How to Beat Everyone Else Looking for Entertainment Jobs

competing for entertainment jobs

Your competition for entertainment jobs grows this time of year

At the end of each school year approximately 3,695,000 people will graduate with an advanced degree and, in theory, enter the workforce.

The majority (1.8 million) will have a bachelor’s degree in tow and begin applying for jobs – prepared to share their internship stories, shiny GPA and discuss the collegiate clubs they sat on the board for.

If you are one of those almost 3.7 million people – or worse yet – have been in the market for a job and now have to deal with 3.7 million more competitors, ask yourself…what makes you so special?

Did you just get a lump in your throat? Reality just smack you in the face like a 2×4?

This isn’t meant to scare you, it’s meant to enlighten you that getting a good job isn’t easy and it takes more than a sheet of paper covered in fancy calligraphy that your parents plan on framing for you.

Step 1: Breathe – you aren’t actually competing with 3.7 million people, many of them will want to be something you don’t. But you are completing with many, many others, so follow the rest of these steps to start making the choices that will make a difference.

1: Forget Your Dream Job (For Now)

You just graduated and we’re already advising you to give up on your dreams – what a sham!

Slow down sparky.

Hold onto that dream, matter of fact hold on to it tight, because in the initial stages of your career you are going to be nowhere close to it.

“For anyone looking to land entertainment jobs or really jobs in any industry, I would say my number one piece of advice is that you cannot be picky,” says Angela Deeb account executive for the Cal Athletic department.

“You have to start somewhere. Anywhere that is offered to you is an opportunity to get your foot in the door. Almost every single manager, director, or CEO I have met started as an intern and took the first job in the industry that was offered to them.”

Your dream will come if you work at it, but when you are first starting out, just get in.

Actionable advice: Use the resources available at your collegiate career services center to better understand typical career paths.

For example, if your dream job is to be a TV Reporter, you may discover the best path is to start out as a production assistant, then advance to an associate producer. Now you know where to search for jobs that get you on the right path.

BUT, if you get offered a job in the sales department of a TV station, TAKE IT!

entertainment jobs in sales

2: Don’t Let Networking Get You Down

I am the world’s worst networker. I hate it. Small talk with random people all seeking to use one another to get ahead makes me feel like vomiting on myself.

I have NEVER gotten a job because of networking.

I know, I know, it’s one of the pillars of the job search and everyone who is anyone has written an article on it (me included). It’s important, but it’s not everything.

entertainment jobs networking

I get it, networking is important – it still makes me want to vomit on myself

Lucky me, I was hired at CNN right out of college without knowing anyone in the entire state of Georgia. And then I was hired to run the production department for Fox Sports Northwest, despite never stepping foot in the state of Washington.

Why did I get hired? I had a skill they needed and a built a reputation that spoke for itself.

Skills trump network effect – every single time.  (Well, except for blatant nepotism or politics).

Actionable Advice: Work to build your network, contrary to my point above it will help you, but don’t lose interest in an opportunity because you don’t have any connections at the company.

We’ve all been beaten over the head with the mantra, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” I hate that quote. It’s a combination of things that leads to success, if you know people but don’t know how to do anything, that’s completely useless.

Apply for jobs that interest you at companies with growth potential and always work on developing your skills. Skills stand out on resumes and get pinged by applicant tracking systems.

3: It’s Never Too Early to Find a Mentor (or Three)

While in college I never wanted to ask anyone for anything because I always thought I was a bother. After being in the workforce for some time, I realized I liked being asked for help, or for advice, and most other people on my level did too.

That is the disconnect between youth and experience.

Mentors could be the most valuable, and underutilized, tool of employment. Entering the job search without a mentor is like trying to put something together when the instructions are in a foreign language.

A good mentor is your instruction booklet, in the right language.

How do you find a mentor and develop a relationship? Start with your professors.

Study their bio and see what they did in their pre-classroom career. They want to help; it makes them look good if their students are successful, and they didn’t get into teaching for the money – more likely, they have a real, live, beating heart that actually cares.

entertainment jobs mentor wanted

I think she’ll find one (Photo Courtesy: © Royalty-Free/Corbis)

Actionable Advice: Professors are a great place to start, but another method is checking your parent’s network, they have been at this longer than you and might know someone, or know someone who knows someone, in your field of dreams.

Informational interviews are another way to start building a relationship with someone in your field.

I had a guest speaker from a local TV network come to one of my classes while in college – in my one move of ‘out-of-my-comfort-zone’ strength, I reached out and asked to take them to lunch and discuss the future of the industry in greater detail. It worked. I learned a ton and found a mentor.

Most mentors are inspired by motivated mentees. If you are serious and don’t waste their time, it will be easy for them to help you.

4: Take the Extra Step

I don’t like mass emails. I understand their goal of efficiency, but to me it forms a barrier between you and your target, an obvious signal that you are just a number rather than a person.

Where I can, I try to customize every single interaction I have with our membership – it takes more time, but to me it’s worth it.

The same goes for your approach to entertainment jobs – there is no one size fits all, just change the name and send it in, cover letter and resume.

Take the extra step.

Research the target company, reference something they have done, share an industry statistic, DO SOMETHING THAT SHOWS YOU ARE PAYING ATTENTION.

I have seen thousands of resumes (just writing that sentence made me want to yawn) and I can count the number of cover letters and resumes that stood out on one hand. Don’t be memorable for the pink paper and silly font you used – be memorable for the research you did to prepare for this opportunity.

Actionable advice: Set up Google alerts for companies that interest you and track what they are doing. Now, when an opportunity comes up you can cite specific things you have learned about them, how they are moving forward and how you can be a part of it.

Also, consider getting subscriptions to trade magazines, even if your particular target company isn’t mentioned, you can keep up with macro-level news from the industry.

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.

Comments

  1. perhaps help you or friends to read

  2. This was one of the best written articles on future employment for college graduates I’ve read this far. I’m glad I found this website, via a blog by TAPA(the anonymous production assistant). I currently work as a PA for a small local tv station and though I’m part time, I sometimes stay late and come in early just to practice on my craft so that I am more qualified than I was when I first started this job. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to do some of the things you mentioned (I.e, network, reach out to potential mentors) but no time like the present right? Very inspirational, thank you for writing this.

    • Ree! Thanks you just made my day – and by the way we love TAPA, fantastic site, nice people, well informed. We’re trying really hard to provide honest career advice so keep checking back in! – Brian

  3. Brian, great piece. What about ageism. I did criminal trials for 19 years and I never really grew up. I.m willing to start as an intern, in great shape, young looking, but even if I say all the right things and work hard can I start in the industry at 48? Thanks
    Jason

    • It’s a good question Jason – my instinct says if you have the skills that are needed people will hire you. If you are just another person looking to break in, there is a good chance employers will choose the person they think has more growth potential. My advice – make yourself stand out by knowing what employers need and mastering it, don’t be a generalist, be a specialist. – Brian

  4. Walter Seward says:

    I enjoyed reading this, I graduate next month and I am hard at work applying for jobs. No bites yet, I will take what I have read here and apply this to my resume and cover letters, as well as keep up with the hard work. Thank you for this info!

  5. Hi Brian I am Currently working in the Indian television industry as an Associate producer.. What should be my approach if I want to work In the American television industry? Should I take a production course first and what are my prospects after having an experience of working for 6 reality shows. Thanks

Trackbacks

  1. […] point of this scenario is you have a different set of rules in the entertainment industry, so the myths and legends you hear from friends on their typical career paths do not apply to […]

  2. […] times are gone when you could send a generic resume with a cover letter to all your potential employers. Today, you need to modify your resume as per the requirements of a […]

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