"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,
After sending multiple applications and getting called in for interviews, I was lucky enough to get two offers. One was an immediate offer for a short-term office job, and the other was for an on-set production job, but with an undetermined start date. The production said they understood if I needed to accept another job before they could make a final offer. Because I couldn't afford to wait, I accepted the office job, but I want to stay in touch with the hiring manager for the production job for potential future roles. Since I turned down their original offer, is it appropriate for me to reach back out?
-- Frightened about Follow-ups
Dear Frightened about Follow-ups,
First of all, congratulations on getting both offers! When you head back to the job market in a few months, remember this moment when you need a confidence boost.
If you explained that you accepted another, more immediate/stable job when you turned down the second offer, you're in the clear to follow up as you would with any contact. When your current job ends, send an email on the same thread as your previous communication to make sure they have context for your relationship, share a brief update of your last few months, mention that you're back on the market, and ask how they've been doing. The relationship resets from there.
If you turned down the job without an explanation, it's a little trickier. You're probably better off renewing the connection without an "ask" at stake -- try a softer follow up (on the same email thread!) with a note about something you read about their project in the news, an article you think might be of interest, or holiday well-wishes. This way, you're re-establishing the relationship and can bring up your job search down the line with a different tone to the relationship. You can also follow up when the next season starts up and inquire about open positions.
In your case, it's clear the hiring manager knew you might accept a more firm offer. No one expects you to wait on a maybe when you've got a sure thing, all the more so in a pandemic and competitive job market! Plus, especially in production, hiring managers are aware that freelance positions don't always align, and it's pretty typical for people to turn down an opportunity if it doesn't pop up at the right moment. Unlike a corporation that offers job stability and expects you to show a long-term commitment to their mission, production teams understand that you're usually more enthusiastic about the work generally than the specific production. As long as you're polite, you can treat this contact as you would any other contact.
-- Angela & Cindy
Have you ever been at networking drinks and felt intimidated when the person you were meeting with started name dropping all the people he’s been working with or all the insider info he had about the industry? You probably felt inadequate and worried that you were way behind everyone else in your career with no hope of ever catching up. Maybe you started to question your decision to work in entertainment. The truth is, we’ve all been there…and it’s not a great feeling. But the even bigger, yet more secret, truth is that the person across the table often feels the exact same way. So before you get totally down on yourself, remember that you’re not alone -- very often, the other person is faking it.
Impostor syndrome is very real, and it can become even more pronounced in Hollywood where you’re contending with tons of big egos. Many people feel the need to brag about themselves, often as a defensive mechanism or because it’s a strategy they think will help them close the deal. And even though their behavior may not make you feel very good about yourself, there’s nothing you can do to change it. Instead, you need to assess your own reaction and whether or not you’re being too hard on yourself.
Think about it -- it’s not possible to watch every show, read every article and book, keep up regular relationships with every person you meet, go on networking drinks every single night, and give your 100% at work. Even if you try, you'll let other areas of your life slip, which is not only unhealthy but also counterproductive to working in an industry where stories about the human experience are at the core of the business! So you do what you can. And so does everyone else. You’ll have your areas of expertise, and others will have their own. Whether you realize it or not, sometimes you might even be the one who sounds intimidating, depending on who you’re meeting with. You are never alone in this feeling of inadequacy. That simple fact should help ease your discomfort.
But let’s take it one step further. Reminding yourself that others are in the same boat might calm your nerves, but when you're feeling down, you should give yourself a confidence boost as well. Instead of dwelling on your shortcomings, remind yourself of what you do know. What are some of your favorite accomplishments? What are you really good at? What subject could you consider yourself an expert in? Write it all down if you need to or tell your story out loud while you're stuck in traffic, and use it to reaffirm your self-worth.
You bring your own unique value to the table -- never forget that. Yes, you’re going to have inevitable moments of self-doubt, often the result of your interactions with others, but to succeed, you’re going to have to get through them. And the only way to do that is to celebrate your achievements and knowledge and give yourself the confidence to continue pushing forward.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
One of the questions we're asked most often is "My career trajectory doesn't match the jobs I'm interested in now -- how can I get potential employers to notice me?"
