A lot of job seekers are caught between the seemingly-contradicting axioms of “finding a job is all about who you know” and “asking for help is a sign of weakness.” It’s as if they think the key to success in the industry is having connections who will drop opportunities in your lap without you ever having to make a peep. Sure, this does happen for some people in rare circumstances, but it’s the exception, not the rule. Most of us need to ask our contacts for help, whether we’re looking for introductions to new people or seeking referrals to open roles.
Asking for help can be scary! It’s easy to get trapped by your inner critic telling you that you’re unworthy of the favor you’re asking for, or that the person you’re reaching out to will be annoyed to hear from you. A lot of us buy into the negative self-talk -- that our networks pale in comparison to those of our friends, that our contacts won’t remember us, that asking for help is somehow simultaneously a sign of icky hustling and laughable vulnerability.
It’s time to silence that voice in your head. The truth is, plenty of people want to help their contacts. Not only does it feel good to pay it forward, but it’s a good way to stock up on owed favors. Plus, so many of us lose track of our contacts, so when one reaches out to ask for help, it’s a good revitalization of that relationship.
A good rule of thumb is this: If you’d be pleasantly surprised to hear from a particular contact, and you’d be willing to help them if they needed a favor, assume they are just as generous and kind-hearted as you are. It’s still possible they’ll say no – maybe they aren’t in a position to help you with this particular request, or they’re going through major life stuff and now’s not a good time, or they’re secretly a jerk. But let them be the one to make that decision. As long as you’re polite, straightforward, and professional, there’s no harm in reaching out. If they say no, it’s the same result as if you never asked – but they can only say yes if you’re bold enough to ask.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
In Hollywood, the absolute best way to increase your odds of getting an interview is to get referred to a position by someone who knows the hiring manager. This is especially true now, when job postings have hundreds, and sometimes even upwards of a thousand applicants. Hiring managers simply cannot read that many resumes, and they'll lean into their networks to cull through the candidates -- even if your resume is perfect, you'll want to make sure they can find it!
In an ideal world, you’ll have put the word out that you are looking for a new job and have conducted numerous informational interviews, and someone will remember you and reach out when a relevant position opens up. But even if that doesn’t happen, you can be proactive and generate referrals for open roles of interest. The idea is that you want to track the path of your resume until you feel pretty confident that someone in the hiring department has reviewed it. Here’s the process we recommend:
Once you have a posting of interest and have submitted your resume through formal channels, do a LinkedIn search for the company, click on “people,” and see if you know anyone that works there. If you do, great! Send them an email and ask if they can pass your resume to the hiring manager. Hopefully they know someone in the department and can put in a good word for you directly. They’ll probably be able to tell you if the role is still open and may even have some info about the hiring timeline. If you’re the type of candidate they are looking for, you will be almost sure to get an interview.
However, if this is a big company, and your contact doesn’t know anyone in the hiring department, you’ll need to take some extra steps. The person you know may be able to refer you through an internal employee portal, but that won’t necessarily get you an interview. In this case, or in the case that you have found a role of interest but don’t know anyone at the company, you need to leverage LinkedIn to find second degree connections. This means that you search for the company, click on “people,” and see who works there that you have a shared connection with. Reach out to your contacts who know people at the company, prioritizing the people that are most likely to want to do you a favor and the people who know someone in or close to the hiring department. If possible, reach out to multiple people to ensure that your resume gets to the hiring manager’s hands. If the hiring manager is hearing your name left and right, they’ll have no choice but to bring you in!
When reaching out to your contacts, it’s important that you reach out via email and not LinkedIn, as LinkedIn messages often get lost. Be really specific about your ask, and provide as much detail as possible, including a link to the original job posting, a job ID if there is one, the name of the person you are trying to get your resume to, and a little bit of detail about why you are interested/right for the role. And don’t forget to attach your resume! This way, your contact can simply forward your email to their contact, who will see your professional, well-written email summarizing your qualifications.
Continue this process until you know that your resume has been viewed by the hiring manager, and hopefully, you'll get that call for an interview. Keep in mind that this process works best if you have dedicated time to building your network and staying active on LinkedIn. Read our many blog posts on networking and LinkedIn if you think either of these areas needs a little love. Good luck!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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