Do you find yourself looking at job postings and wondering if you’re good enough to apply? Or scrutinizing every last detail of your resume to the point that you hesitate to send it out? Have you found yourself taking poll after poll of your friends and family to get their take on what you should do and how you should portray yourself, only to second guess your instincts every time you hear competing advice?
If any of these sound like you, you’re overthinking your job search, and that’s not going to serve you well. Take a deep breath. It’s time to refocus so you can get out of this thought trap.
First, take stock of yourself and your career. Without considering any specific position, take a moment to outline what you’re good at and what you like to do. You may want to write in a journal, speak out loud, talk to someone you trust (a friend, family member, coach, or therapist), or simply think. When your inner critic pipes up with a negative thought (“I’m really good at editing...but I don’t have any streaming credits, so why would Netflix hire me?”), do your best to silence it, either by reminding yourself that this inner critic is imaginary, or by acknowledging it, and asking it to please stop interrupting your train of thought.
Once you have a strong sense of what you enjoy and what you bring to the table, you can look at job postings. Read them carefully, and assess objectively if you’re qualified. With a recent rundown of your skills fresh in your mind, you’ll be able to look at a posting and answer honestly if you meet the most important qualifications (those that are listed at the top or frequently throughout the posting). If you can do most of the required tasks (and it’s okay if you don’t meet the qualifications exactly -- 4 years of experience for a role that calls for 5 isn’t going to matter if you can realistically do the job), you should apply!
Onto your resume. Obviously, we believe resumes are crucial to your job search. But they aren’t the be all and end all of the process! There’s no such thing as a perfect resume, because a resume is about YOU and YOUR STORY, and human beings aren’t perfect. Your goal with your resume is to convey to the hiring manager what you just conveyed to yourself: that you’ve read the job posting and have enough skills and passion to do the job as listed. Remember that the hiring manager is skimming hundreds of resumes (Keyword: skimming. Not reading every single word like a lawyer reads a contract.), and she’ll prioritize resumes that are easy to read from a formatting perspective, clear, and relevant to the job posting. She’s also a human being with her own opinions and biases, and there’s no way you can anticipate what those will be.
Which brings us to our next point...the peanut gallery. The more people you ask for feedback, the more opinions you’ll get, and that will lead you to...confusion. Maybe your friend got hired at Netflix with a particular resume format, so you’re inclined to copy theirs. But that’s no guarantee you’ll get in at Netflix! Your friend could have applied for a different level of role, a different department, at a time when a different person was working in HR, with a different career trajectory from you, and different referrals. Or maybe your friend tells you a horror story about the time they were rejected from a job for not including their college start date. That’s likely a story about one hiring manager with a very particular set of rules (most people leave their graduation years off altogether), so you can't base your entire job search of one friend's anecdote. The truth is, the only opinions that matter are those of the hiring team -- and if you know them intimately enough to know their particular opinions, it’ll be your relationship, not your resume, that gets you in for an interview. Without that relationship, the best thing you can do is align your resume to the job posting.
If you’re a true overthinker, and the job search hasn't been going well, you’re probably internally screaming about applicant tracking systems (ATS). WHAT ABOUT THE ROBOTS?!?! Our Hollywood imaginations can make it seem it like AI is taking over and out to destroy us when we’re most vulnerable (i.e. job searching), but that’s not the case. ATS is a type of software that reads resumes and helps recruiters manage an influx of job candidates. There are more than 60 prevalent versions of ATS, and you’ll have no real way of knowing which one a given employer uses, if any, and they’re customizable to suit the employer’s needs. The ATS is there to scan for keywords, so if you’re qualified for the job and wrote a resume that relies on plain text (not graphics) and uses verbiage from the job posting, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Plus, it’s always better to stand out from the crowd by getting your resume into the hands of a person directly by using your network. Which is something you’ll be able to do more of when you stop overthinking the job search!
To recap: Apply for jobs that you are interested in and capable of, share your unique story, and show hiring managers how your experience aligns with what you think they are looking for based on the job posting. And that's all you really need to worry about. Stay focused on the big picture -- no one cares if the name on your resume is in black or green or blue -- and you'll have a lot more time to put toward the more important parts of the job search
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
In the best of times, it’s easy to get frustrated with work -- and with all the ways work and life have changed since COVID, burnout is all the more persistent. Even if your office is one of the few that got everything right, a lot has happened that may have changed your professional outlook. Maybe all the headlines about the hot job market and/or the swell of job resignations has got you thinking you should just throw in the towel. And maybe that's the right path for you! But you may not be able to quit just yet, whether it's because your dream company doesn't have any openings, you don't have the financial security, your professional network isn't built up yet, or any other perfectly valid reason. If you have to pay the bills, you’re going to have to stick it out for some unknown period of time.
This point in your life is going to be tough -- we're not going to pretend otherwise. It may be beneficial to lean into self-care, including consulting a mental health professional if appropriate. But there are a few practical ways you can alleviate burnout right now -- things like making your company work for you, not the other way around. As long as you’re going to be stuck at a company, you should be doing things that will benefit you while you’re there! Here are a few strategies to help you approach your day and stay afloat when you’re totally over it.
Create new relationships. It's cliché because it's true: Relationships are everything in Hollywood. The more people you know, the more successful you’ll be. At the same time, every company depends on various partnerships to keep its business running -- finding a distributor for a movie, hiring a director to bring a script to life, utilizing a new advertising platform…the list goes on. This is great news for you, as it gives you an excuse to network while being a huge value-add to your team! In the short term, you might bring in a partner that helps your current company, and that can lead to internal boosts like a promotion or more interesting projects. More importantly, these connections will also be part of your network down the line. They may help you find a job, and they could be key players in your success at future companies. For example, if you’re a development executive, and you take a bunch of general meetings with writers, you’re adding to your roster, and you’ll be able to contact these writers when you’re at your next gig and have an opportunity for them. Even better, your new boss will be impressed by the breadth of your network. You can also create new relationships within your office -- most employers love it when their employees work with other departments to create synergy, and these co-workers will likely become your friends over time. Prioritize relationships above all. There’s usually something on your to-do list that will require meeting someone new -- check that one off first.
Focus on your professional development. If you’re burned out at work, you probably feel like you’re wasting time. A great way to combat that feeling is to learn something new! Volunteer to lead a new research project. Take advantage of any professional development opportunities your company offers or enroll in a course. Watch YouTube videos to learn the ins and outs of PowerPoint and Excel and wow your team with your improved skills. Read and watch content that interests you as potential source material. Attend (or volunteer to speak at) a conference. The key is to identify an area you've always wanted to learn more about and go for it! Not only will this help curb your boredom, but you'll likely develop expertise that will benefit you in your career long-term.
Do the job you were hired to do. Think about the job you were hired to do -- literally, the job description you’re getting paid for. Is that the job you’ve been doing, or are you completing assignments above your pay grade? Most of us operate with an “I need to earn a promotion” mentality -- we want to impress our supervisors in hopes that it will pay off in the long run. But if you’re in a dead-end job, the extra work is not going to pay off, and even if you think a promotion could be your ticket out of burnout-land, the relationships and skills you cultivate from the first two tips have you covered in that area! Don’t stress yourself out trying to be an overachiever for someone else. Your boss can’t fault you for getting what’s expected of you done. Do the job you signed up for, nothing less, nothing more. You’ll have more mental energy (and potentially after-hours time) for other things. Which brings us to our last point...
Lean in to your personal life. If you’re unhappy at work, try to balance that with happiness in other areas of your life. Spend time with friends and family. Keep up with your favorite hobbies. Volunteer for a cause that's meaningful to you. Give yourself something to look forward to after work each day -- if you're really deep into your burnout, it might be helpful to keep a written list of something you do each day that brings you personal joy or to have an accountability buddy you can swap "happy thoughts" with (we've done this!). When someone asks you what’s new, answer them with something that has nothing to do with work. It's easy to get wrapped up in our careers when we're pursuing Hollywood dreams, but at the end of the day, you only get one life, and your work should support it, not detract from it. Plus, you won't have any great stories to share with the world if your life experience consists of work emails, Zoom meetings, and a mile-high pile of scripts. As much as you can, avoid checking work emails after hours, on weekends, or on vacation. Your team isn't your family. No one's life is on the line if you respond to an email at 9am instead of 2am. Any company that can burn you out is a company that will put their bottom line above your well-being -- so if it would be a "business decision" for them to lay you off in a restructure, you don't owe them your personal time. Plus, studies continually show that people perform better at work when they're happier -- so your boss is benefitting from that trip you take to Cabo!
We're not suggesting that you should ditch all your responsibilities (you don’t want to get fired for cause!). But there are plenty of ways you can reframe your job to be mutually beneficial, and you should channel your energy into those endeavors. And always remember that your own mental health should come first. Your work situation will eventually change, and in the meantime, there’s a lot you can do to make life a little more pleasant.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
The best way to get your resume from the bottom of the stack into the "must interview" pile is to highlight the right skills the hiring manager is looking for. While there's no one-size-fits-all resume that will work for all roles within the entertainment industry, there are some skills that many Hollywood jobs require, regardless of the position. You should always match your resume to the job posting to make sure you're reflecting the appropriate skills and verbiage, but there are a few basic elements you'll likely want to include on your resume in some form or another, and these differ based on your experience level. Here's a breakdown of what you should highlight at various stages of your Hollywood career:
For an intern, most hiring managers want someone who is smart, reliable, and eager to learn, and this can be conveyed in many different ways on a resume. But once you’re ready for an assistant position, your resume needs to change -- there are some very specific skills that should be on your resume if you want to get an interview. In particular, administrative duties like answering phones and scheduling must be included. Although they seem like menial and easy tasks, they will be the core of your job as an assistant, and your potential boss will want to know he's going to be covered if he hires you. It’s all about proving that you know how to manage a desk. If you’re going for PA roles, phones won’t matter as much, but ordering lunches, going on runs, and setting up equipment are going to be important. There’s a good chance you’ve acquired those skills during college or an internship – don’t leave them off. Even if you've developed more advanced skills through campus leadership, other work experience, or student film productions, make sure the primary focus is on your ability to handle administrative duties and organizational tasks, so your boss knows you'll be committed to the job at hand and not immediately looking to jump into a higher-level role.
Obviously, mid-level roles are a lot more varied and specific than entry-level roles, but there are a few things to pinpoint that pretty much all hiring managers will want to see. The main ones fall under the category of communication skills – showing your ability to cultivate relationships and manage projects by interfacing with a wide range of stakeholders is key. You'll also want to highlight the moments when you took initiative and your achievements. Make sure you call out the big projects you've worked on (or better, led), clients you've brought on, shows you've sold, or workflows you've implemented to provide evidence of your successes. To land those mid-level jobs, show that you will be able to keep projects running smoothly but will also bring added value to the company.
If you’re looking for VP and department head positions, our advice for mid-level jobs still applies, but on top of that, you’ve got to prove your management and leadership skills. Part of that is supervising teams – often, you’ll develop those skills in mid-level roles, but now is the time to show that you have mastered it. But beyond people management, you have to think about cultivating and implementing the overall vision for the department, project, or company. What projects in your past have forced you to think strategically and from a big-picture POV? You’ll also need to note if you’ve managed budgets, since most senior-level roles involve managing project budgets, salaries, and vendor contracts. As long as you aren’t breaking confidentiality agreements, it can be good to reference budget ranges on your resume when they are relevant to the job you are applying for. Additionally, senior leaders are often the face of the company during both internal meetings and externally. If you have a way to showcase public speaking skills or that you’ve represented your company at pitch meetings with high level buyers, these are good things to include on your resume.
Please note that this is simply a general guide to get you thinking about what types of things might go on your resume -- it's up to you to get specific and tailor the resume to the posting at hand. And remember, it's impossible to encapsulate the entirety of your career on a one or two page resume, so it's best to highlight the skills that are going to be valued most. Then, when you’re ready to level up, you’ll need to overhaul your resume again – for instance, you'll want to lose the assistant skills on your mid-level resume and likely remove those work experiences altogether for your senior-level resume. Think of your resume as a working document that will change frequently to help you get the specific job you’re applying for, and you'll get hired soon enough!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Now that remote work is the new norm, it might be tempting to expand your job search beyond your geographic location -- especially if you've been searching for a while to no avail. What would happen, you wonder, if you apply for a job somewhere else?
If the posting is clear that the company is open to remote work, go for it! Similarly, if you know the company has a hybrid schedule and isn't based too far away for you to make it into the office from time to time (think: you're willing to fly to San Jose from LA a couple of times a month, or commute from NYC to Philly twice a week), there's no harm in applying!
However, if the posting doesn't mention remote work or flex schedules -- and especially if the nature of the job would make remote work nearly impossible (i.e. facilities manager) -- you have to consider whether you're willing to relocate for the role. If you are, make it clear in your application that that's the case. If you can clarify for employers that you have a connection to the area -- returning to your hometown, for example. If you’re planning a move regardless of getting a job, even better.
But if you’re not actually considering relocating, it's most likely a waste of time to apply for an in-person job that’s outside of your city! All too often, we see cover letters that say something along the lines of, “Your company sounds interesting, and if you ever have openings in my city, please keep me in mind." But hiring managers have a job to do -- fill the current opening. They aren’t going to remember you down the line if an opportunity does come up in your area. And if they don’t have an office in your area, it’s really unlikely they’re going to have an opportunity for you! They're also probably not going to reconfigure the role for you to be remote, unless they're actively recruiting you, or you know someone at the company who can champion you. Applying blindly and expecting the position to change because your resume is just. so. awesome. is only going to lead to disappointment.
You’re much better off focusing your job search on actionable opportunities. Meet as many people as you can in your area who are hiring in your field -- consider joining the local chapter of a professional association or networking group. Set informational interviews with local companies. If you’re looking for production roles in a smaller market, try to join Facebook groups for people who hire crews and make your location known. Call your local film permit office to see what productions are filming in your area and cold call those production offices. If you spend your time networking and pounding the pavement in a directed way, you’ll have much more success than if you send off a resume to a job you absolutely can’t get.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan