Tips for College Media and Entertainment Industry Bound

Recently at a college conference in NYC I was asked to speak to young students wanting to break into the media and entertainment industry. Here are the 10 tips I shared with them.

1. Be unique.  Not different. We already have a Steven Spielberg and Meryl Streep. Who are you and what talents, personality, and perspective can you bring to the industry? Each of us have different parents and life experiences. List them and find your unique niche. Being different is not enough. We’re all different, but being unique means you understand how to use your God given life and talents for His purposes. Read the book, One Big Thing – Discovering What You Were Born to Do, by Phil Cooke (yes, he is my husband).

2. Now rate unique talents and skills from 1-10. The industry is collaborative. You need lots of people with many talents to complete projects. Knowing a bit about each job is essential but you can’t be great at all of them. What are you great at doing – #10? Focus on that – that’s what people pay for – 9’s and 10’s.  They don’t pay for 4’s and 5’s. You may hear that you need to work on the lower #’s- but I think that’s a waste of time. Know a bit about each position as you may have to do some work with them as you climb the latter, but stay focused on your higher skills and talents.  Don’t get distracted.

3. Don’t pursue what you love, pursue what you hate. The thing that God’s put you on the earth to do may be something you need to fix. Your misery is your ministry. If you hate how romantic movies are made then write a new one. If you hate how a DP shoots horror films – fix it. Do you hate that there are sexual predators for children in the world? Then create a media project that exposes them. Your media skills are tools for you to use to create and be used of God to change the world.  What do you hate? Your passion for what you hate will propel you to your life’s purpose.  Check our the life of Lilias Trotter. There’s a great documentary on her life called, Many Beautiful Things. She’s a great example of finding your purpose and pursuing what God has for you rather than what you think would be a life fulfilling career.

4. Be ready with your elevator pitch at all times and all places.  Holly Hunter got stuck in an elevator with the writer Beth Henley in NYC and literally got her 1st job that ignited her career. You know you have to have an elevator pitch but are you practicing it? It’s one thing to know it and another to intelligently state it. You will only get it out and sound intelligent if you practice. Remember it’s a pitch. You will pitch projects all your career and if you can’t pitch yourself you’ll never be able to pitch a project well. Practice- Practice – Practice!

5. Throw your net to the other side of the boat.  When Jesus walked the earth looking for his disciples – followers he told Peter to throw his net to the other side of the boat. You’re looking for a job – food. Don’t fish where everyone else is fishing. God has a special place where He wants you to work and flourish. Look for places that no one is going to. It’s may be on the other side of the boat. Then, be willing to take up the challenge and go there. The climb is hard, perilous, and you will need God’s strength, but if it’s directed by Him and  “you build it” God will honor it. You will have more fish than can fill a boat. Remember who you are and you’re unique skills and talents as you think about this.

6. Learn to never stop being a servant. Mark Zoradi former President of Walt Disney Pictures said to my students one year at a conference I directed,  “always over deliver.”  If a project is due on Monday – deliver it on the Friday before. If you’re given 10K deliver it for 9K.  Go above and beyond each time even when you’re successful and it’s easy to do only what’s required.  They won’t come back if it’s not exceptional. Over deliver.

7. Solve Problems.  I pay my housekeeper a certain amount of money because she solves the problem of needing a clean house, but I pay my lawyer a bigger sum of money because he solves bigger issues for me. Remember with every job you are there to solve a problem for the client. Keep that in the forefront. As you’re trusted to solve small problems for them (being an assistant) and you do them with excellence, you will be trusted with bigger issues – bigger problems. Solve them. This leads to moving up the ladder and further ahead with more trust and success. Solve problems don’t just do job.

8. Know if you have a “freelance” mindset or an “employee” mindset.  Not everyone is cut out to find a job constantly which is a freelance lifestyle. It’s harder but often required for many positions these days. But some people need to have a steady paycheck. They can’t emotionally take the ups and downs or the financial instability of a freelance lifestyle. That’s OK. But don’t go for a freelance job if you’re an employee job personality. Know the risks and know yourself.  With each lifestyle there are pros and cons but don’t waste your time going for jobs you’re not cut out for emotionally.

9. Dress for success. I’m often surprised how this seems so easy and obvious but how it is abused still today. Our culture has truly changed since I entered the business. Tattoos and pink hair were never found at the professional level. Now they’re almost looked up to in creative circles. But in saying all that….. cleanliness is next to Godliness.

Looking neat and clean and smelling that way can’t be negated. Often students coming from college are on limited budgets and can’t buy designer clothes. That’s OK.  But your look and style do matter. If should reflect who you are and you should always be bathed and look clean.

10. Have a vision – not a destination.  A destination ends – but a vision continues to grow. Walt Disney had a vision and even before he had completed Disneyland he was thinking of Disney World. Something bigger. He died before it was complete but his vision was so big it still continues today. What is your vision not your end goal? Have one.