Figuring out your salary is the most awkward part of the job application process, and arguably, it's the most important. After all, the main purpose of a job is to earn money -- even if it also comes with the bonus of fulfilling your creative dreams. When it comes to salary negotiations, you don’t want to lose out on a job because you aimed too high with ridiculous demands, but a low salary sets you up for lower earnings for years down the line. Remember, most raises are calculated on a percentage basis, and 10% of nothing is, well, nothing.
In entertainment, there’s very little you can do about your salary in your first entry-level position -- assistants are typically offered a certain rate, especially at agencies, and that’s that. But just because you don’t have much power to negotiate when you start your career doesn’t mean you should hold on to that bad habit forever, nor does it mean you should settle for a job that's massively underpaying you.
Unless a company has uniform starting salaries (for assistants, these will often be public information, as many companies promoted their wage increases in the trades a few years ago in response to #PayUpHollywood and social activism), you should negotiate. And certainly, as you move up in your career, you're likely to come across a version of the question, “What are your salary requirements?” in a job interview. But how exactly do you negotiate your salary, particularly in an industry that knows it's competitive?
First of all, do your research before you apply! In California, Colorado, and New York City, companies are required to publish salary ranges in job postings, so you can read a few postings to get a sense of the market rate. Glassdoor is also a great resource for figuring out average salaries for your title in your area, and it can help give you a more realistic understanding of where you might fall in the listed range (if there is one), since many larger companies comply with the law by posting outlandish ranges (like $50K - $350K). It's also a good idea to talk to your friends and peers about their salaries -- while many of us were taught that this is rude, the truth is that talking about salaries is a way to build equity in the workplace. Once you have the data in hand, you'll be empowered to walk away from an offer that's egregiously below market rate -- and even avoid applying in the first place, if the pay is listed. Underpaying employees isn't usually a sign of a healthy workplace. And if you find that the jobs you're applying for typically pay below your cost of living, you might consider pivoting your job search or adjusting your expectations.
The salary conversation itself depends on whether the range was listed or not, and how big of a range it was. If no range was listed, or the range was too big to be meaningful, you'll probably be asked about your salary requirements during the interview process. Do your best to avoid throwing out a number first. Try to force the interviewer or hiring manager to show their cards, so you know what you have to work with -- when asked about your requirements, pivot with, “Well, I’m actually curious, what is the salary range you anticipated for this position?” It gives you room to bring up other types of negotiations -- maybe for flex time or more benefits.
If the hiring manager doesn’t let you get away with the pivot technique, DO NOT give up and tell them your current salary. In California, it’s actually illegal for them to ask, which gives you a big advantage. Start off with a question about benefits – what’s the vacation policy, 401K, insurance coverage, stock options, bonuses, etc. This will allow you to assess how much you need to make as base salary to maintain (or really, to improve – the goal here is to move up in the world!) your current lifestyle. Then, you can offer a range. The range should start at the lowest number you’re willing to take based on how good the benefits are and go up $10-$25k from there, or whatever’s reasonable based on your research. They might only offer your minimum, but there's always a chance you'll get lucky with an offer that's in the middle or top of your range. The beauty of giving a range is that it helps you avoid giving a number that's lower than what they had in mind -- if you say you were thinking $60K, and they were going to offer $75K, they will probably accept your low standard, costing you a ton of money!
When the salary is listed, this can be a little trickier. You might feel like you can't negotiate, and that by applying, you were already accepting their salary offer. However, even listed salaries are negotiable, within reason! In these cases, you'll likely be presented with an offer that falls within the range or is the stated salary in the posting. If this doesn't align with your expectations -- if you're offered the lower end of the range, or if the rate listed was low to begin with, but not so low that you avoided applying -- ask the hiring manager for a higher number. Explain why you think your expertise demands that higher rate, and cite your research on the market if it applies. If they hold firm on money, you can ask if they can make up the difference in benefits, and suggest specific benefits that would persuade you.
