It’s easy to feel helpless in a job search.
You don’t get much feedback, heck you might not even get many interviews, and before you know it you start believing that your true goal is unattainable, your college education was just an accumulation of bills and that you’ll never get the break you think you deserve.
I’ve been there.
I graduated from college without a job waiting for me. I sent out resume after resume, made call after call and eventually ran out of money without a job or even a warm lead.
Worried, scared and a bit disgusted with myself, I headed for the comfortable confines of my parents house and began working at the local mall. Just as I started settling into a “this is your life” malaise – the phone rang and CNN was on the line. My story re-wrote itself in a matter of days. Days I started to doubt would ever come.
Before you lose hope, execute on these ideas I’ve laid out for you. They work.
Getting entertainment jobs has changed since my graduation date in 1996, there are more avenues to promote yourself, build your network from scratch and make yourself hard to ignore in the interview process. Here are four of them.
Begin With The End In Mind
It sounds like something Yoda might say, but in truth it’s a very straight-forward and useful concept.
At the early stages of any career it’s important to have a career plan, a vision for where you want your employment journey to traverse. Of course, it will change along your winding road, but having a plan lets you work backward from the end and discover the steps necessary to get there.
Imagine your dream is to be an executive producer of a television show, we’ll you aren’t going to start there after college, but if you know that is “the end” you have in mind, you can create a plan right from the beginning.
Here’s how a career plan could develop:
“Having a plan of where you want to be tells me you are committed to your career, committed to making something of your experience and in the end dedicated to doing the best you can to get there,” says Paul Fruitman, Director of Ticket Sales for the Edmonton Eskimos.
‘Being focused on a goal means you will hold yourself accountable for what you have to achieve day in and day out.”
Build a Digital Portfolio
I hear it all the time – “how am I supposed to make a name for myself when I don’t really know anyone in the industry?”
Some people are lucky enough to grow up in a film family, or have a cousin in television, but that is not the only way to make yourself known. Whether you are changing careers or just getting started in one, you can be in control of who you get to know by doing something very simple – building a website.
This website isn’t about traffic, monetization or sharing with the world what you had for lunch – this is about making connections and being industry relevant.
Here’s how to do it:
Begin by reaching out to entertainment industry folks you think would be insightful and request to interview them for your site. If you ask correctly, I bet your response return will be above 60%. That’s not bad.
Here’s the basic template for how I ask, but remember no two requests are the same because I personalize each as best I can:
I have a pretty simple request – can I interview you?
My name is Brian Clapp, I am the Director of Content for WorkinEntertaiment.com, formerly a TV producer at CNN and News Director at Fox Sports Northwest. I’ve read many of your articles in RadioInk and know that your perspective on managing talent in both TV & Radio would be great for our audience. We try to help people find entertainment jobs and I know your advice and experience will help them achieve their goals.
I promise it will be painless – I’ll email over a few questions, you just have to respond back. Please let me know if you are interested.
Now comes the fun part – make sure your questions are tantalizing, insightful, show passion, well researched and speak to your credibility and industry knowledge
Since you have started a dialogue with them and provided these great questions that allow them to share their expertise, its time to make this worth your time and effort.
DO NOT ask for a job, instead ask for advice.
Say something like, “I love running my website, but my true passion is to work in music promotions like you, I have my degree in business with a minor in music – do you have any recommendations of how I can break into the industry?”
In one sentence, you have let them know:
You haven’t put them in the awkward position of feeling like the interview request came with strings attached, because you’re only asking for their professional advice, not an endorsement.
The idea here is to start building deep connections for entertainment jobs in your industry. In a way you’re building mentor-like relationships which are incredibly valuable.
If it sounds daunting to start a website, just remember anything worth doing is going to take some effort and once you do it you’ll be able to add digital skills to your resume.
Critique your Interview Technique
If you are getting interviews but no job offers it’s time to critique your technique.
Sometimes being completely honest, or overselling your soft skills can hurt you in the process, despite it feeling like the right thing to say.
Let’s start with being overly honest – a common interview question that many fall prey to is being asked to ‘explain your greatest weakness’. If you are being completely honest you may say something like – “I get extremely agitated when I don’t think co-workers are working as hard as I do.”
You may think you’ve subtly shown how hard of a worker you are, but the hiring manager will probably interpret it differently; possibly thinking you are emotionally unstable, disruptive or a know-it-all.
Sorry it’s true.
The key component of any interview question is to balance honesty with solutions. A solid answer for this question would be more along these lines:
“I take a great deal of pride in my work, and strive to be the best I can. At times I can get frustrated with others around me if I feel they aren’t trying, but that’s where my leadership skills come into play. I feel I do a good job of turning my frustrating into a scenario where I can help others around me to achieve greater results.”
Notice you have answered the question, but also redirected towards a positive attribute.
Lets move on to soft skills – one of my greatest frustrations as an interviewer is being told, “I just want to come in and work really hard” or “ I just want to learn everything there is to know”. My internal voice is actively translating your words into, “By hiring you, I’m doing you a favor, and maybe, just maybe after months of training, money and time you’ll be able to help our organization, but chances are you never will.”
Getting hired for entertainment jobs often means you are being chosen based primarily on potential, but if someone else has sold me on the skills they have and how they can assist our organization, that person is more likely to stand out than the person who tells me they “have a great work ethic”.
The goal in a job interview is to prove you have the skill and the will to improve the place you are interviewing. It’s not about how the business will help you, it’s about how you will help the business.
If you don’t make that clear in your interview, it’s no wonder you are missing opportunities.
Internships are the absolute best manner to start gaining experience and building a network, but internships are usually only available if you are getting college credits – what if that isn’t an option? Or what if you want to do more than just an internship or two?
Job shadowing is a technique that can increase your knowledge, build a network and expose you to real-life work environments. The good news is, it’s also a small time commitment for the person you are shadowing, so that makes people more likely to accept your request.
Let’s say you wanted a career as a brand manager in radio, here’s how you might go about getting a job shadow:
Step 1: Research local radio stations that broadcast in a format you are interested in. Find out who their brand manager or program director is and a little about their background.
Step 2: Craft a short and to the point email explaining why you want to job shadow, here’s an example:
Hi my name is (insert name), I’m currently studying broadcast journalism at (insert school) and have long admired the work done at (insert station name). I’d really appreciate an opportunity to job shadow you and learn more about what a day in radio programming is really like – it would really help me in my career growth and development.
Please let me know if this would be possible, I promise not to be intrusive.
I appreciate your response.
Step 3: Do not send out a request to every radio station in town at once. Be selective, pick a person, wait three days for a response, if you don’t get one try a singular follow up. If still nothing move on to the next person.
Go into the job shadow with a plan. Research the station, the persons background, their career experience and the common skills necessary for their job. Build out questions before-hand but don’t be locked into them, go with the flow.
Pay attention to what is going on throughout the day and ask intelligent questions related to what is happening. Think of clarifying questions like, “I notice that your sales meeting stressed long-term objectives, how do you balance long and short term team goals?”
It shows you are paying attention and interested in the details. This person will be impressed.
These aren’t magic bullets, you need to do the work and continue to forge these relationships and skills. Connect on Linkedin, follow up every once in a while and avoid just asking, “do you have a job for me?!”
Ask anyone about getting hired for entertainment jobs and they’ll tell you the most important steps are having a plan, learning necessary job skills and building a network.
If you execute on these tips you’ll make yourself much more marketable and build up your name. Every chance you have to engage with someone in the entertainment industry is another chance to show your professional self. If you are prepared, carry yourself with confidence and exude fearlessness, all of these people you connect with will be more comfortable recommending you when an opportunity arises.
This content was originally published here.