Whether you aspire to be a singer, actor, screenwriter, or anything in between, getting into the entertainment industry is no easy feat.
You will likely have to work very hard to stand out from the competition, but those who perform well are usually rewarded with immense wealth— and happiness.
With the entertainment industry being so broad, many would argue it’s difficult to provide specific advice for any more specialized career.
Still, this post will attempt to provide general guidelines that can help in getting you on the path to being the next Madonna or Matthew McConaughey.
Network, Network, Network
Often, networking is the easiest way to get into the entertainment industry.
While it’s important to attend events that relate to your chosen industry, it’s also important to have a clear purpose. Tell people with pride that you’re an aspiring singer or dancer. You need to be seem confident in your abilities, even if you truly aren’t.
When you are meeting someone, give them your full attention. Listen to what they have to say, and never fiddle with your phone. Once the event is over, make sure to follow up with any individuals you meet— or meeting them was a moot point.
It should also be highlighted that you need to leverage the people you already know. Talking to people you went to school with, whether you were best buddies or a little more distant, is always wise. Absolutely ask friends and family if they know anyone. If you can find a relevant professional organization, also pursue this avenue.
It’s an Employer’s Market
If you’re in the entertainment industry, it’s important to understand that you’ll have to start out paying your dues.
This will often mean beginning as an assistant of some sort, no matter how much natural skill you possess. Although you may one day call the shots, you rarely do initially.
It’s also important to note that employers in the entertainment industry will often want you to start immediately. This means that you shouldn’t apply to jobs you can’t immediately commit to. College seniors looking to get into the industry should not only wait until after they’ve graduated to apply, but might have to hustle for a job when their friends already have positions lined up.
Familiarize Yourself with the Industry
Although you may think you know the industry you’re entering inside and out, you need to become familiar with all aspects of the industry in order to be successful.
Find out the major companies and stars in whatever entertainment-related industry you’re looking to enter, the entry-level opportunities, and even the history and financial state of any given firm.
Reading news articles and books can help you become familiar with the biggest players of the past and present, while also informing you as to the future outlook of the industry. Be a student of your given industry— if you don’t understand a term or concept, look it up!
Looking at the job listings of firms in your industry is smart to do whether you’re prepared to apply or are still researching and weighing options. If nothing else, it can familiarize you with different roles and departments offered by leading companies in the entertainment industry.
Conduct Informational Interviews
Informational interviews are an essential way to learn about breaking into any industry, particularly for a fairly insular industry like entertainment.
An informational interview is usually pretty simple in scope: it’s a meeting in which someone looking to enter an industry or begin a career path asks for the advice of someone who’s an established veteran in said industry.
When contacting someone you aren’t extremely close to in the hopes of obtaining an informational interview, it’s important to be courteous, appreciative, and mindful of their time. You must remember: the person you speak to rarely has any significant incentive, beyond feeling kind, to be part of the interview.
In the interview, ask about their experiences and address any concerns you may have about entering entertainment. While you can meet in person, a phone interview is often easier for both parties. Make sure that you thank the other party once the interview has ended.
Never Pigeonhole Yourself
While much of the advice in this post may apply to most people, different avenues work for many others.
Unpaid internships, if your wallet can afford to take one, can be a great way to break into the industry. Volunteer work, while often less selective, can be easier to find, particularly in bigger media markets like Los Angeles and New York.
Another avenue that is often overlooked is that of temp agencies. Temporary jobs pay, and for film and TV projects, they often allow one to be directly on the set.
You will often have to do research to find out which temp agencies are used by which studios, which can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing.
A surefire way to find out, however, is to contact the HR department of a firm you’re eyeing, or to directly contact the biggest temp agencies in your area. It’ll take some work and persistence, but it’s worth it.
Lastly, many decide to eschew the conventional standards, deciding to produce their own work without any formal experience. While not everyone should go down this path, those who are studious and hardworking might find this a viable choice.
Whatever you end up doing, have a plan, but don’t be too rigid with it should opportunities present themselves.
One of the most important things to remember with any career is the need to stay positive.
In the entertainment industry, you may very well have to take jobs with little to no pay at first. You might have trouble getting people to actually talk to you about your career, much less actually help.
Having perspective and a positive outlook for a brighter future is essential. You never know what’s around the corner, and people will only want to talk to and hire someone who has a bright outlook.
Now that you know what it takes, go land that dream job!