Here’s a little backstory for your day; my husband, Jon, and I moved to LA 8 months ago for him to start the guitar program at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. At the time I was a Team Leader for an international department store; a job I fell into as a temporary means to generate some income during the transition from the UK to Colorado (May 2015) and then to LA.
The main body of my experience lies in education and youth services but I also have a vested interest in the arts and have many years experience as stage manager, as well as a BA in Drama and Creative Writing. The other thing to bear in mind is that this move was for Jon and I only agreed to invest this time (and a large chunk of my savings) as I knew there’s no where else in the world where I could follow my dream…to build a career in the arts and entertainment industry.
I’m not particularly fussy. In my lowest moments I will get pretty upset about not being an ‘expert’ at something and I’m pretty sure that, as supportive as they are, my parents are a little disappointed I didn’t follow them into the medical profession. I nearly went into Biology, but that’s a whole other car accident.
What I do know is this…I manage stages like a boss! When I’m a black clad ninja of the stage world my mind clears, I work effectively, efficiently and effortlessly and I enjoy it. I did not enjoy retail, so I quit, 2 months ago, to follow my dream, in LA…hello cliche!
Here’s what I’m learning about trying to get a job in the big city (and myself):
in no particular order
1. Responses are rare.
My go-to job site is indeed.com. Their app has some great tools and I like the way it saves your searches so you can see the new jobs every day. It also helps you track your applications and I can tell you very quickly that so far I have applied for about 60 arts related jobs, through indeed, during my time here. Of those, I interviewed for two (I turned one down as I realized they were exploting their employees – see number 2 – the other didn’t call me back after I told them I’d be out of town for three weeks), and was invited to interview for one (see number 8). Aside from those I have probably only heard back from about 10 to tell me that my application was unsuccessful, or that the position had been filled. I think this is pretty standard in all job searching but the higher the volume, the heavier the weight.
2. Exploitation is common.
So far, I’ve turned down a job as an assistant manager as the employer was giving less than minimum wage for a 55 hour per week job in conditions that didn’t follow California employment laws, not been paid a stipend for a stage management job because I didn’t follow my gut instinct that the director was shady, and not followed through with 2 assistant stage manager enquiries as the stipend was so small in relation to the expected working hours.
The most recent one was offering $400 over 3 weeks. Initially that didn’t seem too bad but on receiving the rehearsal and performance schedule it turned out it was over 100 hours…that’s $4 an hour… minimum wage is $10 in California. I emailed to see if expected hours or the stipend could be negotiated; needless to say I haven’t received a response. Easy to ignore if you’re a student or have another means of income, but I don’t. This leads me into number 3…
3. You will need to decide how far you will go to compromise.
My promise to myself when I left the retail position was that I would not compromise myself (my beliefs/values/dreams etc) while I was here. If I can’t make it as a stage manager (at least in the short term as I get established) I will at least get a day job in arts and entertainment so I am still doing something I enjoy. The hardest thing so far has been turning down low paid opportunities as a sign of respect for myself when I know how important it can be to network and get more experience.
The sad thing is that those who are seemingly compromising themselves are doing things I want to do. I met a girl at a wrap party last month who was a performer. At the time she told me she was a stripper who worked a day job at a studio as a script developer and how much she hated it. Hello! I’ll do it (the script bit, not the stripping). Which takes us to…
4. Experience is everything.
I feel 16 again, looking for my first job…experience required, 1 years previous experience, do not apply if you don’t have experience…how can I get experience if I can’t get a job because I need experience!?
Every studio position I look at (even those I take a chance applying for) all want some form of studio or film experience and I just don’t have that yet. I don’t want to give up, but then, savings only last so long.
5. There’s a saturation of competition.
Even if you have experience so do hundreds of other people, and likely more than you. I try to stay upbeat by the fact that I am usually find a job I’d like to apply for at least once a day, and of those there will be about 3 or 4 a week that I will go for. Of course, LA is full of millions of people so the competition is tough. I’m here going for jobs against recent college graduates who have as much intern experience and I have from my whole life!
It doesn’t help that the handy and well-meaning worksites like indeed and workpop like to tell you how many other hundreds of candidates have also applied for that position. Bubble popped!
6. Words are all you have.
I struggle with resumes and cover letters. Even as someone who has worked in recruitment and ummed and arred over the best and worst job applications, I feel like the only way to write a good application is to have an out-of-body experience to try to look at what you’ve done objectively. I still know exactly what needs to go into a resume and how to sell yourself on a cover letter but it seems I have too much to say. Do I focus on the wrong things? Ugh, all that ‘make sure you use the key words from the advert’ business is fine but so time consuming and I’m still not hearing back. Then my father-in-law sends me this article from The New York Times about how now you’ve got to get past the robots first and I’m dancing under the confetti of my ex-resume!
I just applied for a part-time job that is the American reflection of a program coordinator job I did in the UK for two and a half years. I could do this new job with my eyes closed yet, I bet you anything, I don’t hear back. (and there’s still that nagging part of me that wonders how much discrimination there is against me being an immigrant?).
7. It’s not about who you know.
Coz if it was, I’d have a job right now. Unfortunately everyone you know has enough going on without remembering your needs too. Sometimes, who-you-know could help, but the funds or the opportunities just aren’t there. Yes, I’m a cynic; it helps me survive.
8. Things take sooooooooo much time.
A big difficulty for me after leaving my team leader position was that I had an impending trip coming up. I kept applying though, knowing that sometimes these things take time. Once I was back in the UK visiting my family for three weeks I learned just how long. A job I’d completely given up on; as an Office Manager/Admin Asst at a ‘Theatre and Acting Studio must love cats‘ in Studio City, sent me an automated interview invitation through indeed.com. I was given two dates/times and an encrypted email address for the organizer. I wouldn’t be back for another two weeks and, with no ‘I can’t do these times’ option, I used the email to enquire as to whether an interview could take place via FaceTime or Skype. Needless to say I didn’t hear anything back. On looking back through my applications I found this was a position I’d applied for three months previously. Three months!
UPDATE: 3 hours after publishing the blog the company invited me again through indeed so I’m going there on Wednesday almost 4 months since initially applying. Just goes to show what a little bit of faith and patience can do…now I just have to get the job.
9. Never give up.
When I met my husband over 10 years ago we bonded over one firm belief: you should live to work, not work to live; you should do a job you’re passionate about and good at and want to do all the time and not settle. It’s society’s nature to define us by the job we do and I’d like to be defined creatively thank you very much!
Things are really hard right now. We have no income except the teeny amount he’ll bring in from his new position, as a student worker at his school, where he’ll do 4-8 hours a week minimum wage. I am not fun to live with when I don’t have much to do and I’m a little bit ill which isn’t helping my current state-of-mind but I don’t want to give up. I’ve passed the threshold of my 30s, I can’t joke about this anymore. As I said when I started this page I have the best possible chance to really do what I want to do so I need to take that.
I just wish someone would give me the chance.