Career transitions. They can be super scary. Or at least seem that way at first. But the truth is, not all career moves are full-blown transitions, and if you play your cards right, your next job may be closer than you think. Let’s break down the different types of career transitions and how to navigate them.
When you’ve been on one level of the corporate ladder for a while, it can seem like a huge jump to get to the next level. Think: assistant to coordinator, PA to AP. A lot of entry-level jobs are really different in scope from the next tier up, and you’ve got to prove you’re ready to take on the advanced responsibilities. The best way to do this, of course, is to get promoted from within -- but let’s be real, sometimes you have to move to a new company or show to be seen for what you’re truly capable of (or to get the appropriate monetary compensation). How do you convince hiring managers you’re ready for that next title when you’ve never had it before? Try integrating some higher-level duties into your current role while you search. If you’re a development assistant, that means offering your own script notes when appropriate, or if you’re an agency coordinator, hip-pocketing a few clients. If you’re an AP looking to get into story producing, ask if you can create a string-out or sit with the editor and give notes. This is important both because it allows you to include these necessary skills on your resume and because it’ll prove to the people you’re working with that they can vouch for you to do these higher-level tasks.
MOVING TO A NEW SIDE OF THE INDUSTRY
If you’ve been working in one side of the industry for a while -- say freelancing as a producer -- and you’re looking to get a role as an in-house executive, you might be tempted to time travel back into assistant-land and start your career over. Don’t. Please, please don’t. Transitions to new areas of the industry are not full-blown career transitions, and you shouldn’t discount or discard your hard-earned skillset because you’re not looking for replica role. Instead, think about what you bring to the table that’s relevant to the side of the industry you want to be in. In the example of producer to executive, you have the management and development experience they’re looking for. Maybe you never managed a content pipeline, but you’ve managed an episode delivery schedule. Plus, you have knowledge of what makes a show successful on the ground and a new batch of creative contacts to work with. Even if you want to move to a totally different side of the industry -- like talent agency to content acquisitions -- you still have applicable skills and industry knowledge that you shouldn’t disregard.
MOVING TO A SIMILAR ROLE IN A DIFFERENT FIELD
More and more people are leaving Hollywood for content creation jobs in fields like Big Tech or advertising. With this type of transition, there’s a similar fear that you have to start at the bottom, but it’s simply not true. In fact, hiring managers at companies outside of Hollywood are a bit more industry agnostic and focused on whether you can do the role than whether you’ve always worked in that field (especially tech companies whose products didn’t exist a decade ago). Resist the urge to start at the bottom, and instead, boast about your ability to produce high-production value content or develop and pitch great concepts. The big thing to consider here is how to communicate your skills. You’ll need to rework your resume to avoid industry lingo (think “grids” or “hot sheets” or “slate”), delve more into descriptions of your responsibilities and accomplishments than a simple credits list, and create more context overall -- don’t assume everyone outside of the industry has heard of major production companies or high-rated cable series. Use the job posting as a guide -- consider why you’re able to meet the qualifications listed and write that on your resume! Just note: Ijf there are more than 1 or 2 requirements you don’t understand (and can’t decipher with a quick google search of the jargon), the role is not as similar as you think.
MOVING TO A NEW ROLE IN A NEW FIELD
The biggest and most challenging career transition is when you’re starting from scratch. Let’s say you’ve had enough of Hollywood and want to be a nurse. Your experience won’t translate, even if you worked on multiple seasons of GREY’S ANATOMY. In this scenario, you’ll need to go back to school -- which means your resume should open with education, even if you graduated from college years ago. Even for roles with fewer prerequisites than nursing, your resume should clearly explain your current interest so the hiring manager doesn’t think you applied by mistake. Consider drafting a professional summary indicating your interest in the switch (“Media professional with 10+ years of experience seeking transition to hospitality management.”) and craft your bullet points to explain the elements of your previous roles that are relevant to the job at hand. Similarly, if you’re looking to break into entertainment from a totally different field, consider taking courses in the area of the industry you’re looking to break into, joining a professional organization (like JHRTS), and highlighting relevant skills on your resume. If there are any roles in the new field that are more similar to what you’ve been doing (whether you’re transitioning into or out of entertainment) even if they aren’t your dream role, it may make more sense for you to move to a similar role in the new field and then to a different role in the new field (ie marketing executive at footwear company → marketing executive at TV network → development executive at TV network) than for you to start at the bottom, but that’s a personal decision based on how happy you’d be if the ultimate dream job didn’t pan out, how much time you’re willing to invest, and how much money you need to make.
The biggest thing to keep in mind when going through a career transition is that everyone does it at some point, and you’re not alone. Hiring managers have seen it all before, and if you tell your story well through your resume and cover letter, build a strong network of people who can champion you, and develop a strong set of skills, you don’t have to be stuck in a career you’ve outgrown. And if you know you want to transition to a new role but don’t know where to start exploring, consider our career coaching services.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan