in Work

Securing a job in L.A. before you move there (and why that probably won’t happen)

I’ve heard from more than one person that their plan is to move to Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry—but not before they secure employment. It’s common to think that this is the way it’s supposed to work because that is the way that most jobs work.

But this isn’t the case when it comes to jobs in Hollywood.

A typical job is acquired like this:

  1. You open Microsoft Word and draft a resume.
  2. After changing the font ten times, you finalize and submit your resume to a company.
  3. The company reviews your resume, loves it, and calls you in for an interview.
  4. After studying 50 common interview questions, you ace the interview and are offered a position.

A typical film or TV job is acquired like this:

  1. Your dad is the head of Universal Studios.
  2. That’s it.

Okay, so just like there’s more ways to get a typical job than the one I outlined above, there’s also more ways to land a job in Hollywood.

Generally, you have to do three things to get a job in Hollywood:

  1. Know someone that’s already working.
  2. Know someone that’s already working well enough to where they think of recommending you when a job comes up and they’re unable to take it.
  3. Be available at any moment to take that job.

It’s awkward to assume that you think you’re going to be the first person on someone’s list if you’re 2,600 miles away. And are you really available to start working in a week if you don’t live here? Are you really available to start tomorrow? How about later tonight? Sometimes jobs come up suddenly and you need to be ready to take them. Ready like, “down the street watching YouTube videos,” not “ready to see if you can get a plane ticket in time.”

Having said all that, it’s certainly not impossible to get a job before you move here. My good friend Michelle got a job a few weeks before she moved here. I asked Michelle to write a summary of how she got her job. Here it is:

Years ago, my childhood next door neighbor gave me the email address of a good friend of his that assistant directed major award shows (including the Oscars) in L.A. Over the years I kept in touch with him, asking him as many questions as I could and getting some great advice After visiting L.A. to help a friend on a short film—and some brief but successful apartment hunting—I went back home and told my neighbor about my visit. He told me that I should remind his friend in L.A. that I was moving soon. I did, and a couple of weeks before making the move he called and offered me a job on a show he was assistant directing. Without hesitation I took the job.  That’s how I got my first job in LA without actually being in LA. That’s the short and simple version. But I think a lot of other factors contributed to it also. Had I not freelanced in Orlando a great deal and had a decent resume to show my neighbor’s friend, he could have easily not offered me the job.

What it comes down to is this: can you get a job in Los Angeles before you move here? Yes. But if you can, you probably already know you can because of a strong connection you already have. If you don’t think you have a strong enough connection, you probably don’t. So getting a job before you move falls under the “not impossible, just improbable” category, which forces you to use the same tool that most of us use to get jobs: networking.