We're obviously huge supporters of people pursuing their Hollywood dreams -- that's why we launched our business, to help people break into and move up in a notoriously tough industry. But dreams can change, and there's no shame in deciding that the entertainment industry isn't right for you. Whether you're leaving the industry after only a couple of years or after a decade, you’re probably a little freaked out about making a career transition – entertainment is so specific, how are you going to appeal to employers in other industries on paper? Here are four tips for crafting a resume to get out of entertainment:
1. Use the job posting as your guide. If you’ve decided to move out of entertainment, hopefully you have an idea of what you want to do next (if you don’t, you’ll need to spend some time researching new industries and conducting informational interviews). Once you’ve found a few postings of jobs you reasonably think you can do and that interest you, use those postings to guide your process. You can even use the same verbiage from the posting, as long as it's true! Most action verbs can apply to any industry, so just choose bullet points that can incorporate the action verbs listed in the posting. The job posting is going to tell you exactly what you need to highlight in your resume and what skills are most valued by the potential employer.
2. Look for relevant transferrable skills. Once you know what the employer is looking for, analyze your experience and figure out what skills you have that could translate. You may not have done the exact task, but if you’ve done something similar, you should showcase how. For example, perhaps you’ll need to negotiate deals in the new role. If you’ve negotiated crew rates or vendor contracts as a producer, you can illustrate your negotiation prowess on your resume. Consider what makes you think you're capable of doing the job and be sure those skills -- and only those skills -- are what you highlight on your resume. For example, even if you do a lot of casting in your current role, you probably won't be casting in another industry, so your future employer won't find your casting experience that compelling on your resume. Remember that your resume is about the skills you bring to the table for the future, not a biography documenting your past.
3. Position yourself in a versatile way. If you're creating a professional summary, you can call yourself a media and communications professional instead of an entertainment industry professional. In doing so, you’re creating a broader profile for yourself that allows you to fit into more boxes. You could also consider an areas of expertise section where you can highlight certain skills that may not stand out in a bullet point – if you were a producer, you can list "project management" as an area of expertise, since that’s essentially what you were doing. Look for things that are standardized across industries and lock onto those.
4. Be careful about jargon. People outside the industry aren’t going to know what you’re talking about if you use too much industry terminology, and often entertainment terms mean something else entirely in a different field (consider that a director of development in entertainment develops film and TV projects, and a director of development in the nonprofit world is a fundraiser!). If your title isn’t going to make sense to an outsider, make sure you’re explaining what your role entailed in easy-to-understand terms. Assistants in particular fall into this trap -- "covering a desk" isn't really something people in other industries say, and neither is "rolling calls." You'll likely need to paint a more vivid picture of your work as an assistant to make the volume of your work clear to someone outside the industry.
Most importantly, a great resume alone is not going to get you the job. You'll need to supplement your new resume with a cover letter that explains your decision to pursue an alternate career path and a strong LinkedIn profile that can help you catch the eye of a recruiter. You’ll also need to do some networking and show in an interview that you’re passionate and enthusiastic about this new direction. Make sure you do your research and are ready to commit to something new – you’ve got a bit of convincing to do, but if you’re fully on board with this switch, you’ll be able to make a much stronger case for yourself and your abilities!
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
There are so many formats to choose from when crafting your resume and each one organizes the information slightly differently. But there are a few critical sections you need to have on your resume, no matter what format you choose.
It should go without saying, but unfortunately it doesn’t: You need a header that has your name, phone number, and email address. And when we say header, we mean it -- the first thing that anyone sees on the page should be your name and contact information! If a format you find online suggests putting your contact info on the side or the bottom, it’s wrong, plain and simple. Hiring managers need to be able to contact you quickly, and if they can’t find your information easily, they’ll call the next candidate. If you’re including other top-line info like address, IMDB links, LinkedIn, or a title, it goes here too -- that’s why it’s called top-line!
The bulk of your resume should be work history. If you’re writing a traditional resume, that means a reverse chronology of your jobs, inclusive of company name, dates of employment, location, title, and a few bullets outlining your responsibilities and achievements. Your reverse chronology needs to include all those elements, consistently, and for each job. Don’t assume people know that your company is LA-based since you are, or that your job function as a PA is obvious because all PA jobs are similar. If you’re creating a functional resume, your work history will be sorted by areas of expertise, highlights, or core skills. You’ll still need to make sure there’s enough context for a hiring manager to understand how/when/where you acquired the skills listed -- you’ll just display the information differently within the format.
Last, but not least, you need to include technical skills. These are generally computer programs you’re comfortable working with. You may balk at this -- doesn’t everyone know Microsoft Word? Isn’t it obvious that you know editing software if your last job was as an editor? Maybe so, but your resume shouldn’t force the hiring manager to do any guesswork -- nor should you risk being passed over by an ATS because you don’t match enough of the software keywords. It’s best practice to include proficiency in Mac, PC, and Microsoft Office (though if you are applying for more technically complex roles that rely on more advanced software, you can save space by listing only the more relevant software) and any other software that will show your ability to do the job.
You should always avoid sections like an objective, soft skills, ratings graphics, or company logos, but you can include other elements your resume, like a professional summary, areas of expertise, education (which you should always include if you have a degree or coursework, but if you haven’t pursued higher education, that’s okay too), foreign languages, professional affiliations, volunteer work, and interests. There is a certain degree of flexibility to crafting a resume; you want to make sure to give yourself the freedom to tell your story in the way that will best sell your skills. But keep in mind that freedom and anarchy are different -- freedom includes a base set of rules everyone agrees to follow -- and these rules will help you get on your way to a great resume!
