WHY YOU SHOULD NOT APPLY TO EVERY JOB
July 2021 | Georgie McGahey
Stop! If you are just about to click send or lick the envelope containing your resume and covering letter on embossed manilla paper think carefully; are you sure you are qualified to be Head of Development at Working Title?
Except for a handful of people who have been working in the industry for over a decade or two, the candidates for this job will be few. Not that you won't have the skills and qualities for this role some day in the future, but if you're new to the jobs market with a handful of student films to your name you may wish to stay your hand until then and ask yourself; am I apply for the right job for me?
It’s not uncommon to feel frustrated when you have been applying for jobs and not heard anything back; this is when desperation can set in. Many of us have done it, left university and applied for jobs we felt should be within our reach, only to realise later how far off the mark we were; and it's not just the applications for HoD or senior positions where you can be punching above your weight. It's the applications for junior roles where you either have no relevant experience or you applying because 'any job in media is better than no job in media'. So, should you apply for everything out there and hope for the best?
There are two schools of thought on the matter. Some members of the industry declare that casting the net wide and applying for everything is what landed them their first paying job. In some cases, it’s possible to get a foot in the door then navigate your way around the block, round the bend, and back up the Avenue, to where you eventually wanted to be. It's a long way around, but with a bit of luck, you get to your final destination finally.
Some people apply for everything when they lack a clear focus on what it is they wish to do for a living. This is a fundamental stumbling block for many, just 'wanting to work in film' is far from enough. One of the first steps in the film industry is being brutally honest with yourself, what is it you want to do? If you don't know, then a three-year degree course could be worth the money to find out; experiment with as many roles as you possibly can. When you’ve had your eureka moment and found what inspires and excites you, you can plot your path accordingly. It may feel unattainable at first, and it can take years to climb your way up the ladder, but at least you will be applying for roles that get you one step closer.
Admittedly, sending out applications and CV's to all and sundry can have the short-term endorphin boost as you tell yourself you are 'getting out there'. A few months of this, however, when you have heard nothing back, will leave you frustrated and disappointed that your hard work has been fruitless. So why are employers brushing aside your CV?
Let's assess the situation from the employer's point of view. They place an ad; list precisely the skills and knowledge they are looking for, they may mention the applicant needs a certain amount of experience behind them. If they don't list experience, it should be self-evident by the job title, so when the recruiter is "looking for a production coordinator on a major motion picture", it's not unreasonable to assume that a graduate who has produced a few shorts probably isn't going to get far.
When all the CV's are on the employer's desk, it won’t take them long to sort the wheat from the chaff. Let's say it's a post-production company, and they need a runner. If your CV has a list of production credits, and your covering letter states that one day you would like to be a DoP, forget it. Even if you wax lyrical about your passion for post-production, if your CV doesn't back it up, that CV is destined for the recycling. One of the first things employers look for is the relevant experience that can make you a contender. This can be from working on short films, building a portfolio of work, internships and work experience, volunteering at festivals or events. So when applying for jobs look carefully at what they are asking for, do you have the relevant experience?
Members of the crew who are listed in the knowledge are used to having their details plundered. They receive emails from graduates who have inflated their job title all the time; sometimes it results in a smile, others a scowl. We here at MFJF cannot emphasise this enough, when you leave education please, please show a bit of humility and retitle production designer to art department assistant or runner. This in no way devalues your skills or talent, but can you honestly say - hand on heart - your experience is comparable to an art director who's been doing the job for twenty years? Do you think an art director wants to take on a trainee who assumes they know it all? To give yourself the best shot, and in some instance, you only get one, make sure your level of experience is consistent with the roles you are applying for.
When you start your career you're going to be eager to get going, but you should remember you are going to work your way through multiple roles up to the HoD spot, so enjoy your junior position and don't rush it. The film industry is founded on hard graft, from the crew to those working in distribution and exhibition. People work long hours, and when push comes to shove, they have to pull the goods from the bag. If you want to be a professional capable of solving problems and thinking quickly on your feet, you will need a wealth of experience behind you. Much of which is going to be learnt when you work with senior members of the team who have a wealth of experience to share.
So, keep desperation at bay and focus your energy on looking for the roles that lead you to your dream job. Instead of seeing how many emails you can get out in a day, spend longer on your applications, CVs and covering letters. Research and tailor them, make them the best they can be and if you can't offer relevant examples of the criteria they are looking for, don't waste your time. You could burn the midnight oil trying to make your skills and personality fit into an application, only to have the recruiter scan through it and throw it in the bin. Be smart and honest with yourself; your time is precious so use it wisely.
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