The No-Experience Resume

Chris is experiencing a common problem:

I’m about to start hunting for PA jobs in NYC after a 4 years as a reporting analyst. After a lot of thought I have decided that I would like to work in film/tv, eventually if I’m lucky and good enough as a writer or director. I have been writing for a while and plan to continue that, but feel the need to change jobs because my work is boring me to death, is stressful and I often need to work a lot of over time which cuts into my writing. I understand that being a PA will eat just as much if not more of my time but I would be learning about the industry and making contacts so I think the pros far outweigh the cons for me.

My my past work experience has nothing to do with the entertainment industry. Should I send my resume as is and make a clarifying statement in my cover letter about wanting to change careers? Is there anything I should change about my resume, possibly shorten it? I plan on briefly mentioning that my previous experience has taught me to be organized, professional and proficient in Microsoft Office. But other then that I don’t have any relevant experience to offer.

Financially I’m in a ok position so I could intern if need be, is this what I’m likely to have to do to get my foot in the door?

I don’t know how long analysts work, but I can virtually guarantee being a PA will take more of your time. When we talk about “overtime” on a TV show, we mean more than twelve hours. It’s not uncommon to go home, eat, sleep, get up, and go straight back to work, with absolutely no leisure time.

That being said, office PAs do have a surprising amount of free during the work day. Not that you’re in control of when that free time will be; you have to be ready to jump up from your desk at a moment’s notice. But if you’re the kind of guy who can write in fits and starts, you could do worse than a PA gig.

And, like you said, connections are important. Chris Nolan’s assistant is producing a new Warner Brothers movie through Nolan’s company. You won’t get that kind of opportunity analyzing reports.

As far as interning goes, you’re not legally allowed to intern unless you’re in college. Otherwise, it’s violation of the 13th amendment. If it’s financially doable, you could take a couple units at a local community college, and use your student status to get an internship.

Now, on to the big question about resumes.

Remember that people in the entertainment industry are used to reading scripts. They like seeing lots of white space. If your resume is just a page of solid text, the best you’ll get is a brief skim. They’re not going to read in detail how organized you are.

Keep the resume as simple as possible. Only list job details that actually relate to what you’ll be doing– answering calls, distributing information, making small purchasing decisions, driving EVERYWHERE.

If you say you brokered a $20 million dollar deal between two Fortune 500 companies, the coordinator will realize you’re overqualified, and assume you’re going to want to quit as soon as possible. That kind of person is of no use to them.

Also, skip the “skills” and “goals” portion of the resume. No one looks at those in this business.

On a related note, a friend of mine suggested I start a resume-and-cover-letter-analyzing business, here on the TAPA website. I get a lot of requests from readers saying, “Hey, can you read my resume?” It doesn’t seem fair to do that for only a few readers. (Notice I didn’t get into the specifics of Chris’s resume?)

What I’m wondering is, would people be interested in a service like that? For a small fee, I’d help you highlight your relevant experiences in a visually pleasing and readable manner? Let me know.

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13 Responses

  1. Hey! I’m really curious how you would write a cover letter with no experience. I’ve been all over the internet and there is really not much information as to how to put together a short and sweet cover letter with no specific PA experience. How to make your transferable skills shine!


  2. Great, on your resume Music Video’s go under it’s own title Music Videos right under cimaercomls but before education.If that’s all you do and are submitting for other Music Videos then place it first.NYC theater credits go first and in LA Film credits come first.When in Rome you know

  3. I too need help with my resume. I want to get into the film industry, but lack the experience and have not finished getting my degree in visual arts / media. Please help!!! =)

  4. Absolutely love this blog! Seriously, give us a heads up if you decide to consult on resumes. I am in need of some guidance and as the previous comment, do not mind paying a “small fee” or exchange for freelance writing work. 🙂

  5. I would find it extremely helpful. Depending on the definition of “small fee” I’d most likely be interested in your services.

  6. If I were to enroll in school to be able to take internships, how would one go about getting an on set internship? I’ve watched a few credits that have “art department intern” and other credits listed but I can never find these through production company websites or other job search engines.

  7. I, and I am sure many other people, would love you to take a look at our resumes. Even though there may not be many comments on this thread, if you open up the service, it will come up in search results and people will flock. Trust me.

  8. Yeah count me in too. I have been sending my resume out everywhere for a while now and only gotten one bite. I have a good amount of experience but think I may be presenting it wrong.

  9. TAPA, I would definitely be interested in having you look over my resume and helping me streamline it. 🙂

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