10 Tips on How To Get A Job With A Video Production Company or Photographer
...or any other job for that matter.
A few times a week I get emails from people looking for jobs in the photo or video industry. My heart goes out to each person, because I have been in that exact position. In my case, I was a creative 25-year old, going through burnout from working a corporate job. I was craving a full-time artistic career, but was held back by the fact that I barely had any experience in the creative arts.
However, I had one big thing going for me. Several years of sales training had taught me how to get my foot in the door with nearly anyone. Furthermore, I knew how to close a sale. If I was going to transition out of a corporate job and into a creative role with little experience, I would have to learn how to sell something new: myself.
I’m catering this blog towards people trying to get an entry-level job in the photo or video industry, but a lot of this advice could apply in any industry. This is what worked for me as an employee, and also the reasons why I hire certain people over others as an employer.
1. BE A SNIPER. NOT A DUCK HUNTER.
A duck hunter fires a shotgun blast with hundreds of bb’s into a flock of birds hoping that something lands. A sniper takes their time. With research and a thoughtful approach, they fire once with the intention of hitting a single target. When it comes to job hunting, be a sniper.
Employers can sniff-out a shotgun email in half a second. We know when we have been sent the same templated message and that went out to a dozen other companies that day. Emails like that are quickly deleted. From experience, I know that If an applicant has not taken the time to learn about me or my company before reaching out, then it’s unlikely they will make an impression in further correspondence. This is usually confirmed by the fact that those types of applicants hardly ever follow up. We’ll cover following up a little later.
First, let’s take a step back. Before reaching out to any employers, ask yourself “Who, specifically, do I want to work for?” Who is really doing the things that I want to do, and where do I see myself fitting in. Do some research. Narrow it down to just a few few companies. Literally read their entire website. Reach out one at a time, after you have a good grasp on what they’re all about. Be a sniper
2. SHOW THEM YOU DID YOUR HOMEWORK
My sales background taught me that before you ever reach out to a potential buyer, learn about who they are first. Learn their values and how they describe themselves. Study the vocabulary they use so you can speak their language. Try to predict their pain points and their goals. Read over their whole website to see what they have taken the time to explain. See what they have been up to recently on their social media. Gathering this information helps you craft your initial outreach and shows them that you care about this first conversation.
In your initial email, your goal is to show the recipient that they are not just one of a dozen folks you’re reaching out to today. Your correspondence must have some evidence that you did your homework. You want to show them that you want this job, and not just a job. Find ways to reference the company’s website, social media activity, and their work. Find out who will be receiving the email and address them by name.
3. A COMPLIMENT GOES A LONG WAY
Think of your potential employer as a regular, emotional human being. They have put a lot of effort towards building a portfolio and a business. They also spent a lot of energy crafting their website and social media presence. We all feel good when people compliment the things that we have put a lot of effort towards. Find ways to compliment them and take notice of details that aren’t just on the top banner of the homepage. The more specific, the better.
Avoid vague compliments like “You guys do great work!” Rather, try something like “The lighting on the Joe’s Hardware project was fantastic. I’d love to know more about what reference material inspired those shots.”
Being able to engage in friendly small-talk, and ask questions about their work shows them that you are truly interested in them. People like working with people they like. Sticking to complementary and uplifting remarks is a great way to loosen the mood and make it an enjoyable conversation for everyone.
4. DON’T FOCUS TOO MUCH ON HOW GREAT YOU ARE
This is going to sound pretty dry, but if you are cold-emailing a potential employer, they will likely open your email with one question in mind: What can this person do for me?
If your correspondence is 90% about all the things you have done and what an incredibly talented person you are, it’s going to distract from the ultimate question of how can you beneficially fit into the employer’s organization.
Additionally, if you are applying for an entry level position, most employers are more interested in training their staff in their companies techniques and best practices. If you try to assert yourself as an expert before you have the credentials to back it up, it can be a turn off. Humility goes a lot further than bluster.
5. DON’T INSULT YOUR POTENTIAL EMPLOYER
Really? Does this even need to be addressed? Yes, because I’ve seen it too many times now. I’m not sure what cultural phenomenon has produced this, but do not approach a potential employer with anything that remotely resembles this:
“Your work is lacking creativity and refinement. With my skills and experience, I can help you start pushing out a better product.”
...because that’s literally an email I received once.
6. ASSERT YOUR POTENTIAL VALUE
Every employer is asking “What value can this individual bring to our company?” You’ll be doing yourself a favor if you lead with the answer to that question and continue to return to it throughout your correspondence.
Small business owners in general have too many items on their plate, including menial tasks that they would love to pass off to someone else. In the photo/video world, that might be running errands, doing pre-production, having talent and crew fill out waivers on set, organizing gear, etc.. Score points by acknowledging that the employer is busy and that you would be happy to help take some of those tasks off her plate. This continues to be valuable after you have landed the job as well.
