Six Rookie Entertainment Career Mistakes to Avoid

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In this post, you will learn about common mistakes entertainment rookies often make which can impede their career progress. You will learn why they are mistakes and what to do instead to speed your climb up the ladder and/or into your dream pursuit.

I recently met a graduate student at a networking event. She had a good amount of experience in another city but had just relocated here and was having trouble finding work.

She was articulate, seemed smart, and made a great in-person impression. I reassured her that it was hard to break into her technical field without connections and told her that she just needed one person to give her a shot. She felt there might be an issue with her resume, which seemed like a long-shot for what she did, but I agreed to take a look.

When I got it, I realized that though finding an “in” might have been an issue, the resume was maybe the bigger issue. It was a mess. There were typos, inconsistencies, and missing information. I was baffled. Why would she send this to ME with all the errors? For the most part, this wasn’t about “resume secrets,” this was about simple proofreading and cleanup.

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I went through two rounds of giving her feedback, which she was appreciative of, and then sent the final version, along with a cover letter, out to some contacts. I asked them to keep her in mind and give her a shot if something came up, but I couldn’t recommend her with the same enthusiasm I would have if she had taken care to show me her best work in the first place.

It got me thinking about all the mistakes we can make early in our career which can impact our progress. Here are some common ones:

1)      Sending out anything before it’s ready. This refers not just to the resume example above, but anything that shows people what you can do. Send out a script sample before it’s polished and you may not get another shot with that reader. Same with an acting or directing reel. Yes, you’re new, but that doesn’t mean you should be careless with your first impression.

2)      Treating peers as rivals. Your friend gets a great assistant job for a studio production executive or lands an agent or gets a paid writing gig. Instead of being happy for them, you are envious or depressed or both. You picture yourself in a race with them and you are trailing behind.

Not only does that kind of thinking hurt you, but it’s based on faulty logic. Just because your friend gets one plum opportunity doesn’t mean you are missing out on another. Also, careers are not sprints, they are marathons. At points you will be further along, at points some of them will.

And lastly, your community of friends and contacts will help each other as you all pursue your dreams. A friend with a good job or an agent or a writing gig puts them in a better position to help you. That’s not too bad, is it?

3)  Not finding ways to be helpful to other people. This one goes hand-in-hand with #2. Especially early on, it’s easy to get so caught up in your own pursuit, you forget to think of anyone else. But if you can just step back a little, you can find ways that you can help them. Even if it’s just offering to proofread their resume (as a hiring executive, I’d love it if you would) or leading them to a great inexpensive headshot photographer, these types of gestures mean a lot and cost you little in time and effort. And not only is it good for relationship-building, but studies have shown that good deeds make the doer feel better about their own lives. 

4)  Disregarding or mistreating people coming up behind you. Remember in #2 when I mentioned that careers are marathons, not sprints? Well, what if the intern that you don’t have time to be nice to now eventually becomes the head of a studio division where you are dying to work later in your career? It happens all the time. You don’t have to fake being BFFs with everyone you meet, but a reasonable amount of “nice” will keep you in contention for that job down the line. 

5)  Being fearful of those up the food chain. They may be a studio executive or an agent or a producer but they are also just people. As Post Production executive & Post Supervisor Dean Cochran said in his Your Industry Insider profile when asked what he wished he had known when he started out, “That most people in the industry are full of shit (in a good way) and they are just trying to figure things out as best they can, too. So we’re all on a more even playing field than we realize. I spent a lot of time being more intimidated than I needed to be and I could have had an easier time by worrying a little less.”

6)  Not circling back to thank or even acknowledge people who help you. I get sent emails all the time asking me for advice or help. I take the time to reply to each one, even if it’s just to say that I don’t have any connection to Gerard Butler so I’m not in a position to connect you to him next time he’s in Australia. (Seriously. I get a lot of left-field requests.) Most of the people who reach out do thank me for my advice and sometimes even let me know if they followed it and how it turned out. But sometimes I write a thoughtful reply and get no response. I am left to wonder if they even got it. That’s a no-no. Say thanks to everyone who takes their time for you.

As Poet Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” I’d like to give you an assignment: Take just one of these and apply the lesson, whether it’s making an effort to help a friend in their career pursuit or taking another pass at your resume or cover letter, correct a mistake or simply make a good step in the right direction. You’ll be one step closer to your goal.

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About JennyYM

Jenny Yerrick Martin is a veteran entertainment hiring executive with 20+ years in film, television, and music. She created to give students, recent grads and others a true picture of the layout of the industry, and how to break in, transition to a new area, or achieve more success on their current path.


  • carmella cardina

    March 21, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    A most informative list. Thank you.

    Carmella Cardina

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