Expert Column: Volunteering Can Get You A Job

by | March 10, 2009

There are many traditional ways to go out and find a job in entertainment - look in the want ads, blindly send a resume to the Human Resources department of a company, and ask everyone you know if they have a contact you could follow up with. But sometimes it pays to think creatively and put yourself in a position where you can meet influential people and sell them on you!

A recent post on the message board from Jackie reminded me about an experience I had that I look back on as one of the most valuable things I did to find a job. I was looking for a sales job in the publishing industry and was getting frustrated at my lack of progress in the job search. By reading Publisher's Weekly, a publishing trade magazine, I knew that there was an industry conference coming up. I went online to find out more about it, and I discovered that this conference was where all of the National Sales Managers from all of the major publishing houses would be. If I could only get in, then I could set up appointments with these people and interview for jobs! It wasn't as easy as that, however. The conference wasn't open to general audience people like me - you had to be sponsored by a company to get in, and the entrance fees were pretty steep.

So by surfing the net and talking to conference organizers, I ended up talking to a guy who was starting his own business and needed help staffing the booth he set up at the conference. I worked out a deal with him whereby I worked his booth in the mornings for free in exchange for my airfare and entrance fee to the conference. That way, he got his booth staffed for the mornings (he manned the booth in the afternoon) and I got into the conference and had my afternoons free to interview with National Sales Managers. This whole process required a lot of time and persistence on my part, but it was worth it - I met with more influential people in the space of three days than I would have ever been able to on my own. In addition, I was where all the action was, so I could speak intelligently about what was happening in the industry.

~In every industry there is one (or maybe more) conferences or festivals that serve as main get-togethers for the movers and the shakers of the industry. NATPE (National Association of Television Programming Executives), for example, happened last week in New Orleans. If this is an area you want to get into, find out how to volunteer for the conference organizers to be a part of it next year. The same goes for any local or larger film festival (Nantucket, Telluride, Sundance, or any of the smaller ones). These might be a little harder to volunteer for but it is worth investigating. Once you are there the rest is up to you!

Filed Under: Job Search


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