A lot of Hollywood professionals find themselves building a personal website as one of their career branding tools. But do you need one? When are websites most helpful? Is there ever a time when a personal website would harm you?
Generally speaking, personal websites tend to make the most sense for artists -- those who work in areas of the industry where a portfolio is really important. Directors, editors, DPs, set decorators, costumers, hair and makeup artists – these are all roles where your work product is more important than words on a resume, and people will want to see if your aesthetic matches theirs. You don’t have to have a complicated website – in fact, simpler can be better, so it’s easier to update. Think about having a bio, a link to your resume or credits (but be careful about including too much personal information on this publicly available document!), and a reel, clips, or portfolio. Make sure to update your website every few months, or whenever you complete an important, brag-worthy project.
Some writers may choose to have a website, too, but this is a little trickier. A website where you list the scripts you’ve written that have never been sold or produced will make you seem like an amateur. If there’s nothing to add to your website that someone couldn’t find on IMDB, that’s another cue to skip it. But if you write in a variety of mediums, you may want a website where you can link to any articles or books you’ve published. If you offer script reading, script doctoring, or other consulting services, you can put these offerings on your personal website as well.
However, if you are on the executive track, we don't recommend a personal website. It could confuse a recruiter who may think you are trying to start your own business or find work as a freelance consultant. And if you work for a big corporation, their PR team probably wouldn't like you publicly representing the company in your own words. In these cases, LinkedIn is better for communicating your personal brand to the world.
One important thing to keep in mind when creating a personal website is to brand yourself in a way that aligns with the jobs you’re looking for. We often see recent MFA grads who host their work on a website where they brand themselves as a director/producer, but they’re applying for assistant roles at a talent agency. Employers will google you, and they will match your resume and interview answers with the content they see online, so tread carefully. If you tell the recruiter at CAA that you’re super excited about the agent trainee program because your dream is be a talent agent, but she sees that you have a website dedicated to the short film you’ve directed, she’ll be less inclined to hire you. This isn’t only true for entry-level candidates, either – any time you’re pursuing multiple career paths, looking for a day job, or making a career transition, you should re-evaluate how well your website matches your application story.
If you do decide to have a website, in addition to updating it regularly, make sure it’s a reflection of your best work. That low-budget commercial you directed with mediocre sound isn’t going to wow potential clients, even if the brand was impressive. Early projects from your career might not reflect your current aesthetic, or they may age you. When in doubt, avoid putting it all out there for the world to see – you can always send clips or work samples privately that you can tailor to the employer or client who requests it.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
When it comes to social media, LinkedIn is typically viewed as the go-to job search platform. And it's definitely a great resource! But it's not the only social platform you should be using. In Hollywood, Facebook is one of the most helpful tools for finding jobs, and more importantly, finding someone who has an in at the company that could get your resume into a real person’s hands.
Even if you've dropped off of Facebook in favor of trendier social platforms or because of concerns about their policies or social media overuse in general (for the record, it's totally fine to use social media however feels good to you in your personal life), we recommend keeping a Facebook profile for the purposes of networking and job searching (whether or not you are searching at this very moment). Here’s why:
Facebook groups are one of the best ways to learn about new opportunities. There are Facebook groups for just about every aspect of the entertainment industry, and you’ll probably fit into many of them! For the most part, these groups have replaced tracking boards as a source of information, including job postings. There are groups for all job types and levels (assistants, executives, writers, crew, producers, etc.), and if you just search your job title or the type of content you work on (or want to work on), you’ll surely find a group of peers that already has a conversation going around your line of work. You’ll likely have to share some credentials with the moderators to be accepted, but once you are in, you will see job postings come through frequently, often directly from the source!
Facebook groups make networking easy. The most active Facebook groups usually have multiple posts added per day, not just job postings. Often, people post to source a key piece of information or a contact, announce a big achievement, vent about an industry issue, or simply ask for advice. As a result, members have an opportunity to engage with each other in a very natural way. If you are in one of these groups, get active! Like and comment on posts, especially those where you feel you can offer support or advice. The more your name pops up in the group, the more of a reputation you will build for yourself as an informed member of the community. And this could lead to some offline relationships as well. But the nice thing about it is that you don’t have to get all dressed up and meet someone for drinks. It’s a way to stay on top of what’s going on, learn new things, and help out your peers, and this will only help you with your long term job prospects.
Facebook makes it easier to maintain professional relationships. Much like LinkedIn, it’s a good idea to friend your professional contacts on Facebook. But because people use Facebook differently than LinkedIn, Facebook provides an opportunity for you to get a glimpse of your contacts’ personal lives and connect on a separate level. The more you engage with the content they post (in a non-creepy, genuine way), the easier it will be to connect more overtly when you have business (like a referral for a job!) to discuss.
Facebook is a good platform for self-promotion. Your contacts are probably equally curious about what you're up to, and sharing your professional achievements on Facebook can be a great way to help them keep track of you! Plus, the platform is designed to promote major life events, like a new job. You can also share new project announcements, interviews, articles, and anything that features good news about you or your company. It gives people a reason to reach out to you and can keep you top of mind for a long-ago contact or friend who's hiring. This is a great way to get noticed for a job without even searching for openings yourself.
All of this said, if you want to use Facebook professionally, make sure your account looks professional, isn't too polarizing or political, and any photos are appropriate.
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan
Social media month is coming to a close! We hope you've found our series on social media mistakes helpful, and if there's a topic we haven't covered or a question you'd like answered, email us and we'll cover it in a future post. But now, for our grand finale, we'll cover why it's essential for you to participate in social media.
It’s no surprise that potential employers are going to look up your social media profile before they make a hiring decision, and it’s important that they are able to find you! Not having a social media presence is a red flag -- if you’re unsearchable, recruiters may think you have something to hide or that you aren’t who you say you are. More importantly, social media gives you a chance to prove that you’re a real person with a unique personality and interests that go beyond your resume. When you’ve got an extra opportunity to present yourself in a positive light, you should always take advantage of it.
Furthermore, you really don't want your potential employer to think you live under a rock. In Hollywood, you'll make yourself invaluable by being the person who always knows what celebs are popping or what YouTube videos are trending. Lots of this information comes from social media, and your presence on these sites will indicate that you're in tune with what's going on in the world. So embrace social media! When used correctly, it can benefit you tremendously during the job hunt.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Social media slipups: One bad habit you should break...especially when applying for entry-level Hollywood jobs
Social media month continues! This week's topic: Why you should pay attention to how often you post online.
If you’re unemployed and want to spend all day sharing links and videos, go for it. But if your resume says you’re currently employed, and your Twitter and Facebook are being updated all day with non-work related posts, your future employer (who, like we’ve said before, can absolutely find your feed regardless of how private you think it is) might wonder how you’re getting your work done. It’s so tempting to take a social media break every now and then, and giving your brain a break can be good for productivity, but there’s a difference between scrolling through news articles and funny pictures for a few minutes here and there and constantly posting.
Limit your social media activity to in the morning before work, during lunch from 1-2, and after the workday ends at 7pm. If you see a link you absolutely must share immediately, do so in a non-public way. That’s what Gchat is for.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan