Friday, January 15, 2010

Answering Reader Mail: Before I Move to LA

MJ recently wrote me and asked, "I want to start on a road similar to the one you started about nine years ago. Move to LA and get a job in the industry. My question to you is is there anything else I can do or should be doing in my time before moving to LA that will make it easier for me to get a job when I am there? Any feedback or insight you can provide me would be greatly appreciated."

Dear MJ,

Thank you so much for reading my blog. I am glad you enjoy it. I hope I can be of help and that you find what you are looking for once you move here.

Here are a few things I suggest.

1) Meet a lot of people who are/were in the industry and pick their brains.

The goal of this project isn't so much to network, but to gather information via informational interviews. The point of the informational interview is to find out how they got started, what advice they would give you, get realistic expectations of what your first job in the industry could be, get a feel for what to expect, have them critique your resume, and really gauge if it's something you want to do. The entertainment industry isn't for the faint of heart and the competition will be tough. The more people you meet and the more well-rounded view you get, the better off you are. You'll learn that if people can and want to help you, they will offer it as well. However, always keep in mind that you are there to LEARN from them and their experiences regardless of which position they had or which part of the industry they worked in.

2) If you aren't doing the EXACT job you already want in Hollywood, sometimes starting out as an assistant really is the way to get to the top. So, try to get on a good fast-paced busy desk, preferably related to Hollywood, if not, at least a solid assistant gig.

Obviously, the best way to get any job at a new company, is to have already done the very same thing at a different or a comparable company. Failing that, try to get the job one rank lower than the one you want. But since Hollywood has no set career path...

Regardless if you want to be on the creative or business side of Hollywood, a lot of people have worked and clawed their way to the top via talent agency mailrooms or being an assistant. It takes a lot of humility to get someone coffee and stand a copy machine for 2 hours a day. The benefit of being someone's office assistant and not a PA is that being in an office or corporate environment warrants you to be a little be more polished, professional, and have basic business acumen. It demonstrates that you can be the face of the company, work with all levels and backgrounds of people, and can do basic admin tasks really well under pressure. It isn't a joke when one is asked in a job interview if you know how to roll calls.

3) Understand the LA culture and the city's infrastructure and how it will affect your daily life.

The realities of living in LA are sometimes a shock to people that move here. The public transportation is lacking, traffic is really horrendous, and how far you live away from where you are trying to land a job can sometimes be a factor. People are notoriously flaky, if your friends live far away - chances are you'll never see them, you MUST have a car to live here. On the flip side, the weather is great, there is a lot to do, and it's a very diverse city.

Have an idea which part of the LA county you want to live in, know how much rent you can afford, and which companies you want to work at and where they are located.

4) Grow your network and spread the word you are looking to relocate to LA.

Your best bet on finding a job is through people you already know or people you can forge strong ties with - this includes family, friends, people from church, your university, any sports teams you play on, etc... People who know you well and can vouch for you are more likely and able to help you out the best. And you never know when someone you know, knows someone else who may be able to help you.

Don't neglect using sites like Brazen Careerist, LinkedIn, Monster, Facebook, Twitter, and Meetup to find people who can help you, who you can help, and people with your same questions.

5) Learn to cultivate hope, strength, and re-evaluation skills. Read a lot of industry & business books.

Because competition is so fierce, it's important to stay mentally and emotionally strong. It's equally crucial to constantly re-evaluate what's working in your life and career and what's not working. Everything that happens at work you bring home and everything that happens at home you bring to work. Since this blog is more about career, I'll stick to the basic tasks such as always updating your resume, being aligned with your career goals, staying in touch with your network, and finding ways to learn new skills, meet new people, or understand your role and how it fits into your department, company, and Hollywood.

The #1 book I recommend to you and someone in your situation: Good In A Room by Stephanie Palmer

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