aren't gung-ho about the team and the company's future, you probably won't be happy at the job, and a small team is bound to fail if its members aren't 100% committed to the vision -- which means you may be out of a job faster than you think. It's also important when you're working on the creative side in a decision-making role -- if you don't agree with the company's development process, or you hate their programming decisions, you'll probably be unhappy devoting creative energy to and championing projects you don't think are good. This is less important at the assistant level -- you can still learn a lot even if you're working on projects you're not 100% aligned with creatively, and there are some jobs that are so competitive you may be open to sacrificing your taste, like staff writer, editor, or reality producer. Evaluate whether the day-to-day of the job will make you happy, or if you'll have room to grow, either within the role or because of it.
4. The lifestyle that goes along with the job isn’t ideal. If you’re going to be working really long hours or have a serious commute ahead of you, you may want to think twice about the job. Everyone has a different threshold for these factors, but you need to be aware of yours before you accept an offer. Are you really going to be comfortable checking your phone all day, every day, including weekends and vacations? Is the pay enough to cover the gas mileage from the office in Playa Vista to your home in Thousand Oaks? Do you need flexibility for childcare? Most people work to live -- if this is going to be a job where you live to work, it may not be worth it.
5. You don't like the office culture. You may love the work, the commute, the pay, and even your potential boss. But is the larger company culture your style? If you get weird vibes when you go in for an interview -- and weird can mean different things for different people, since we all have different work styles -- you may not be happy going to the office everyday. Do your future colleagues seem like people you'd get along with? Did people in the office seem depressed? Is the office dog-friendly and you're allergic to dogs? Were you distracted by the ping pong conference table? Maybe you don't like that the conference table was standard mahogany! No office is perfect, but consider if you'll be happy spending 8 or so hours a day in that space, with those people, following the company's rules.
There are surely other red flags that may pop up during the job search, and some may be entirely specific to you. The most important thing is to trust your gut. If you have some sort of hesitation, figure out what’s giving you pause, and then carefully weigh your options before accepting the job. Your instinct is usually correct, and it’s going to help lead you to the job where you’ll be the happiest.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan