How many of us have heard the tired adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” That, and “the only way to get your foot in the door is by being a talent agency assistant” are the first pieces of advice given to every Hollywood hopeful, and you’ll hear echoes of them even as you climb the ladder.
But only one of them is true. Since this newsletter is about networking myths, you might be surprised to learn that the first one is the true one.
Indeed, networking is critical to success in Hollywood. But how networking works is often misrepresented. For example, there are other ways to grow your network that don't involve working at an agency (and we're living proof that you don't need to start at an agency to have a successful Hollywood career!). Here are three misconceptions about networking that our clients struggle with and how to reframe them:
1. Networking requires hustling. Hustling can take many forms – joining a ton of professional organizations, attending lots of events, scheduling lunches and drinks every day, etc. If you have the energy for that, great. But many of us don’t, either because we’re introverted, exhausted from work, or busy with personal, family, or community needs. There are plenty of ways to build your network that are far less intense. First of all, “network” is just a fancy word for the people you know, and you likely meet people all the time! Your current and former coworkers and colleagues from external partner teams are all part of your network, and you don’t need to be best friends with them outside of work to ask for a job referral or warm intro – you just need to be a consummate professional, friendly, and good at your job when collaborating with them on a project. Your industry friends who you already choose get together with on weekends are also in your network -- and a critical element, at that. The people you meet in yoga class, or through volunteer work, or at your kid’s school are all in your network. Build natural relationships with the people already in your sphere, and try to give to them as much as you’d ask for. Steve from your gym mentions that his daughter is looking for internships? Offer to do an informational interview. Your coworker Kelly had a medical emergency and needs you to write the first draft of the presentation? Do it with a smile and text her that you hope she heals soon. And when it comes time for you to need a favor, don’t fall prey to myth #2…
2. Asking for help is a sign of weakness. Asking for help is vulnerable, but that’s not a bad thing! We work in a social industry that’s known for people hiring their friends and those who come as “trusted” recommendations. Getting a job through a referral isn’t a reflection of your lack of merit or your inability to succeed standing on your own two feet. Rather, it’s a reflection that you understand the system of Hollywood and are well-liked enough that people want to help you. Even if you believe this system is flawed, it’s okay to work within it while you work to change it.
3. Your network is tapped out, and/or you don’t know anyone who’s in a position to help you. Have you ever thought “None of my friends can help me!” or “I can’t ask anyone for a favor, because they won’t help!”? This kind of thinking is super common, but it’s your inner critic talking, not reality. Not only does this kind of thinking minimize your value, it also minimizes your friends’ generosity. To reframe this negative voice, consider what your response would be if a friend, former colleague, or Steve from the gym reached out to you. Would you help them if you could? If so, why should you expect that they’d be less giving toward you? Perhaps they’ll even be delighted to hear from you and excited to support you – plenty of people enjoy paying it forward, and even from a purely selfish standpoint; it helps them “bank” a favor with you. Even if you think your friends don’t know anyone, let them be the ones to tell you that – maybe the editor you worked with on your last show happens to have kept in touch with someone from his internship back in college who’s now the head of the department you’re hoping to work for at your dream company! People’s careers move in all sorts of directions, people’s circles are wider than you might think, and most people are willing to help others.
The bottom line is: Networking doesn’t have to be icky, hard, exhausting, or limiting. If you approach the process as engaging in symbiotic relationships with the people around you – aka being a good human, colleague, and friend – it will come a lot more naturally and yield better results.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
These days, it seems like a new round of layoffs is being announced almost daily across big media companies. There are a lot of emotions you may be experiencing if you've been impacted, and that's totally normal. But getting laid off doesn't mean your career is over! Here are some steps you can take to make the best of your situation and get back on your feet quickly.
Let your contacts know what happened. There's nothing to be ashamed of if you've been let go -- corporate decisions are about bottom lines, not performance. As soon as you learn about a layoff, you want to tie up loose ends on any current projects and make sure all your contacts know how to reach you. Remember, the relationships you've built through your work are yours to keep even after you've been let go. Most people will be extremely understanding, empathetic, and generous after hearing about a layoff. Send an individual email to every person you had a current project with -- internally and externally -- and let them know that you enjoyed working with them and would love to stay in touch. Next, do the same thing for all contacts you've worked with previously while at the company, your closest industry contacts, and anyone in your network you are hoping to get back in touch with -- a layoff is actually a great opportunity to reignite old relationships! If you already know what you want your next career move to be, include it in the email, so your contacts can keep an eye out. This process can take up to a week to complete, but you’ll be amazed at the generosity you’ll encounter. Expect your calendar to fill up with lunches and coffees very quickly after you send your emails, and try to have your resume ready for anyone who offers to pass it along.
Take some time to relax. If you were working at a company that was forced to cut their staff, it’s likely because things weren’t going well for that company. You probably felt that stress at work on a daily basis, and maybe you were starting to get a bit burned out. Before bouncing back to a job search, it’s a good idea to take a couple of weeks to relax (or more if you got a great severance package) – travel, hike, spend time with your family and friends, catch a middle-of-the-day gym class -- whatever you enjoy that fits your budget. It will help you start to get over any resentment you have about the layoff and let you approach the upcoming job search feeling refreshed.
Set some targets. Without a full-time job to worry about, now is a good time to step back and assess your career. Are you happy with the path you were on, or is it time to try something new? If you’re going to explore a career transition, you’ll need to spend a lot of time doing research on the new path, maybe even working with a career coach to figure out what that path should be. This step could take a couple of days or a couple of months, but you should come out with a very clear direction for yourself. With some targets in mind, you’ll be able to approach the job search much more effectively.
Update your application materials. Though revisiting your accomplishments from your previous role may sound like a surefire way to experience bitterness, try to take a moment to remind yourself, once again, that your layoff is a reflection of the company, not of you. Now is when your work will be freshest in your mind, so it's a good idea to write down all the projects you worked on and any results you were proud of. This exercise will serve as a great basis for your resume, LinkedIn profile, and future job interviews, and the sooner you can complete it, the more detailed it will be. Once you've taken stock of your work and set your sights on what's next, update your LinkedIn profile and resume to align with your goals. We recommend starting with LinkedIn, since it can be used as a networking tool. You’ll want to update your master resume as well, but be ready to make changes to it as you tailor it to each job posting.
Take advantage of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an amazing resource for general job searches and networking, but it really shines as a tool if you've been laid off. While your initial round of emails should have kicked off the networking process for you nicely, announcing your layoff on LinkedIn will generate a bigger response from your wider network. The best version of this LinkedIn post includes the news that you've been impacted by the recent layoff, an acknowledgement of your positive experiences at the company (your team, anything you learned, projects you're really proud of), and a clear call-to-action about what you'd like your next step to be (e.g. "I'd love to continue working in comedy development;" or "My passion lies in helping clients produce compelling marketing content, and I'm excited about the growing opportunities in the metaverse. I'd love to land in a client-facing role at a company looking to expand its VR/AR capabilities."). You'll likely see many likes and comments roll in, all of which will help your visibility to recruiters. Because layoffs are so common these days, you may also see posts in your newsfeed from contacts looking to help people who are affected -- there are even some spreadsheets of recently laid-off workers at some of the larger companies that have circulated across the platform. If someone you know posts a job opening or other offer to help job seekers impacted by layoffs, take them up on it! Additionally, make sure to toggle on the "open to work" setting on your profile so recruiters can find you. As always, you can start to more aggressively pursue informational interviews at companies of interest once you have some clear targets in mind and have an updated profile, and you can use LinkedIn to find the right people to make warm intros. Once you have your network working for you, the rest should start to fall into place. Just make sure you are doing everything possible to get your resume into a real person’s hands when you actually start applying for open roles. And most importantly, don’t get down on yourself about the layoff! It's not your fault and you're not alone in this experience. If you are strategic about pursuing your goals, you’ll be back in the game in no time.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
‘Tis the season…for maintaining your network! If you’ve been an avid Hollywood Resumes newsletter reader, you know that we’re big fans of taking time during the holiday season to send a quick note to your contacts to let them know you’re thinking of them and update them on anything that’s happening on your end, whether that’s embarking on the job search, starting a new job, or having one of your pet projects get the green light.
But how exactly do you conduct this holiday outreach?
Some people opt for a newsletter-style update, where they send one long update email to all their contacts. This approach is certainly easier than writing individual notes, and it can even feel a little less daunting – but most people won’t respond. If you just want to share news to stay on people’s radars and are okay with a handful of generic responses, you can go this route.
However, if you’re hoping to turn your outreach into more meaningful conversations, and potentially even catch-ups in the new year or referrals during your job search, sending individual notes is the way to go. These don’t have to be long or complicated, but they should be specific.
Happy holidays! I hope you’ve been well since we last saw each other at the HRTS mixer in March. I recently watched the Iliza Shlesinger comedy special you worked on and absolutely loved it! Do you have anything else coming down the pike you’re excited about? As for me, I’m headed back to Des Moines to spend the holidays with my family, and I’m hoping to start searching for my next role in January. I’ve learned a lot about indie film during my time at Indian Paintbrush, but I’m ready to take on a new challenge. I’m targeting roles on the buyer side, ideally in TV drama development. If you can think of anyone I should meet with in that world or hear of any job openings, please let me know -- I'd really appreciate your help! Best wishes to you and yours during this holiday season, and happy new year!
The key is to keep your outreach genuine but simple, and make it easy for the person to respond. There are likely some contacts you’ll want to be a bit more formal with, but still cordial and meaningful. A generic “Happy holidays! How are you? I’m looking for new jobs in the new year, so let me know if you hear of anything!” isn’t going to get much of a response.
Know that you might not be able to reach everyone you know this way, but do your best to organize your contacts and triage who to reach out to, when, and for what. And you can always save some outreach for a new year’s greeting in a few weeks!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Let’s face it: Keeping up with your network can be really hard. Most of us just don’t have enough time to go to drinks with our contacts every week or attend networking events regularly. If you can make time for those activities – great! But if you can’t, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways you can keep in touch with your contacts without even leaving your house. Here are our top five:
1. Track the trades. If you’re reading the trades regularly (always a good practice!), you’ll likely come across news about people you know or the companies they work at. If you see something interesting or exciting – a promotion, a new project acquisition, or a sale – send a congratulatory email. It’s nice to be nice! So often we think about how we can use our contacts to help us, but the truth is, real relationships are fostered by mutual appreciation. When you have that moment of, “Good for Jane! I’m so glad her pilot got picked up!” tell her!
2. Use social media. If you see one of your contacts post something on social media – especially if it’s about work – engage with the post. Watch the trailer of the work they shared and comment on it or share it. Congratulate them on their “major life event” of getting a promotion. Like their step and repeat photo. You probably won’t establish meaningful relationships exclusively on social media, but it’s a great way to stay in light touch with someone.
3. Share your own news. Whether on social media (including LinkedIn) or emails to your close contacts, you can share the exciting things happening in your professional life. If self-promotion isn’t really your thing, you can still do a version of this that feels comfortable for you, like reaching out to a contact to let them know you just started a new job and would love to connect about potentially collaborating together.
4. Connect around the holidays. The holidays are a very natural time to get in touch with your contacts. Send individual emails or cards to your contacts to wish them well for the new year and share a bit about what you’ve been up to. You may not get responses from everyone, but well-wishes are always welcome
5. Share interesting content. If you read an article or watch a movie that reminds you of a conversation you had with a contact or seems up their alley, share it! Depending on how close you are, this can be a text, email, or DM. Don’t overdo this – you’re not a news aggregator – but if your contact told you they’re looking for true crime stories to adapt, and you read a super interesting true crime story in The New Yorker, send them the link!
One thing to remember here is to treat your contacts as actual human beings. In fact, we don’t really like the word “contact,” since it implies that you don’t have a real relationship. Once you start thinking of those in your network as people who you respect and whose company you enjoy, it becomes easier to reach out. Remember: We’re all just people working in a highly social business!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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