Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

Why You’re Not Getting a Job in the Entertainment Industry (Or Anywhere Else)

Sometimes it seems like in the last three decades I’ve read a million different resumes, and interviewed about as many people looking for jobs. After all that experience, one big thing bugs me, and I think it’s holding a lot of people back from getting better jobs: The lack of a specific skill.  Here’s the situation:

I was sitting in my office the other day talking to a job candidate and asked him the big questions:  So what are you best at doing? Where do you really rock? What could you potentially be the best in the world at? How can you help our company?

His answer: “I think I’m really good at connecting people.”

Folks, “connecting people” is a good thing, but it’s not a marketable skill unless you’re connecting people with potential investors or donors. In 95% of cases, a skill (in the entertainment business) should sound something like:

“I’m a multi-camera television director with a great deal of experience in live programming.”
“I’m a video editor, and I’m particularly strong with designing motion graphics.”
“I’m a script writer and dialogue is my great strength.”
“I’m a video shooter and I’ve shot in more than 20 countries in very risky and dangerous settings.”
“I can budget and manage multiple productions and supervise film or video crews on location.”

People will actually pay money for these and similar skills, and for entry level or below-the-line jobs in entertainment (or most other fields), skills matter.

And if you don’t have much experience?  Still focus on skills.  You may not be a master of a skill yet, but let the interviewer know what you’re focused on, and the path you’re taking toward mastery.  So in your interview, stop responding about your big skill with “Working with teams” or “Coordinating people,” or “Highly motivational,” or any other high-sounding talents. All those things are great individual abilities, but people today are looking for someone who can very specifically help their company or project succeed. Find out what that is, and align an actual marketable skill to accomplish that.

No producer in town that I know of is looking for another employee who is “good at connecting people” unless they also have a real world skill.  Unless of course, it’s “connecting” people to the coffee machine…

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  1. I love this Phil love it… I am a high school drop out, stayed high threw a few years in college long story short met God got some Skills and now I live in the mountains of colorado work for some of the biggest and best clients anyone could ask for. We homeschool our kids and I edit from my basement studio. People ask me all the time, What I do to make a living, and I say “As little as possible to make as much money as I can so I can LIVE LIFE!!!” It then turns into a real conversation about having skills people need and want so on and so on. Writing happens to be one of my worst skills but maybe I will write you longer email my story you have actually been a great input from a far or across the internet. I have been following your blog the last 8 or 9 years has it been that long wow.

  2. Nice. I like it and agree, Phil. However, I see a TON of job postings that request the opposite. It seems most employers are asking for one man bands and people who can be mediocre at everything. So, what then? Should we just avoid companies like that altogether? Or market your various skills with the knowledge that you are great at something and be prepared to give an answer to what that one great thing is when asked?

    1. If you’re read my book “One Big Thing” then you ‘ll know I’m an advocate of being extraordinary at one thing, instead of average at a lot of things. We do live in technological world that allows one person to do many things. But when it comes to your overall career, FOCUS is the key. For instance, I like employees that can shoot and edit both, but overall – I want them to be able to tell a powerful visual story.

  3. Man, great article! SPOT ON!

    In the web development industry, this is EXACTLY how it works. There’s 200 skills out there in this industry. Demonstrate that you have a congruent set of 3-5 of them and you’ll always have a job.

    Demonstrate a larger-level, still-congruent set of 5-10 of them (which can be shown by resume verbiage alone) and people will be looking for you – and you’ll probably get a remote job working anywhere you want.

    I think congruency is the key for additional applicant skills. Nobody cares if you can also produce music and write content if you’re applying for a web job. But, if your stated skills all apply to a single industry, value is certainly added.

  4. Connecting people to the coffee machine… HA! Next acting audition I shall say, “Well, I really want to win an Oscar, so you should hire me. I can also make good coffee.”

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