Well, it's a lot easier to make a transition if you can prove that you'd succeed in the role. To do this, there are three steps you'll need to take: identifying which of your skills matter, presenting them in your application materials, and letting your network know you're looking to make a move. Here's how you'll do it:
1. Identify your skills. Look at a few job postings in the field you're considering pursuing and rephrase the requirements and preferred qualifications as questions starting with "Can you...," as in: "Can you liaise with multiple parties to execute deliverables?" and "Can you develop strategic plans and negotiate with multiple stakeholders to meet goals?" and "Can you track projects and maintain an organized database of talent?" If you answer "yes" consistently, think about why. What have you done in your previous roles that makes you confident you'd be able to do what's required of you in this new capacity? Those are your transferable skills. Any other skills you have -- even if the majority of your job was devoted to employing them -- are irrelevant as you transition.
2. Present your skills. When you're transitioning to a new side of the industry or a new career entirely, you'll need to contextualize your resume more than usual so that hiring managers get a clear understanding of how you're qualified for a role. For example, if you've been a freelance field producer for years and are now looking for a full-time role in development at a network, you have to help the hiring manager look beyond your title -- recruiters and executives don't necessarily know what a field producer does. Return to the job posting, and for every skill you answered "yes" to, mimic the language the posting uses and craft your bullets accordingly. If the posting requires someone who can pitch original show ideas to networks, you should have a bullet that says something along the lines of "Pitch segments and storylines to EPs and network executives." Is it an exact match? No. Did the bulk of your time in the field actually involve directing cameras and wrangling talent, with the occasional pitch thrown in? Maybe. But it doesn't matter -- if you can pitch, you can pitch. If you can come up with storylines, that's development. You'll likely have to overhaul your resume to make it fit your new goals, but that's okay -- it's worth taking the time to get the job you really want.
3. Tell your network. Most jobs come from referrals, especially at mid or senior levels. But if the people in your network know you in one capacity, it would be weird for them to recommend you for jobs they don't think you'd be interested in! Tell everyone you know that you're looking to make a move, and be specific. People are more likely to help you when you connect the dots -- "I'd love to get into the ad sales or integrations department of a cable network" is a better trigger than "I want to move into marketing." If your existing network isn't ideal for your new career path, start making new connections! Use LinkedIn to connect with people for informational interviews and turn one informational into another to grow your network in a new field. When the right job opens up, and a recruiter gets your resume from a referral, they'll know you're actually interested in the job and that someone's willing to vouch for your ability to do it. It may seem exhausting to network, but it actually doesn't take much more time or energy than applying for 50 jobs a day and feeling sorry for yourself.
If you've gone through the posting and discovered that your skills are not transferable -- and let's be clear, most soft skills are -- then you probably need to learn something new! You can either decide to start at the bottom and take an entry-level job in the field or go back to school to earn a degree or certification. It's important to make sure you begin your new career well-informed, so we still recommend using your network (current contacts, alumni, community members, and LinkedIn) to schedule informational interviews with people in your field of interest. This way, you can see if their jobs really interest you and learn potential strategies for breaking in. Maybe someone will take a chance on you, but at the very least, you'll prepare yourself for how to accrue the skills you need.
It’s already October?! The year is flying by! If you’re thinking about finding a new job for the new year, you should probably begin getting your application materials ready and doing some research. It may seem premature, but you'll get the best results if you start now. Here's why:
1. You still have time to build some key relationships. It’s not ideal to ask someone you’ve just met for a job. But if you can set up some informational meetings in October and November before everyone starts to check out for the holidays, you’ll be able to establish a rapport without begging for a job in your first meeting. Plus, you can count this as recon – you may get some insight about what roles might be opening up in January. So build your list of dream companies and start reaching out ASAP!
2. The holidays are a great time to reconnect. Make a list of all the people you want to get back in touch with in the new year. You’ll want to send them some sort of holiday greeting before or after the Christmas break. When doing this, you’ll often hear about new job openings, so you’ll want your application materials to be ready to go whenever they’re asked for. Plus, don’t you want to relax over the holidays instead of stressing about who you forgot to email?
3. You’ll be ahead of the curve when January rolls around. We always get a flurry ofresume orders during the first couple of weeks of January. Everyone is looking for a job in the new year, and this is often when lots of great roles open up. Imagine if instead of rushing to get your resume and LinkedIn profile up to date, you could spend your time researching job openings and being one of the first to submit your resume. Your January will be far less stressful than others’, and you’ll have more time to spend on getting yourresume into the right hands.
Three months might seem like a long time, but in reality, you only have a few usable weeks left in the year to get prepared for your 2020 job hunt. Remember, it takes time to put all the puzzle pieces in place to successfully land a new job. Get started now – you won’t regret it!
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan