You may have moved to Hollywood with a very specific goal in mind – you wanted to be a screenwriter for half-hour comedies, a development executive at a premium cable network, or a high-powered agent. And setting a goal like that is a big deal, something that you’ve probably put a lot of pressure on yourself to achieve. If you’re able to achieve that goal and are totally happy in your career, great! But for many, that’s not the case. If your career isn’t going the way you’d planned, have you failed?
Sometimes you start down a path, and on the way, you discover something else that you’re really passionate about. But you haven’t reached your initial goal yet – do you give up? What if you’ve reached the goal and aren’t happy in your job – has all the time you’ve put into your current career been a waste? The decision of what to do next is entirely up to you, but don’t get down on yourself or feel like a failure because your career trajectory isn’t going as expected. Think about everything you’ve learned along the way and the people you’ve met. There are probably quite a few specific things you can identify that have had a profound impact on your life, and none of them would have happened if you hadn’t gone on this journey. And through this learning experience, you’ve also learned what you like and don’t like, and that can help you determine the next best step. Maybe you stick it out, make a few changes, and things will get better on your current path. Or maybe you pivot and find an entirely new job, maybe even in a new industry – that’s perfectly fine!
The most important thing to remember is that careers evolve. It’s rare to see someone advance on a linear trajectory that was technically “perfect” – there was likely an unpleasant job or departure from industry norms along the way, and it’s all a learning experience. Industries evolve as well – there are new types of roles popping up all the time, so something that didn’t even exist when you set your original goal could now be a possibility, which is exciting! Embrace it. If your career evolves away from your original goal, you’re not a failure. You’re a human with diverse interests and a range of capabilities, and that’s something to celebrate!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Ask anyone how to get a job in entertainment, and they'll tell you to start as an assistant, preferably at a talent agency.
But is that good advice?
Sometimes. But for many, a different route may be a better approach. Let us break it down for you...
If you're seeking your first entertainment job at the beginning of your career, getting a job as some type of assistant is the most straightforward path to success. In particular, working at an agency will help you form relationships with a "class" of peers who grow in their careers alongside you, hone your skills on a rigorously-paced desk, and expose you to the nuances of multiple aspects of the business -- that's why it's such a popular suggestion. But plenty of people launch their careers in Hollywood without doing a year on an agency desk. We're proof! Especially now, when agencies aren't hiring floater pools, there's no reason to focus your search exclusively on agency desks unless, of course, you want to be an agent.
That said, not all assistant jobs are the same, and they won't all lead you down the same path. If you want to work in development at a network, you'll likely need to prove yourself as an assistant for a year at a smaller company -- a network executive's assistant is expected to understand the business of Hollywood and have mastered the basic assistant tasks. If you ultimately want to be an editor, a post-PA job will be more beneficial to you than a year at an agency, and similarly, a writers' PA job will get you to a staff writing job faster than a production company desk will. As we always say, target your job search. Focus on those assistant positions that will get you closer to your long-term goal faster.
But what about those who have been working in entertainment for many years and are looking to make a career transition to a new side of the industry? Is an assistant position the right move? No! If you have several years of entertainment experience under your belt, you should not be seeking assistant jobs! Unfortunately, we work with many clients who have been told they need to start their careers all over again as an assistant in order to make a career transition. But that's simply bad advice. You don't need to throw 10 years of field producing experience out the window and start as an agency assistant in order to become a development executive. In fact, no one will take you seriously if you attempt that; they'll think your resume got lost in the wrong pile. It's not always easy to move from one side of the industry to another, but you can do it by highlighting the added value your unique background will bring to a role and taking the time to craft a strong job search strategy.
Similarly, if you've held jobs in adjacent industries and want to break into entertainment, you don't necessarily need to start anew. For example, someone who has been working in event planning can probably get a job as a production coordinator or production manager for event broadcasts, instead of starting as a PA. Or, an ad agency executive may be able to transition to a role in integrated marketing at a network. Before you discard your past experience, consider how it may translate to the new role you're looking for.
There are cases when your experience simply won't cut it for higher level entertainment roles, and in those instances, you'll need to think about what you value most in your career -- is a pay cut worth it to pursue your passion? If the assistant path doesn't align with your lifestyle, consider if there's a blended role that may be more satisfying (i.e. if you've worked in social media marketing and want to get into scripted development, a job at a branded content firm may scratch your creative itch without requiring you to relive your 20s). But if you're truly committed to a 100% career overhaul, go for it!
The next time someone tells you to start out as an assistant, consider whether they fully understand your current situation. A lot of people assume that everyone has to take the same path to success, and this often results in generic advice. But your career trajectory may look different, and that's ok! Just remember that starting as an assistant can be a great way to get your foot in the door -- but if your foot is already in the door, you should probably keep walking through.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
One of our big beliefs at Hollywood Resumes is that people are people first and workers second; your job is important, but most of us want to achieve some level of work/life balance. And that means having interests outside of the office!
Participating in community organizations or volunteering for local non-profits is a popular outside-of-work hobby. Especially now, so many people are coming together to advocate for racial justice or give back to people suffering from COVID. But is it a good idea to include volunteer work on your resume? If so, how should you do it? The answer depends on the nature of the volunteer work.
If you're a leader in a community organization -- say you run a committee or chaired a fundraising event -- you might consider including your volunteer experience alongside your other professional experience. This is especially true for people who volunteered during a professional gap, as it shows how you spent that time. Treat your volunteer experience like any other job in your chronology, with your title, dates, and bullets indicating your skills and achievements. Think about what skills you utilize in your volunteer roles that transfer to the job you're applying for, in the same way you'd evaluate past professional experience.
However, if your leadership experience doesn't translate to the role you're applying for, would push relevant experience down in the chronology, or is more participatory than leadership-driven (i.e. you serve food at a local shelter every weekend), you can simply list the organization in a profile or skills and interests section at the bottom of the page, or, if it's somewhat relevant to the job posting, you can include it at the tail end of your professional summary. On LinkedIn, you can elaborate more about your role or provide some background on the organization and why it's important to you.
Things get a little tricky if the organization you volunteer with could come across as controversial or lead people to make snap judgements about you. This happens primarily with religious or political organizations, as some people may presume that you are so passionate about your faith or political ideology that you'll bring it up daily in the office and create an uncomfortable HR situation. The good news is that more companies are embracing religious and cultural diversity and leaning into political and social advocacy, so in some cases, it might be a bonus -- it really depends on the company culture. You'll have to evaluate this on a case-by-case basis by considering what you know about the company and the team, how relevant the skills you derived from your volunteer experience are, and how important it is that your employers embrace your extracurricular activities. There's no hard and fast rule, so you may find yourself adding the information or removing it depending on the job you're applying for.
As with everything that goes in your application materials, evaluate how volunteer work contributes to the story you're trying to tell a future employer. If you always go back to your story, you'll know what's relevant to include and what can be left off.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
As you may know, layoffs happen all the time in entertainment. Even before this Coronavirus mess, Hollywood has been going through a transitional period as companies try to accommodate shifting viewership patterns. But getting laid off is a weird feeling – even if your position was eliminated because of a re-org or something else completely outside of your control (who could have ever predicted one of those things would be a global pandemic?), you still might start to question yourself and whether you were the problem. Why did you get laid off over someone else? But don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s normal for those thoughts to creep into your mind, but they aren’t going to help you get to the next phase of your career. Instead, you’ve got to stay positive and view this layoff event as an opportunity.
Your immediate reaction to a layoff might be extreme anger and sadness, or it may be joy and relief, depending on how you were feeling about your job and your personal financial situation. But even if you are on the anger end of the spectrum, there is always a bright side to a layoff.
Layoffs often happen because the company isn’t doing well. Do you want to be part of a company that’s failing? Of course not! Look at this as an opportunity to find something better, at a company with a more secure future. If the layoffs were the result of a merger, the people who were left behind are about to face a really tough transitional period, usually where they have to take on extra work, reorganize their teams and work cohorts, and adjust to new bosses and protocols. When you get laid off, you avoid all that stress. If you’re lucky enough to get severance, you may even be able to spend time taking care of your own personal needs – do more yoga, hang out with your kids, get a dog, whatever makes you happy. Think of it as an extended vacation! And if you don’t get severance, that’s okay – you can put all your focus into finding a job that makes you happy at a company you are excited to work for.
A layoff gives you an opportunity to reassess your career goals and make changes that you may not have otherwise considered. Maybe you were miserable at your job but couldn’t quit for financial reasons. And while it might suck to go on unemployment for a couple of months, you now have no choice but to find something better. You can put those 40+ hours a week you spent working toward finding something new. Think about what you liked about your previous job and what you’d never want to deal with again, and let that dictate your job search. Research various positions and think carefully about whether you want to continue on the same track you were on. It’s okay to change your mind – if you want to switch roles or even industries, now’s the time!
Another interesting thing that happens after a layoff is that people come out of the woodwork to help you. Let people know about your situation, and you’ll be amazed at all the kind words that come your way. Embrace the fact that people want to help you. Let everyone know what you’re looking for next, and rekindle relationships with contacts that you haven’t caught up with in a while. The outpouring of love and support you’ll feel will inevitably make you feel good about yourself and your work, but it also may lead to new opportunities.
That's not to say you can't, won't, or shouldn't feel any bitterness at all -- even if you're happy about your new trajectory, there's still a sting that comes with the change. You are 100% entitled to have whatever feeling that comes to you about your old company. But you must be careful how you address it in an interview. You don’t need to lie and say that everything was wonderful, but try to keep the conversation positive and focused on the future as much as possible instead of giving into the temptation to gossip. It’s an easy trap to fall into, so you have to be extra mindful about how you’re speaking about your former employer.
Ultimately, what happens after your layoff depends on how you handle yourself, and it all comes down to how you frame the situation mentally. If a layoff is something that you’ve gone through recently, we say CONGRATULATIONS! Look at this as an opportunity, not a setback. You’re in control of what’s next, and we’re sure whatever that is going to be great!
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan