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How do you get noticed as a new graduate in a big city? In Adrienne Thiery’s case, make a video resume.
After realizing that responding to job ads was getting her nowhere fast, Adrienne, who moved to New York City after graduating with a dream to make TV shows, showcased her skills in a video. Her video resume scored her an astonishing 30 interviews and 46 meetings, including with VIPs in the TV business. Here is Adrienne’s inspiring story…
Story Resumes: Adrienne, what inspired the concept of your video and how did it ‘tell your story’?
Adrienne: It started with a job ad I replied to for a creative small company that suggested the option of sending in a short five minute video as part of the job application instead of just a paper resume and cover letter. I got an email about 10 minutes after sending the video asking me to come in for an interview. When I came in, everyone in the office had seen it and recognized me—the receptionist said she thought it was hilarious. I was astonished at the impact that little video had versus all the paper applications I’d sent, and felt like I was on to something.
I didn’t end up getting that job but after seeing that reaction from people, I knew I had to do this with other applications. So I wrote and made another video I could send to anyone in the entertainment business that would: (1) convey all the information from my resume (2) show my personality and (3) showcase my production skills. It’s important to tell people the ‘what’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ about yourself (for example, I went to X University in 2006, I did internships with company Y and company Z) but the ‘who’ and ‘why’ parts are more difficult and not directly asked about. I had to convey who I was and what I was about because people take that into account when deciding who they want working at their company. People want to know for sure that whoever they hire is not only qualified but also someone they personally would want to see each day in the office and feel comfortable introducing to everyone they know.
Story Resumes: How did your video resume capture the attention of VIPs in the TV business?
Adrienne: When people have been in any industry long enough to be a VIP, they know the status quo and usually expect it. So when they see something that’s not status quo, it stands out and they have a special appreciation for it (as long as it’s a good kind of standing out). I was amazed at the number of people who said they’d never received a video as part of a job application, which is ironic given they all work in the entertainment industry! I also cold emailed a ton of people.
The truth is most job ads are posted with someone already in mind, so the trick is to get the attention of someone before they post the ad, before they have someone in mind. Cold emailing is totally okay and even vital in a job search. It’s also okay to be a bit aggressive and email people a few times before giving up, as long as it’s not immediately consecutive.
Story Resumes: Can you tell us more about your strategy?
Adrienne: I kept my emails short. New York execs have millions of demands on their time, so I knew I had to make it short and make it good. Know your audience! Instead of trying to sell myself, I used a more personal approach and said honestly that I’d come to New York City to make my hopes and dreams come true, I had no connections, and I was trying to get my foot in the door. Then I asked them to watch the video.
The truth is until you’re a somebody, you’re a nobody. Faking it ‘til you make it doesn’t work in a highly competitive field because everyone knows you’re a nobody. You might as well accept it and let people decide for themselves if they want to help you or not. ‘Be real’—that was part of my strategy. And I think a lot of people found that refreshing, especially people who’ve been in the business a while; senior levels in any industry have seen it all and they can spot B.S. a mile away 99.9% of the time.
Story Resumes: Walk us through the creation process of your video resume.
Adrienne: It took me a while to get the angle. I knew I couldn’t turn in a video of me reciting a monologue (boooring), especially in the entertainment business. Probably 50% of my efforts were put into trying ideas and dismissing one after the other. My fiancé used to be a screenwriter so he was helpful in writing the dialogue. I don’t remember exactly how the idea came to me, but I knew when I had it that it was good and it was the one I’d use. After that the rest was just logistics and actually making the product.
Editing took forever—I had a lot of creative blocks. Sometimes you have to put something down and let it be for a day or two and then come back to it. But a couple of good things that came out of that was that I learned to do stop motion and graphics; I taught myself how to do both and it was a lot of fun. The project really got done by thinking of one thousand ideas and rejecting them all until I thought of a few that were good, and then trying not to doubt myself as I executed them.
Story Resumes: Was the response to your video resume what you expected?
Adrienne: I really didn’t know what to expect. I had to not think about it to get work done (I have a big fear of failure…). I wanted to get a job, and I wanted people to notice me. In the very, very end I didn’t get a full-time job, although there were a few ‘almosts’ and a couple of opportunities I turned down.
But I do have a part-time job with a company that I LOVE. And I met so many people. Many called me in with no jobs at all; they just wanted to meet me. I think I sped up my networking process by about seven years with that video. I learned a lot about how the biz works in the ‘real world’ through my conversations and pieced together big concepts that I know now. Everything about how job searches work that I’ve mentioned in this interview I learned from other people—ALL my preconceptions for job searching were wrong. I’m so thankful for that, or else I’d be wasting my time doing things ineffectively.
Plus, I have some acquaintances who give me informed answers when I tell them what’s going on and ask questions. That’s another thing I’m super thankful for. Some of the people I met along the way are bigwigs and I hit it off with them when I met them in person. It’s a good feeling to know those people like me and if I email them they’ll get back to me.
Story Resumes: What did you learn from this job seeking experience and what would you change for future job searches?
Adrienne: I was so focused on getting a full-time job, because that’s what you’re supposed to do out of college, right?
But I think part the reason I don’t have one is because: (1) I’m trying to enter a ‘glamour’ industry in a time when the economy is not so great and (2) maybe the workforce has permanently changed, and it is becoming the norm to do permalance and part-time. So I’ve come to accept that the full-time job I was looking for with benefits and a comfortable salary might not be there.
Other things I learned:
Story Resumes: What advice would you give to recent graduates hoping to make a splash into their careers?
Adrienne: Three things:
(1) Do things that you can be proud of and show to other people whoever they may be. It can be something you do on your own, or something you do with a group of people. Just do something you like and you can point to and say, “I was integral in making that happen.” It helps if it’s something you enjoy doing.
(2) Be nice to and talk to everyone. I’ve never gotten my leads from the person I thought I was supposed to talk to and impress; they were always from some random person in a random place who I randomly had a conversation with.
(3) Rarely is anything ever personal or about you. If someone doesn’t get back to your email, it wasn’t because they don’t like you, it’s because they’re busy. Be firm and persistent with everyone when forming relationships. The more important someone is the more demands they have on their time and it’s easy to lose an email or think you wrote someone back when you didn’t.
Story Resumes: Going a step further, how can jobseekers at any stage stand out and get noticed?
Adrienne: Do the three things in my previous answer, plus:
Story Resumes: Adrienne, thank you for the fantastic advice and for sharing your story with us. We wish you and your career in TV the very best!
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