|Somewhere out there, someone can change your career for the better with the stroke of a pen..believe it.|
Hello readers & visitors! Karl here, with a post for people in the media industry - whether you're currently employed or looking, I can definitely speak to both states of being and there's a lot of frustration out there. I hear it a lot from friends and associates alike and if I can be of any help with some of these suggestions, all the better.
Media is a vast and sprawling industry that's changing all the time. It doesn't always follow other market trends. For example, job losses can be down across the board nationally yet Los Angeles and New York (as indicators, I know we're not the only markets on earth!) are on hiring sprees. Conversely, there can be an upsurge in hiring in other sectors while the media sector is shedding jobs and the river thins temporarily with reasons ranging from, but not limited to, box office losses, management changes, mergers/acquisitions or mimetic power of suggestion ( 'Disney laid off 10 people in international, so maybe we should too!').
You also know that the media sector job pool is smaller and specialized, it's either a hot mess or it's boom times. But you knew that and since you do, here's some advice, if you want it, for both the seeker and the currently employed, on a few topics that come up the most in my experience.
There's no jobs!
That's bullshit. So get it out of your head. Today.There aren't enough jobs, this is true. People are hurting and it's plainly visible and sad. You know this. But this is your job search.
I spent months looking for work- and aren't we always in some state of looking or looking to expand professionally? - and you can't become defeated or demoralized by every unemployment statistic, home page banner story on the worst/best day Wall Street has had or every foreclosure/depleted 401k/tent city article you see. Of course you're sympathetic and empathetic about these truths. Right now, you're looking for a job. You can read or watch the news later. Otherwise you'll feel like 'what's the effin' point?' and that's not going to work for you in any long-term motivational sense. I learned more about the stock market when I was job hunting than ever. Except I didn't need a stockbroker's job, so focus on your search and the 6 W's:
1) Who you are professionally? Starting, intermediate, advanced - no shame, this is you. Rock it.
2) What areas you're looking to work in? What can you contribute? What do you want to contribute?
3) Why do you want to do this work and why 'they' (employers) should care (because you kick-ass, right?!). This becomes your own internal mission statement on a dime and it flows.
4) Where do you want to go and where do you want to start this time? Is this a gig just to stop financial loss or is it something you want long-term? Either answer is fine, there are jobs suited for both - just keep it as close to your industry as possible, even if it's on the edge with bacon skates. In my 20s I had jobs that just eked an antennae into the entertainment realm. Sometimes chefs have to be waiters for a minute - at least you're in the damn restaurant..so to speak! You'll transition just the same and any discipline is good discipline. It doesn't have to be forever and if the gig sucks, you'll know what not to do when you can make those kinds of calls yourself.
5) When are you ready? If you're ready now, then focus on your wish list of employers, areas of expertise and set a job search and application schedule for yourself. Are you going to look for 5 hours a day or 2? Are you going to train or refresh some skills? Do you need to save to buy a suit or do you want to go rogue and present business casual? Need some dental work while you still have COBRA? Get started and stick to it. Be ready to go and ready to present the best of yourself, the stuff that matters. Don't worry about the garnish and the trivial.
A job search doesn't have to be fraught with mental frenzy, so stay calm. I chipped a tooth- a front tooth- damn near in half right when my COBRA ended several years ago. It was either payment plan or super glue (careful with that stuff!). I got if fixed but it was a ca$h hit when I least expected it and more than a few of my first-edition books I loved went up on Amazon (for others to love...and buy). Keep pushin'! I learned Power Point and some advanced Excel and hoped I wouldn't need it. Stay fresh and as prepared as you can. And if you chip your tooth the day before the interview, smile carefully and fix it as soon as you can! Mistakes happen more when you panic.
6) Which methods do you want to use for your job search? Some people go strictly through people they know to see who's hiring. That method is somewhat rarefied as a strict job search, so for most of us it's a combination of who you know where hiring is happening and job search engines/boards/job lists.
Do you want to pay for paywalled job listings or sign up for alerts through different job search engines i.e. Simply Hired or Indeed.com? Corporate websites have career opportunity tabs. Whether you're going for temp work or permanent employment, I recommend also submitting your resume to their dedicated e-mail address. If it's not on the site, it takes one call to ask if they're currently accepting resume submissions. If you got an awesome severance, a headhunter or recruiter might be an option. Research which methods will work best for you.
The media/entertainment industry sucks!
Well, sometimes it does but it's still an incredibly rewarding and amazing industry with a reach still untold. It's a content and product-driven industry. Same popcorn, different boxes and that's just part of the fun of it. Love the good things and tune out the bullshit.
Entertainment/media = cyclical. Honchos come and go. Regimes come and go. People move up. People move out. Again, this is about you and your place in it. If you're sweating the trappings, i.e. the bad-ass car, the swag, etc., then strap that on your back too. Nothing wrong with it but when you love what you do, the rest will come. Keep it about the work and what you can offer in a way that few others can.
Yes, a lot has changed and I lament a lot of those changes for people coming into it, especially interns doing assistant jobs for a pittance or no pay with no incentive to stay in a crazy business after being rode hard n' put up wet. It wasn't that long ago - Halloween 2007 - when the last writers strike hit. The strike changed a lot of things and burned a lot of crops. There was a ripple effect - the studios lost people, creative talent was force majeure-d into temporary unemployment or oblivion. It was a standoff and either side you were for, as well as the ancillary sectors took major losses in jobs, finance, morale and traditional inroads to the business.
Then came the 2008 recession (officially) and all hell broke loose. It's tough. It's reality. People moved away, moved back home, back into their parents' homes and worse. Some will be back, some are gone for good.
But has it ever been easy to maintain a career in this industry? Not really. You need to be creative whether you're rolling calls or running a division. When one's break comes, you're still not done. You have to maintain your 'role' and grow with it. It's always been about who you know, more rejections than approvals, keeping your focus and communication. Sometimes it takes time....a long time. Delays aren't denials.
Stick with it and refuse to be flushed out. I was laid-off in a very public way - Nikki Finke reported it on Deadline Hollywood Daily - and she was nice, which helped. My voice mail turned over three times and that was before I even made it home. I wasn't laid off for cause but it was still back to the drawing board. Again, you (and your Higher Power or God, in my case) are the authors of your trajectory. It hurt, it sucked but there's more than one rodeo in town and there's a lot of companies that want good people. Maybe because of how intense the path is to a career in the industry is what makes it that much sweeter when it all works and you arrive, for the first of many times. The industry is crazy, knows it and the fortitude it takes to stay in it and to love what you do is what makes the industry not suck. Today's corporate terror still has to stand in line at LAX or JFK with the rest of us in due time. Trust me!
How is my resume?
I'll keep this short. You need a resume. Don't get caught up in the SEO of it all, imagining that every application you send online is being filtered by a Search Term Oz in The Sky. SEO madness is overkill and sheepy. Keep your resume to one or two pages, max. Keep the font readable and error free - small type and typos are the real resume killers. If you're doing your resume yourself let a couple of trusted people see it for feedback, keep the format neat and present yourself and your contributions/expertise. The interview is the face-time you need to connect the paper to a person, People spend weeks toying with resumes without one submission = wasting time. You can always revise.
I'll keep this short, too. I say whatever works for you, do it. In my case, when I was looking for work, it was at the peak (thus far) of the recession and there was just not that much practical networking to do. I didn't have time for a lot of 'lunches' because I was looking for my next job. Lunches are great but they're mounting business expenses when they're one after the other and more about people seeing if you're okay as opposed to leads or real talk. Most people I knew in the publishing industry were sincerely trying to keep their own jobs. None if it was their fault in an unsure market with fidgety hiring managers. Still, there are always surprises that can happen - a publicist I'd worked with for years and admire heard I was in between jobs and gave me gratis inclusion in his college course. I was 38 years old and in college ...again.... but it was amazing. I'd worked with all the guest lecturers and it was a rewarding experience I'll always be thankful for.
Perhaps your scenario is different and I'm sure mine would be different three years later, so definitely reach out to people you've worked with or worked for that know your skills and professional value. I have definitely forwarded resumes and done what I can -many people can do the same. For those who can't, keep the friendship or colleague connection and don't sweat the leads. Chances are that you got your last gig on your own and you can do it again.
For sake of a general term, I'll call it 'social networking' here. Do it! There's finesse to it of course and no one wants to be spammed or marketed ad nauseum in any medium, but the options are virtually endless to create a fuller picture of yourself.
As far as the more formal social mediums, creating a social/virtual thumbprint for yourself is empowering and varied enough to do with the tools you prefer. It's a way to show yourself beyond the resume bullet points and be as three-dimensional as you want to be.
I like LinkedIn - create a full profile and go through your notes and connect with people you've worked with. If you're not working now, I strongly advise you to not list your last job as your current job. I know a lot of people do that because in the media realm you're 'only' as good as your last gig....yadda yadda yadda, their fortunes change too. If someone calls for you at Miramax and you don't work at Miramax anymore, then that's a clusterfu** you do not need. Besides, people can read, they'll be able to see your last gig was at Miramax. I mean, really.
LinkedIn has a job search function and premium features that can help also. For any of the social media forums or sites you're not familiar with, there's usually a '__________ for Dummies' book on Amazon you can buy. If you're job hunting, buy a used copy and dig in. Follow them on Twitter for updates, links and articles
I also like Twitter for finding like-minded professionals, staying on top of trends in the industry by following outlets I trust. There are thousands of experts on social networking on Twitter you can follow who'll go much deeper and specific than I can here. I created a Twitter account probably a good three years behind. I didn't have a whole lot to say there whilst decompressing after 8 years of 70-hour work weeks and job-seeking, but it's absolutely worth it in the expanse and reach you can encompass. I've started very slow - I'm following maybe 100 people and being followed by about the same - it's quality versus quantity in my experience and I actually can read all of their tweets as opposed to 7000, which would be fine in time. It feels organic and I like! (I'm @karlgibson)
Consider a blog or micro-blogging platform you can create that's not limited to the constraints of job searching. This blog came about during my job search - a niche place I could post what I liked for those interested while writing about my experiences in the industry and figuring it out sometimes too along the way.
I was at Warner Bros. in an interview about 3 years ago when an executive I knew very well - and had helped aplenty at The Hollywood Reporter- asked me with a straight face, "So what did you do at The Hollywood Reporter again? You answered phones right?" Ummmm, no @@^^$!!**, but thanks for playing, I thought and said with my eyes. And so a blog was born! No axes to grind, just a place to write and share my experience. There's Storify, Tumblr, Chime.In and countless other options to choose from. Google it! Which brings me to...
I can't recommend this enough. Did you know I found out I was going to be laid-off in 2008 because of a good ol' Google Alert? Well, that's partly true - I first-hand found out when I heard an editor yell in an office, "We're going to lose Karl!?" And I'd set up a Google Alert for The Hollywood Reporter's parent company at the time, Nielsen. The Financial Times posted a story on a fifth round of layoffs in Nielsen's publishing sector the day before in the U.K. and that's the honest way I wasn't blindsided.
Use Google alerts to follow or be alerted to any news you might need for your industry or your job search and set your notifications for 'As they happen' in the drop-down tab when you set your alerts up. I created a Gmail account specifically for Google Alerts and they've been invaluable and opened up many credible sources I'd never have known of in the regular course of a day. If you're job hunting, set up alerts for keywords relating to your industry: you'll stay on top of trends and have talking points you can relate to from your own experience. For writers, you'll also be able to reach out to other writers where appropriate and there are many great writers out there. I set up search terms for everything in my industry that I needed to stay on top of , including things I wanted to learn, i.e. 'free tutorials', 'job search engines', executive moves, etc. Google Alerts are your friend.
Keep the Faith
I think it's human nature to want to call it a day professionally on your own terms, so unless you're retiring for good, keep going forward. If you have been laid-off or cut, then that's an extra set of emotions to deal with beyond the task of getting a new job. This might sound pithy but you have to treat it like any other split or break-up and realize that the odds are, unless you truly did cost yourself the job, it is hardly as personal as you think. I found out years later from the horse's mouth (proverbial, not literal) that my former parent company laid off over 100 people because of benefits (!?). Exactly. How random is that? It wasn't our fault or bad work. But if you'd been walking around feeling like a sullied bohunk for a year, that'd have been worse. And if you have cost yourself your gig, regroup and come back. Hollywood loves those, as do most industries.
I know searching and working gets tiresome and tedious, so keep the faith. Your industry of choice and the work you do for it makes them your employers, not your captors. If you're phoning it in, go somewhere else where you're excited again because phoning it does not last, pisses people off and you never really make that pay scale again once the final curtain gets peeled back. Intention, sincerity and passion for what you do is what sets you apart.
Whatever your belief system is, work your faith in it. Personally, God made a huge difference because if no one knew the particulars or truth of every detail, He did. You do the believing and He does the doing. If you feel like every single step and gain is on your shoulders then you're putting an immense, unbearable amount of pressure on yourself. It's your career. Own it and have fun with it. Lawyers don't cease to be lawyers when in between firms and the same goes for you. Don't compare yourself to how others are doing - I've seen millionaires come and go and the good ones stay in the game. What they all have in common is: it's their ride and they're going to do it their way, whether they build on it or blow it. It's not our call, so if it's unbearable, high-tail it out of there and get ready for your own eventual ride the right way. As with so many of the above-mentioned things, the options are endless. I wish us all well!
Happy Independence Day- literally! - Karl