Also, if you have tangential skills that might help the agency, offer them! Maybe you know some basic graphic design, or how to update a Wordpress site. Maybe you don’t mind doing some sales or customer service. Most creative employers would love to spend more time on the creative aspects of their company, if only they had some help with some of the little tasks that slow them down. Be that person that helps them focus on what they love, and you will be invaluable to them.
7. DON’T BE AFRAID TO FOLLOW UP
Following up is crucial in all aspects of life and I see too many people be overly shy about this. Most people want to respond to you. They have every intention of responding to you. But we all have a million things going on, and some people just need a little nudge.
As a general rule of thumb, I always follow up on outgoing emails after 48 hours. Whether it’s a client, or a rental company, one of my crew members, family members or best friends. If I send you a message and don’t hear from you in 48 hours, I have to assume that it just slipped your mind and you need a little ping.
Don’t we all feel terrible when someone we like messages us and we genuinely forget to respond? A gentle follow up is helpful and productive 99% of time. And that 1% of people who get annoyed at a professional follow up after they have ghosted you for two days, are probably not worth your time anyway.
A personal confession. I get a lot of job request emails. I do my best to respond to all of them, because that’s the professional thing to do. But at the end of the day, unless I’m actively looking to hire someone, responding to those cold emails is a low priority. My internal stance is, “We’re not hiring right now. You probably sent this email to a dozen people. So there’s little point in taking the time to write a rejection response, because I will probably never hear from you again.”
However, a very easy way to catch my attention is to 1) show that you didn’t just send me the same email you sent everyone else, and 2) follow up. Following up shows me that you are actually interested, and if I don’t respond the first time, I will definitely respond to a follow up.
8. ACCEPT REJECTION LIKE A PROFESSIONAL
Whether you live in Los Angeles, New York City, or Austin, the production world is a small town. You will run into people again. The only proper way to respond to a rejection is with the utmost professionalism and optimism.
Example: “Thank you for your consideration. You guys do great work and I hope that our paths cross sometime in the future!”
And then check back in after 6 months or so, if you are still interested in working with that organization. Again, it always catches my attention when someone follows up later on. The production world is pretty fluid so opportunities come and go all the time. If you are not the right person at the moment, you may easily be that person a few months later.
9. NAILING THE INTERVIEW
You can read all kinds of advice on this topic. There are the obvious tips like: be punctual, care about your appearance, be pleasant, etc. Here’s one not-so-obvious thing I would throw in the mix. ASK QUESTIONS! Yes, the interviewer’s job is to ask you questions and find out more about you to see if you’re a good fit for the job, but flipping that dynamic can really work in your favor.
Questions show that you did your homework and you are actually interested in this job and not just a job. It’s also a great opportunity for you to find out if this truly is a job you want and what the expectations are. Additionally, it gives the interviewer or business owner a chance to talk.
People generally enjoy talking about themselves and the things they have built. Bring this joy out of them in the interview by asking questions.
Again, you can find a lot of examples on Google about how to discuss expectations, compensation, benefits, etc. Here are some examples that might be a little different:
What’s next for your company? What are your goals?
What are some of the biggest challenges in your job right now?
What are some tasks you would love to hand off to someone?
What has this job looked like for people that have been in this position before?
How have people been promoted from this position or what have they used the skills they learned here to advance in their career?
What did you like about the person that worked this position before? What did you dislike?
How will I know I’m doing a good job? What are the markers of success?
When and how often will I receive an evaluation?
When and how often are raises given?
What is the general company culture and etiquette like? What is the dress code?
10. ONCE YOU GET THE JOB, BE INDISPENSABLE
It’s easy to let go of people that simply do what is asked and nothing more. It’s really hard to let go of people that do the following:
Help take small items off their bosses plate
Develop systems for their work
Improve practices at the company as a whole
Do a better job than any of their predecessors
Bring in business
Accept feedback positively and enact it immediately
Are a joy to be around
These are the types of people I try to hang on to as long as I can. And the types of people for whom it is a joy to invest in, develop, give additional responsibilities
These are just a few ideas for standing out from the crowd during the hiring process. There are a million different right answers to how to get a job or make a good first impression. These are just the things that have worked for me!
Andrew Bennett is an award-winning, published, commercial photographer based in Austin, Texas. He has worked with Absolut Vodka, T-Mobile, Brinks, Adobe and 100's of other brands seeking colorful, story-driven content. He and his wife, Dorothy Bennett, are the directors of Bennett Creative, an Austin video, animation, & photography agency.
Follow along @andrewbennettphoto