Pursuing Your Next Job Like They Do In Hollywood

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April 2013

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According to Kenneth Atchity, a Los Angeles native and producer of films for video, television, and theater, four things lead to getting a job in Hollywood…… in this order:

1. Perseverance
2. Connections
3. Talent
4. Being Fun to Work With

Does this surprise you? How might these assumptions compare to your experience during a job campaign? Let’s take a look at each of the four, in the order that Atchity suggests.

1. Perseverance

Interesting how Atchity has turned upside down the popular notion that talent is the leading and most important driver for successfully landing a new job. Perhaps this is because it is so hard to make the cut in the ultra competitive world of the arts. I would suggest that making perseverance first in order of importance might also apply to finding work in a tough job market, or attempting to make a big career change. Combining your dogged determination with the support of others can help build stamina when things are just not happening quickly enough. Especially when there is abundant talent available, persistence keeps you in the game. When all is said and done, in a highly competitive market, or during a major career change, I agree with Atchity, and would place perseverance first on the list. You simply have to keep at it to succeed. If you quit, you might just disappear from sight and mind, and the other three factors that follow might not be enough to help you land that next opportunity. Do you approach your career search with the tenacity and discipline that you do your work?

2. Connections

Since I started in this career transition field 23 years ago, I have kept close track of landing statistics. The next career opportunity is discovered and landed through connections 65-80% of the time. So many positions are simply not posted on-ine, or it is too late once they are. Connections have always been critical to revealing opportunities “upstream,” or in the “hidden” job market. Connections are tied to trust, and trust is a huge driver of hiring decisions. Hiring strangers is risky. Without network testimonials and assurances, many hiring managers fear that they will hire Dr. Jekyll and end up with Mr. Hyde. Trust takes time, but can be greatly accelerated through connections. There is so much at stake with hiring decisions, especially at the higher levels. In a career transformation, when you are leaving the familiar and moving in a new and perhaps very different direction, connections are even more important, and usually the key to being taken seriously. During a big career shift you might easily be dismissed as only temporarily interested in a change, or at risk of returning to the familiar when that more logical and lucrative opportunity surfaces. Half the battle is being persistent, connected and actively building your network. It leads the way!

3. Talent

My definition of high talent includes being really good at your work, and greatly enjoying it as well. Results really do matter in business, and possessing the talent that has consistently achieved maximum gain is a huge factor in hiring. The reason this is not the final selection factor in Hollywood, however, is that there are likely many other candidates who are highly talented. If the top candidates are all equally talented, the decision maker will usually need to turn to the next and final determining factor…fit.

4. Being Fun to Work With

Whenever I chat with recruiters, the word fit always seems to bubble to the top of the list of hiring criteria, and being fun to work with is one area of fit that is worth paying attention to. One Human Resources leader put it this way, “Leaders need to be fast, focused, flexible and friendly”. I know the words friendly, fun and results are not always linked, but perhaps we could take a bit of license with Atchity’s model, and suggest that great fit means that people do enjoy working with you, whether the word is fun, or just a good fit for the culture, organizational and job needs. In the creative industry, fun is a likely imperative, as fun feeds creativity, higher engagement, and creates an enjoyable environment. If the word fun doesn’t work for you, substitute the words “a great fit”, and think of your own hiring decisions. Wouldn’t you agree that great fit has been one of your top three criteria for hiring? At the highest levels of the organization especially, I would be inclined to put this at the top of the list. Without great fit, does talent, connections or perseverance even matter?

Conclusion

Remember that in Atchity’s model this is Hollywood we are talking about, and not necessarily the business or non-profit world. With some notable exceptions, good actors are viewed as a “dime a dozen”. Remember too that Hollywood is an especially difficult place to find work, and the most common form of work is more like a project than a long term commitment in that town. Sound familiar? Hasn’t much of the work at all levels become more like being on the set of a movie, a one to three year project? When that movie/project ends, it’s time to search for another one, and the persistence, connections, talent and fit factors come right back into play as one searches for that next gig. So it goes in Hollywood, and so it goes in the new world of work.

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