Networking for Your Next Job in the Time of Covid
By Amy DeLouise
If you’ve just graduated from college or grad school, or if you’ve been downsized or furloughed, looking for work can be daunting. And now that physical networking events have been replaced with Zoom happy hours, and many companies are restructuring, it can be even harder to find your next gig. Don’t worry, there’s good news: networking hasn’t really changed. It’s still about building relationships. Just some of the platforms and practices have changed. Here are some tips to help you find that next project or position.
#1. Define Your Online Brand.
More than ever, it’s important to refine your online presentation of yourself. If you are pitching yourself as a one-woman-band, make sure your portfolio, your social media profiles and your resume reflect your Swiss Army knife abilities. If you’re pitching yourself as a Producer, be sure you can give examples of how you solved problems and delivered on time and on budget. If you need to give references, be sure you give them a heads up on the job you are applying for. It’s fine to be somewhat aspirational in your presentation of yourself, especially early in your career. But don’t misrepresent. If you’re just starting out as a 2nd unit camera operator, don’t cut together a reel that includes a lead DP’s work without attribution. And remember, your brand should not just reflect what you do, but how and why you do it. The why is all about your passion for your work, and what drives your interest in a particular subject or aspect of filmmaking. The how is the way you accomplish your tasks. And this is the part employers really care about—what’s known as soft skills. So, while it’s important to list the software, cameras or NLEs you know how to operate, it’s just as important to include skills like being able to work without supervision, being a team player, or having good judgment.
#2. Be Generous
People always think networking is talking about yourself. Sure, if you meet someone, you’ll want to be able to quickly present your “elevator pitch” if the opportunity arises. But effective networking is more about building good relationships, finding common ground. And often, that starts with you helping the other person. Maybe you can introduce them to someone you think they should know. Maybe you can share a resource related to a common hobby. The same goes for social media posts. No one wants to hear about your 5 Year Anniversary with XYZ company. But they might be very interested in “Top 5 lenses I tested for the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Pro camera.” If people think you are a person with something interesting to offer, and more to talk about than yourself, they are more likely to remember you.
#3. Reach Out to Mentors
The most successful people I know in our business are the ones who get to know every person on set or in the post department, have a can-do attitude, ask questions (at the right time), and thank colleagues for giving them pointers. Most people in this industry are generous with their advice. We love our jobs and love to explain the details to those who are willing to learn. So, look for mentors along the way who can help you connect to their networks, bring you along on their next job, or point you towards a staff opening they’ve heard about.
#4. Check out Facebook Groups and List Serves
You might be surprised to learn that a large number of freelance and permalance gigs get booked regularly through Facebook. Groups like “I Need an Editor” and “I Need a Producer” – often divided up by region—have busy feeds with job posts. There are some very active invitation-only groups made up of “alumns” of large media organizations. But if you know someone who worked at one of these shops, or you worked as a contractor to them, then it’s likely they will allow you to join. I recently posted an Assistant Producer/Assistant Editor job through one of these groups and got 10 excellent choices in the first hour. And don’t overlook joining list serves. Many organizations that have been around since the dawn of the internet (or earlier) have vibrant job-posting list-serves that you can join. In my community in the Washington DC market, both TIVA and WIFV-DC have very active job posts for members on a weekly if not daily basis. Many organizations have discounted rates for students and recent grads.
#5. Don’t Forget Alumni Groups
So many of my film projects and business contacts over the years have come from university contacts. Don’t overlook these important communities. During the Great Recession in 2009, many college alumni organizations hired job placement experts to host meetings and events for graduates’ professional networking and skill-building. Many colleges and universities have continued this work and ramped it up even further during the Covid crisis. Make sure your profile is up to date in any alumni networking app or website, and be sure to join your alumni group on LinkedIn and Facebook. One thing you will find, especially on LinkedIn, is that alumni often post about their companies. This is a great way to learn about organizations, many of whom have marketing and communications departments who need video wizards like you! And it’s also just a fabulous way to network by sharing information, links, resources and events that you might know about with others in the group.
#6. LinkedIn Matters
Whenever I give social media workshops, I usually ask, “How many people here are on LinkedIn,” and all the hands go up. Then I ask, “Keep your hand up if you know what to do with it,” and all the hands go down. I get it. It doesn’t seem like the sexy platform to be on. But 85% of companies are now hiring either directly through LinkedIn posts or through networks their current employees have on that platform. So be sure your profile is up to date, including links to videos you’ve produced, if relevant. Click on the Jobs button and select keywords to get access to literally hundreds of jobs, sometimes daily! And don’t overlook the incredible Search function. Once you’ve started to build a network of several hundred connections, you can search not just for people but for specific companies you might want to work for, and see how many connections at that firm are already in your network or just one step away. You can then ask someone you know for an introduction to that contact. More important, though, than blind job searches is maintaining your connections and building relationships with those connections by reading and commenting on relevant posts. You can also boost your own posts by including a piece of relevant information and asking a question that your followers might be interested in answering. The latest algorithm favors posts that have at least 30 likes and comments in the first few hours of posting—in other words, that generate conversations. Of course, this is also true for Instagram and Tik Tok. Though at the moment—and this could change—I don’t see people using these platforms to announce job openings. (Although I will shout out @editgirlsinsta and my own @galsngear that are helping industry women build their networks.)
#7. Check Out Online Events and Workshops
There are so many events and workshops that have now moved online, and many are quite affordable. This is a great opportunity to build new skills and network. (Check out Post|Production World Online coming in October for an incredible range of courses in everything from scripting to After Effects. I’ll be speaking there.) Networking at online events can be a challenge. I’ve participated in several online happy hours where it was not really possible to create one-on-one conversations. So, what I’ve been doing is making sure that I connect with people in the chat and find a way to follow up directly afterwards, whether that is through the meeting platform, or finding them on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. (See, there it is again—another reason to get your profile polished on that platform!) If a workshop has breakout groups, this is the ideal networking scenario, since you are more likely to be in smaller conversation groups and people with a common interest. And remember that you don’t have to participate only in work-related online events to network for jobs. You can build relationships around shared interests like art, music, wine, and more. Each meaningful connection you make links you to another world of connections. So, look for hashtags related to your passions and interests, and yes, keep going to those Zoom events.
Getting a job in our industry has never been easy. But if you persist, and grab opportunities when you find them, you will be able to build a network of interesting people who help you not just survive but thrive.
Content creator, speaker and author Amy DeLouise is a leader in the field of short form digital storytelling and has garnered more than 40 creative excellence awards including Tellys, Peer, New York Festivals, Aurora, and CINE Golden Eagle. She is one of the leading voices keynoting at industry conferences such as IBC Amsterdam, NAB Shanghai, IABM London and NAB SHOW Las Vegas. With more than 400 productions to her credit, Amy has also consulted with Fortune 500 companies including Federal Express, S&P Global and Microsoft on how to leverage their content assets and deliver powerful stories to target audiences. In addition to leading her production company DeLouise Enterprises LLC, Amy founded #GalsNGear – an initiative focused on building community and gender equity in the screen media and technical fields. Amy is a LinkedIn Learning author with popular titles in media production, business and marketing with a half million views worldwide. Her book The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal Press/Routledge) is being used in dozens of film and communications programs worldwide. Her new Focal Press book with co-author Cheryl Ottenritter is Nonfiction Sound & Story for Film and Video: A Practical Guide for Filmmakers. Amy holds a B.A. with Distinction in English from Yale University. For more resources and tips from Amy, visit her website at www.amydelouise.com.