Dear New Shrink,
I am a college student who will be graduating with a degree in English this May. I would like to work in the entertainment industry but have no idea how to get started. Do you have any advice on what I can do now to get my foot in the door?
Breaking into the industry will take time and dedication. The industry is quite competitive so you will need to be proactive in your search and go the extra mile to get your foot in the door and your resume on the desk of the right person.
Start by determining which aspect of the industry you’re most interested in. What is your work-style like? If you like hands-on work you may enjoy working in set design or physical production. If you prefer an office environment you might explore creative development or talent management. Take time to investigate the various aspects of the industry and tailor your search in that direction. A few areas to explore might include: feature film, TV, animation, music, video games, casting, talent, development, physical production, and theatre. You may also choose to investigate the connected roles like marketing, management, business affairs, publicity, public relations, or new media.
While you may have a long-term career goal in mind, you should know the title of the position you’re interested in applying for today so that you can focus your job search on that particular area. Review job postings and descriptions in entertainment career books. Some of the more typical entry-level positions have titles such as: production assistant, marketing assistant, runner/mailroom clerk (messengers), receptionist/client service representative, etc.
To figure out what fits you best, start by conducting informational interviews. As a student you’ll have a much better chance of securing an informational interview with an industry professional. Check with your career center or alumni association to see if they maintain a list of alumni contacts. You can reach out to those individuals and ask them if it is possible to set up a time to talk further about what they do and how they attained their current role. Some professionals may even be willing to let you shadow them for a day to see the ins and outs of what they do. Learning from people who have been successful in the industry can be just what you need to break in.
Networking is also key to success in the industry, but you don’t need to wait until you are working full-time to start this process. An internship can be the perfect way to get your foot in the door and to learn the key terms, responsibilities, and actions of the industry. Consider contacting the companies you are most interested in to see if they have an internship program. If you know anyone who works in the industry, ask if they know of any openings or if they get the UTA job list which lists a number of full-time and internship opportunities across the field.
Next, be open to any role available to you. Although you may have a college degree, with such stiff competition you may need to start as a runner, mailroom assistant, or personal assistant. Choose an opportunity that will allow you to meet a number of people and do your best in that role. Similarly, do not dismiss a company simply because you haven’t heard of it. There are many highly successful and reputable companies in this business which may be unfamiliar to newcomers.
If you’re looking for another way in, find out which staffing agencies the major studios and talent agencies use to fill temporary vacancies. Call their human resources office and ask if they use a temporary or staffing agency. Then go ahead and register with that staffing agency and note your preference to fill roles with entertainment companies. Proving your abilities on the job will help show you have what it takes to work in that role full-time.
Finally, in order to get the job of your dreams, it is important for you to know what the company is looking for. Review job descriptions and highlight the desired skills to target your resume. Relate what they want to what you have. Highlight the specific qualities listed in the job description and make a list of all the ways you have demonstrated these abilities. Then write the entries on your resume; the goal of your resume is to market yourself and show hiring managers you have what it takes to succeed.
KATRINA DAVY is a Santa Monica-based professional career counselor who holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia Universities. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters! Visit us online at www.newshrink.com.