The Essential Tool Every Entertainment Industry Pro Needs To Navigate Their Pandemic Pivot
By Matt Wilson
Written by Alexandria Bellivan and Matthew Wilson
Alex: Pivoting from one industry to another is a process that requires a collaborative team effort, strategy and patience. This is why we (I’m a career development specialist.)
Matthew: And I’m an entertainment industry professional.
Alex: …joined forces to write an article together and address one of the most pressing issues the Entertainment Industry has ever faced: what are the tools Entertainment Industry folks need to navigate disruption and/or career transitions? According to LinkedIn’s recent 2020 Global Talent Trends report, 77% of employers reported they will focus on employee retention.
Employers want to hire individuals who are going to stick around and it’s not hard for them to pick-up on candidates who don’t intend on keeping the job for long if they were to be offered the position. Employers don’t want to believe they are secondary.
Matthew: How many times do you think the average person changes jobs over the course of their career? According to a January 2018 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person changes jobs 10-15 times during their career.
Alex: Regardless of how qualified you are for the positions you’re targeting, job searching takes time and there’s no way of knowing when you’ll land your next opportunity. There are so many things about a job search that’s outside of our control – the kind of jobs that are in demand, how long it takes for an employer to respond to your application, and of course, a pandemic that has dismantled several industries and displaced millions of workers.
Matthew: I’m used to looking for work (Like many entertainment industry folks) which is why when I contemplated my latest job search,or #pandemicpivot, I wasn’t terribly concerned. I figured if I can handle the job search every actor faces then the search for ‘regular’ work outside of my industry should be comparable. I’ve developed the resilience and hardiness that comes with navigating the vagaries of a career path in the arts.
Alex: As we all know, the entertainment industry has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Is creative work happening? Are movies and commercials being made? Are live shows occurring? Yes, but with severe limitations. It would be irresponsible for me, a career coach, to not encourage my clients in the entertainment industry to search for work in other industries during this time to pay the bills.
Matthew: This #pandemicpivot, however, is something else. I liken it more to The Actor’s Nightmare than the Actor’s Life. A majority of my entertainment industry colleagues are navigating a version of this ‘Actor’s Nightmare.’ Industry professionals are preparing for roles where they don’t know the words, the skills or even the titles.
Alex: The problem is, entertainment professionals in some ways are at a disadvantage compared to jobseekers in other industries. Historically, entertainment professionals have been advised to hide their industry experience when looking for sideline work while pursuing their artistic endeavors. I’ve been working with the entertainment industry as a career coach for the last 5 years, and I still cannot tell you where this rule came from. I can tell you that hundreds of artists have come to me requesting to solve their resume gap problems.
Matt: The good news is that the skills you will hone in order to pivot successfully will only help your future career in a post-pandemic entertainment industry. So how do you go about figuring out what to pivot to?
Alex: How do you discover what kind of problem solver you are?
Matt: You are in sales and the product is you. But how do you know what you’re selling, or to who? There’s only one way—you have to talk to people. When you talk to people, you’ll accumulate the information you need to figure out what to target in your pivot. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to enter a process of research and discovery. The goal: Discover the roles that might suit you.
Alex: Entertainment resumes are very different from civilian resumes. An entertainment resume requires a list of projects and the role you held. A civilian resume requires the same information, but in addition, one needs to also describe their impact. Let’s review “survival work” for a moment. This is a phrase we know is used frequently in the industry to describe an entertainment professionals secondary income that keeps them afloat while they pursue their creative career. It’s time to put this phrase to rest. If you want or need a paid opportunity outside of your industry it’s within your best interest to approach the search as if you’re looking for a long term home, not a temporary solution.
Matthew: Anyone else freaking out? This is scary. It sometimes felt a tad precarious to be an arts worker, but you made it work. Now, it’s perilous. Our industry is destabilized, and so are the economies of the support professions that we freelancers often rely on to supplement our income.
Alex: Uncertainty is frustrating, but fretting over “what ifs” isn’t beneficial for anyone. We can’t predict or control when the entertainment industry will be back up and running at full capacity. Does that mean you should stop looking for creative work? Not necessarily, but depending on how urgent your current financial circumstances are, it is probably within your best interest to begin exploring where else your skillsets are needed and the best way to begin that journey is by talking to people and asking questions.
Matthew: Entertainment industry professionals navigating a pivot are doing so while grieving: for their industry, for their career, for the goals they’ve achieved and for the dreams they didn’t.
Tend to your grief, but do not retreat from the task at hand, which is to reach out. The act of reaching out is the most critical tool you have in navigating this pivot. Many of us don’t even know the name of the role we need to find. This will be discovered as we talk to more and more people. As you accumulate conversations, you’ll make discoveries that lead to more clarifying conversations. This is our new rehearsal process. Trust the process. The end will reveal itself if we engage consistently and intentionally in our ‘new rehearsal’ process.