How to decide who to approach
Research the people or companies whose work you admire, whether that be in games, film, TV, VFX or animation. Find out as much about the work of that person or organisation as you can. If you are approaching a company, find out the name of the person who is likely to be responsible for recruiting to the roles that you want. If you want to be a 2D artist in games, find out who the head of art is. If you want to work in hair and make-up in film, find the names of hair and make-up designers.
Don’t approach everyone you can possibly thing of. When you are networking at events, it’s worth talking to as many people as you can but when it comes to writing to people and asking to meet them, it’s important to be focused about who you contact.
"Appropriateness of contact is key,” says Gareth Ellis-Unwin, ScreenSkills Head of Film and producer of The King's Speech. “It's very important to be laser-focused on who you are approaching, their appropriateness for the opportunity you are aiming to achieve and recognition that they probably lead incredibly busy working lives. Be concise. Be polite. Be professional.”
Once you have identified the people who you think might be able to help you find work, email them with a CV and cover letter.
"At my production company, we would regularly get approached by people looking for employment or work experience opportunities,” says Gareth. “What always impressed us most was the ability to see beyond the CV and get a sense of the person behind. Why are they so keen on working in film or TV? Why our company specifically?
"What can they share that evidences their passion: a portfolio, a showreel, or links to their work? Who is the applicant outside of their working life and what are their other interests and passions? Qualifications and grades are obviously important but it would always be the individual that mattered more to us.”
How to write your CV and cover letter
Your CV is a summary of your work experience and qualifications. It’s a chance to market yourself to potential employers and let them see at a glance how you might be able to help them. It's up to you what you want to include in your CV and to decide what balance of personality and professionalism is right for you. However, most CVs will include:
- Your name
- Your contact details
- A short personal introduction (no more than 30 words describing yourself, your attitude, personal qualities, interests and key selling points)
- Your key skills (you can list these as bullet points and should include any software you are proficient in, as well as any languages)
- Your work history
- Your education, qualification and training
You may also want to include whether you have a valid driving licence or other similar licences.
Make sure you keep your CV concise, no more than two A4 pages, and try to use a clear professional layout and spacing. Check your spelling and grammar - and then check it again. Avoid using long sentences. Employers will be looking for skills, experience and any new ideas or insights that you can bring.
How to write a cover letter
Your cover letter accompanies your CV. If you are emailing a potential employer, write your cover letter in the body of your email. If you are applying for a job online, have it as a separate PDF. This is your opportunity to talk directly to the employer about why you want to work for them, so spend some time getting it right.
Make sure you tailor your letter to each company or individual that you contact. Use the person’s name. Don’t write “To whom it may concern.” You should adapt your CV and cover letter to fit the needs of each person you send them to. Show that you have researched their company, either by referencing their recent work or by making it clear you know the sort of projects they are involved in.
Try to keep your cover letter brief, and in three sections:
- Your reason for writing (e.g. "I am writing to apply for your vacancy in...")
- Your selling points (skills or experience that show you have what the employer is looking for)
- A prompt for further action (e.g. "I'd welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss my suitability for the role...")
How to be persistent
If you don't hear back from an employer, you can follow up with a short email, but continuing to send them multiple emails will probably do more harm than good. Try to strike the right balance between showing your enthusiasm and interest in the role without pestering the employer.
“Persistence is to be applauded…being a pest not so much!” says Gareth. “Contacting a company once a month is about right."
ScreenSkills has developed a suite of five e-learning modules designed to support people looking to get their first break in the screen industries.
It starts with an introduction to working in the screen industries and the various roles involved.
The remaining modules will help you identify the right role for your skills, how to find work, how to apply for a role and how to perform well at interview.