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
"ASK HR" is our monthly 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,
I've spent most of my career in representation. However, I recently transitioned to a non-scripted TV show in the story department and am loving it. But as a freelancer, I'm already feeling anxious about landing my next gig, because my resume is loaded with experience that doesn't apply to reality TV. What should I do?
-- What's My Story
Dear What's My Story,
First of all, congratulations on finding a job you love! That's no small feat, and it's exciting to know that you can transition to a new side of the industry and find happiness in it. More good news? That you already made the hardest transition. It's the initial jump from representation to production that's most scary, because you'll have to convince hiring managers that you're capable of doing a totally different job. You did that already! Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back.
It sounds like there's a voice in your head buzzing, "What if this is a fluke? What if people see my resume and think I have no direction? How can my short roster of credits compare to other people in my position who've been at it for years?" Let's separate the truth in those questions from the fear and anxiety. Remember: You're already doing the job you want to do, and if you haven't been fired, you're probably doing a good enough job! So no, this is not a fluke. At least it doesn't have to be.
There are a few different options for your resume. First, you can include REALITY PRODUCER or STORY PRODUCER in your headline to convey your direction to employers right off the bat. You may also consider a professional summary -- something along the lines of "Story producer with background in representation. Experience producing non-scripted series for major networks and collaborating with writers to develop feature scripts." Your summary is a great place to make key connections between the transferable skills from your past jobs and your current trajectory. Plus, it's an opportunity to show what sets you apart. You never know when the hiring manager will want the expertise you acquired from working in representation.
Then, lead the experience section with your work at your current show. Hit all the major buzz words from the job posting, or, if you're applying through a vague posting or contact, what you know to be the most important elements of the job. List any significant achievements -- did the season perform particularly well in the ratings? Did you get any additional responsibilities beyond the original scope of your work? How many episodes are you working on, and how many editors are you collaborating with? Are you able to write or pitch any creative? Show the breadth of your current experience while keeping the section to 3-4 bullet points.
When it comes to the rest of your work chronology, give context for your jobs, since people in your current field may be less familiar with representation. Include as many transferable skills you can think of -- collaborating, negotiating, and pitching come to mind. Even though you may have done other things in those roles, keep your bullets short and to the point. Then, think about any other experiences that may be relevant to your current story -- did you ever intern for a reality production company? PA on set? Produce any short films? If those experiences still fit on your resume and weren't ridiculously long ago, they may be worth including.
You'll also want to make sure your skills section lists any technical skills you've picked up in your new job. Are you more comfortable with Avid now that you're creating string-outs? Put it on there!
And lastly, keep in mind that your resume is one tiny piece of your overall job search. Make a good impression on your colleagues now so that you can come recommended for the next show they go to and/or solidify your return for the next season of your current show. It's pretty common for story producers to get hired through prior contacts. And once you have a few credits under your belt, change your resume entirely to a credits list and leave your previous career in representation behind!
-- Angela & Cindy
In a traditional resume, your experience section will list all your previous jobs in reverse chronological order, and each listing will have bullet points underneath that describe your key responsibilities and accomplishments at the company. They showcase what you did, how well you did it, and prove soft skills like communication and organization by providing examples for how you implemented those skills in your day-to-day job. They make up the meat of your resume, so it's important to craft them properly! Here are five tips for writing great bullets:
1. Lead with a strong action verb. "Responsible for" is not a strong action verb! You want to highlight what you did in a role to give a picture of your work self, and those tasks should be described with action verbs. Hiring managers aren’t spending a lot of time with your resume, but if they were to read only your companies, titles, and the first word of each bullet point, they’d understand that you know how to manage, communicate, generate, collaborate, implement, organize…the list goes on. These are the words that will mimic what’s in the job posting and let you showcase your capabilities.
2. Don’t be repetitive. Get creative with your bullet points and do your best to come up with a new verb to lead each one. Even if the responsibilities you had at two companies were similar, you’ll be able to differentiate them by switching up the verbs. Use a thesaurus to look up synonyms if you need to – just be careful not to go overboard. If your resume is getting too repetitive, think about whether you can lose a bullet that's not adding anything new to your story -- remember, your resume is a marketing document, not a biography.
3. Give context. The first bullet point in each section should be an overview that describes the scope of your work and helps the hiring manager picture you in that role. Describe your main job function and offer a little extra info – if the company or department isn’t widely known, you'll want to explain its overall function. Alternatively, you may want to give a sense of the volume of work you were doing or list a key accomplishment. Start broad, and subsequent bullet points can hone in on some of your more specific accomplishments and responsibilities. That's where you can quantify your achievements and show results -- "Developed concepts and wrote pitch materials" is not as strong as "Developed concepts and pitched to network executives; sold HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: THE SERIES to ABC."
4. Use the job posting as your guide. Only include bullet points that are relevant to the job you’re going to do -- and use the verbs from the posting as your action verbs to directly answer the job posting. Try to limit bullet points to 2-4 per section, depending on how many positions you have to list. You might want to make a master resume that includes everything you ever did, and then carefully select the bullet points for each job application to correspond with the qualifications in the posting.
5. Shorter is better. You're writing bullet points, not sentences, and they should feel that way! Keep your descriptions brief. A bullet should ideally be on one line and never more than two. Consider using semicolons to bridge two related skills in one bullet. In fact, semicolons and commas are the only punctuation you should use -- avoid periods, since these aren't complete sentences.
Creating great bullet points takes practice – and also a pretty good understanding of how to write clearly and concisely. If you’re not a wordsmith, consider hiring a professional resume writer (that’s why we’re here!). They’ll help you get your point across in a clear concise way and will be able to objectively assess what’s most important for you to showcase on your resume.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan