Landing That Dream Job in Entertainment/Media

Elevator Pitch
(aka. Why media/entertainment?)
You need to know exactly why you want to work in this business. You need to be passionate about the biz and/or about the product, otherwise you will not differentiate yourself. And if you don’t differentiate yourself, you will struggle to get that dream job.

So you have to do a lot of soul searching over the next few weeks and months. When did you become interested in the business? What have you done since then that is related to media/entertainment? Is it the creative side of the business that fascinates you? Or is it the dynamics of the industry, the constant changes introduced by technology and changing consumer tastes? By now you probably realise that you don’t go into this field for the initial monetary compensation, so you have to make sure that you have a very good understanding of your choice. Choosing this industry because it is “sexy” and “glamorous” is not enough.

You also need to be credible. Even if you haven’t worked in the business formally, have you been involved with the business in any other ways? Are you passionate about music? Have you been involved with theatre? Are you a film buff? Think carefully about any of the business or creative experiences you have had and try to distil the reasons why you loved

Finally, once you have figured out that there could be no better job for you anywhere else and that you have plenty of material for backing up that claim, put it all down on paper and then tell one of your friends (or one of the people in the Entertainment and Media Club) why you want to work in the biz. If you friend doesn’t feel like jumping out of his chair with excitement by the time you are done, start again.

Your resum‚ should fit in perfectly with the story you have told after step 1 above. The three things you must make sure your resume conveys are:

1. I am committed to the entertainment and media industry
This is probably the single most important criterion used by most recruiters in this industry when screening resumes. They will look for evidence of your interest in the industry and for prior experience. Therefore, you have to make sure any formal job experiences you have had in entertainment/media are given appropriate weight in your resume-as a guide, the more space something takes on the page the more important it seems when someone is scanning resumes at a rate of 10 resum‚s/minute! Even if you don’t have any formal experience, make sure your informal or extracurricular experience is visible. Use the “personal” section at the bottom of the resum‚ or the education section to add in examples of your involvement.

2. I have the skills to do the job I am applying for
Think carefully about the skills you will need for the job. There is a huge difference between a strategic planning role and a creative role. If you are applying for strategic planning or corporate development use verbs like “analyzed (market)”, “developed (financial model)”, “presented (findings to CEO)”, etc. If you are applying for a creative role focus on examples of your creativity and initiative. Use verbs like “created”, “initiated”, “designed”, etc.

3. I am a really interesting person (aka. You want to meet me!)
This may sound obvious, but I had one recruiter tell me that he was looking for people with “edge”. Given how many “edgy” people you usually see in this business it probably doesn’t hurt to make sure you come across as more than a run-of-the-mill weekend golfer. Use your personal section to talk about specific experiences or activities that sound interesting. Just listing a bunch of interests that every other candidate is likely to have listed will not help you differentiate yourself.

Network job search
Looking through the career services website for media and entertainment jobs can be rather depressing, especially in this economic environment. Companies that rely on advertising or travel/tourism as their mainstay are seriously hurting. There are hiring freezes and cancelled recruiting trips all round. However, this does not mean that it will be impossible to get a job/summer internship in the industry. You just have to be more proactive and creative than some of your peers.

Network job searching is almost a prerequisite for getting your dream job in this industry. The problem is that it takes a lot more initiative and nerve than the formal on-campus recruiting. Therefore, take the easiest steps first. Start early, like right now! Think of anyone you have ever worked with or any other contacts that might be able to help you. Start by phoning these people and asking them for advice. They might be able to give you contact names and numbers, or preferably offer to make an introduction. Historically, this approach has proved very successful.
If you have exhausted your list of previous contacts then move onto the alumni database. You are better off contacting people who graduated relatively recently, since these people are more likely to get back to you and to help you. Don’t ask for a job in the first 5 minutes of conversation. Approach this as an opportunity to learn how the industry works and to find out where your skills might be useful. Be patient. The response rate for this kind of speculative approach is likely to be low, since it will depend on whether there are openings/projects/opportunities in the division you approach. But be persistent. The more people you speak to, the more you will learn and the more you will improve your chances of finding your niche.

Part 1 of preparation is described in the elevator pitch section. Part 2 is to make sure you know a lot about the industry. You need to be able to talk eloquently about recent events. Preferably you should have an opinion about some of the key developments. Should company X buy company Y? What do you think the impact of digital downloading will be on the music industry? Why do you think company Z is in trouble? If you can talk to recruiters about the sorts of issues they are interested in you are more likely to have an engaging conversation.

Therefore, read, talk to people, attend presentations and go on Hollywood Trek:

 Read or skim periodically: Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, etc.
 Talk to people: like other students who worked in the business, other friends who are currently involved, etc.
 Attend presentations: the Entertainment and Media Club organises speaker events that often address some of the “hot” issues in the industry.
 Go on Hollywood Trek: not only will you get to ask executives about the things that keep them up at night, but you may also get some of the valuable contacts that will help your network job search. Several of this year’s summer internships were set up through contacts made at Hollywood Trek.

Going forward
The entertainment and media industries rely a lot on contacts and networks. Therefore, even after you have landed your dream summer internship/job it is worth keeping in touch with all those people you met/talked to through you network job search. It is also a great idea to meet the other people at HBS who are interested in the industry. Knowing lots of people and sharing ideas with them will help you not only in terms of career moves, but also in terms of being effective in the biz! Good luck!