Whenever you are offering a range, make sure the number is enough money that you'll feel good about accepting the offer. If you want at least $70K but can theoretically, if absolutely necessary, trim your budget and make some sacrifices for $60K, don't start your range with $60K! Ask for the $70K you want, and if they respond with "Well, we only budgeted $60K for this role," then you can entertain the "theoretical, if absolutely necessary" lower number. Similarly, when countering a listed rate with a number of your own, offer a number higher than the one you'd settle for, as they are likely to meet you in the middle -- if they list $1800/week, and the lowest you'd feel comfortable with is $2200/week, counter with $2500.
Remember that a good employer will respect that this is an important dialogue, and anyone who treats you rudely during this negotiation will likely take advantage of you in other ways. It's not a shameful secret that people work to make money, or at least, it shouldn't be. It's totally okay to turn down the job offer if you can't find a compensation package that works for you -- don't shortchange yourself. If a company doesn’t hire you because you’re too expensive, you probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway. Decide what you're worth beforehand, and stick to your guns -- you'll thank yourself in the long run.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Remote work -- whether it's full-time or flex -- has become incredibly common. But many entry-level employees who've only worked remotely miss the opportunity to learn professional norms and expectations that their more established colleagues (and bosses!) had access to in the office. And those farther along in their careers often find it's a lot harder to prove their worth to their boss and colleagues without that valuable face time, which makes getting a raise or promotion that much harder. But remote work is here to stay, and you can absolutely grow professionally without ever setting foot in an office. Here's how:
Communicate regularly. Just because you’re out of sight doesn’t mean you have to be out of mind. Make sure you communicate with your supervisor regularly, especially if you work remotely full-time. You don’t want to send an email every time you complete a task, but you should find a way to make sure your boss and team can track your work. Depending on your office culture, this might be updating a project management tracker like Airtable and/or sending daily or weekly highlight emails with a 30,000 foot version of what you've accomplished. You should also set recurring one-on-ones with your supervisor. Make sure you reply to any emails that are sent your way in a timely fashion and ping your boss when you complete a big project. One of the advantages of working remotely is the flexibility to pop out for a daytime appointment or errand, but when you do this, let your boss know if you'll be out of pocket for an extended period of time, so they don't panic when they can't reach you.
Meet all deadlines...early. When you work remotely, it’s critical that you deliver all of your work on time. Meeting a deadline is the sign of a diligent employee. If you truly want to impress your boss, though, do your best to turn big projects in ahead of schedule. Without the distractions of officemates, it should be easier to focus. Since you don’t have access to your boss to pop into her office and let her know your ETA for a deliverable, turning work in early will ensure she never even suspects you may be late. Of course, some assignments take the full amount of time allotted (and some deadlines are unreasonable), so you won’t always be able to turn your work in early. Don’t worry -- just shoot your boss an email along the way confirming you’re on the right track so she doesn’t get nervous, especially if she’s a micro-manager.
Keep to a schedule. This tip is more for your mental health than your work output -- but a happy employee is a good employee! It’s easy to let your time slip away from you when you work remotely full-time, and you may find yourself working all day and all night. Or you fill your day with non-work activities until suddenly, it’s 9:00pm on Thursday and you haven't started on the big project you promised to turn in by the end of the week! To avoid this pitfall, make a schedule and find a dedicated workspace. If you can get all of your work done in 5 hours a day, there’s no need to work 8. As long as you’re available during normal business hours for emergencies, you can build a schedule that has you working half the morning and half the evening, with the afternoons free for whatever else delights you. The important thing is to block off work hours in your calendar and find a place to do your work that’s free of non-work distractions. Bake some exercise into your day too -- it’s easy to be dormant when there’s no real reason to go anywhere, and your mental health will suffer if you don’t move around. You don’t need to join a gym if that’s not your thing, but you should at least let yourself outside for a walk like you would a golden retriever.
Take initiative. You want to show your team that you're invested in the work and showing up with your full self, rather than coasting. This is true in the office, too, but it's more important when you're working from home. You should engage with your colleagues in meetings, whether that's by having your video on during calls or sharing ideas during brainstorming sessions. If there's an opportunity to take on a new project, complete a one-off task, or lead a meeting, volunteer! This is especially true if part of your team works in the office while you're remote -- you want access to the same opportunities they have to grow. You may have to ask your boss for more responsibility (a good thing to do in your one-on-ones!) if nothing is offered to you, but make sure you're also stepping up to take on the projects that are being handed out.
Don't ghost your boss. This one seems obvious, but trust us: It’s not always that obvious. Remote freelancers sometimes move on to new projects and assume no one will notice that they’ve stopped turning in work. Your boss notices, and if you ever want to resume freelancing at that company -- or if a future employer calls for a recommendation -- your ghosting will come back to haunt you. It’s totally okay to quit a job, but you should do so courteously. Email or call your boss and give your notice. You may not need to give a full two weeks if your position was on a rolling basis or freelance, but you should give your boss a heads-up and offer to finish off any outstanding work. Let your boss know exactly what you’ve completed and what you haven’t and turn in any documents, data, or login credentials that your replacement might need.
--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
The entertainment industry can be a wonderful field to work in, but it has also changed a lot over the years. We’ve seen more and more folks looking for ways to break out the way they once strove to break in. There are so many layoffs, stagnant wages, and unpredictable freelance roles – not to mention that people change, and the person who moved to LA right after college to “make it” as a producer may no longer be the person staring at you in the mirror 10, 20, or 30 years later. If you’ve been considering leaving the industry, here are a few steps you can take:
Identify what you want to do next. It’s easy to say “I’m done with this Hollywood bullshit,” but if you don’t know what you want to do instead, you’ll have a hard road ahead in your transition. Consider whether you want to do the same type of work but in a different field (for example, producing videos for a brand’s social media pages or handling A/V for corporate events) or if you want to change roles completely (for example, becoming a realtor or a supply chain operations manager). Take time to learn about other career paths. Ask friends outside the industry about their jobs. Cull through some “Top Places to Work” lists. Do some career assessments, either self-guided online, with a book, or with a career coach. Think about which tasks you enjoy doing at work and which you're great at, as well as what working environment, salary, and work/life balance helps you thrive, and match potential careers against those criteria. Make sure to find out what steps you’ll need to take to break into the new field – this could mean getting a degree or certificate, starting at the bottom of the new ladder, and/or making connections in the new field who can recommend you for lateral moves. This will take time, but it will be far more productive than simply applying to any random job in your area that’s posted on LinkedIn.
Rewrite your resume and LinkedIn profile. Once you know what roles you’re targeting, you’ll need to overhaul your application materials to match the new field. Through the aforementioned research, you’ll have discovered the skills your new path requires and identified the transferable skills you have that align with those jobs. Focus your resume and LinkedIn profile on highlighting those achievements and avoid getting too in the weeds about your work in entertainment. The hiring team for an open insurance sales role isn’t going to care about your ability to write script coverage or create string-outs (or even know what those terms mean), but they may be impressed by your ability to conduct cold outreach to potential talent and create pitch decks.
Meet people. A major career transition calls for informational interviews! Just as you likely did when you first pursued a career in entertainment, you’ll need to meet anyone you can who works in your new field. Tell everyone you know about your job search goals and ask if they can introduce you to anyone they know who could help. Even better if you can identify target companies you’d love to work for and leverage your existing network to find contacts there (though this will be easier or harder depending on your chosen field). Use LinkedIn to identify potential connections and follow thought leaders from that industry. Attend networking events and conferences. All the things you did back in the day to make it in Hollywood will work for your new industry, too.
Finally, remember to be patient and persistent. It’s hard to break into a new field, and it will likely take a lot of time. Like entertainment, plenty of fields are competitive, and while some are seeing a huge hiring expansion, many others are going through similar layoffs and hiring freezes. If you’re strapped for cash, you may need to continue working in the entertainment industry or pick up gig work to make ends meet while you pursue a longer-term career. There’s no shame in that! It doesn’t mean you’re doomed to stay trapped in this industry. Keep at your research, keep meeting people, and keep applying. You’ll get there, just as you got here.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan