Some careers require credentials. Some require education and certification. Some require you to apply to be chosen.
But most don’t.
No matter what your passion, there is almost always a self-employment version of the “official” path. Writer? Self-publish. Artist? Self-distribute. Teacher? Start up an education program in your community, a tutoring company, online course, or educational website. Astronaut? Build your own space ship. (I’m not kidding, check this out).
You don’t have to wait for other people to give you permission. Build something instead.
Using the Same Skills
If a parallel path does not exist, there will almost certainly be a self-employment alternative that will allow you to use the same skills.
For example, lets say you want to work for Google. Ask yourself why. Forget the name of the company or the job title. What is it about that experience you think you’d enjoy? Is it being a force of innovation or working in creative teams? You can start your own company and do all of that.
Some Gigs are Harder to Get than Others
I honestly get a little annoyed when people say “go build something” and send you on your way. Sometimes that’s not enough.
The fact is, some careers are harder to recreate and some industries have higher walls and hierarchies. Want to be a doctor? That’s tough, since you can’t practice without going to med school. But what about starting a business around education, teaching people how to live healthier lives?
My student Brian cares deeply about social justice, but instead of waiting for a law degree, he’s starting a business now to teach activists and non-profits how market themselves more effectively and increase their funding.
Where does the TV Industry Fit on the Spectrum of Easy-to-Hack vs Hard-to-Hack Gigs? Um-
I’m not sure I could have picked a more difficult goal.
Unlike the music industry, publishing industry, or even the film industry, the television industry operates almost exclusively by the old model: high walls, hierarchies, boy’s club, mandatory connections, yada yada. It’s a tough one.
Sure, there are alternative formats and easier methods of distribution. Producing a web series or even writing a screenplay would allow me to use similar skills. But both of these formats have their own dramatic structures. They’re different art forms.
What if you Not Only want the “Experience”, but the Title?
I want to write for television. Actual television. I want to sit in a writers’ room, craft season arcs, write an episode or two for that season, turn on the TV and see my ideas manifest.
I’m not going to move to LA, work as an unpaid intern while “paying my dues” and hope and pray for a lucky break. I’m not going to send script after script to agents. I refuse to play that game.
The truth is it wouldn’t be a very effective way to stand out anyway. There are too many people knocking on that door. Pursuing the “official path” is not the best use of my time.
But there might be other games I’d be willing to play- games that are somewhere between the “official path” and a total rejection of the system.
Finding Alternative Ways in
I’m dying to include details about my Hacking Hollywood project, but the truth is, I can’t write about this stuff publicly yet. Sorry about being vague. I plan on revealing everything once things are official, but right now, stuff is still in the works…
What I will do is pull out some principles from the techniques I’ve been using and share what I can. These are methods that can be applied in almost any industry to help you land your dream gig.
1. Develop Your Craft and Show off your Talent in Unconventional Ways
Create, create, create. Become amazing at what you do and put yourself out there. Feature your work online. Put your talent, personality and intent out into the world.
It was writing this post that led to an old acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years contacting me. That person is now my writing partner (and good friend).
2. Be Proactive, Look for Alternative Strategies and Diversify Your Approaches
How have others achieved the same goal? Try to find non-traditional paths that have worked for other people, even if only a handful of people.
Don’t let numbers scare you. It’s like Tim Ferris says in 4 Hour Work Week, there is far more competition for the ordinary methods of entry than for the unusual ones.
I’m pursuing multiple paths right now, including:
- Developing my own TV series with a partner, writing a pilot script and pitching to production companies.
- Writing spec scripts and applying for fellowships. (Use those external deadlines!)
- Forming a production company of my own and recreating a writers’ room. Yes, I’d be open to writing/producing a web series or short film, not as an end goal but as a stepping stone- a way to improve my writing and gain exposure.
Being proactive gets you into the right mindset and boosts both your skills and confidence. It prepares you for those opportunities when they arise. And they do arise, but only if you’re already taking action.
3. Partner Up
Find someone with the same dream. Someone you work well with, who has different but overlapping skills. Focus on your strengths, work different angles and share resources.
This also helps with motivation and accountability. My writing partner and I have been meeting once a week for the past 4 months, working little by little but staying consistant. We now have all 38 scenes of our pilot episode outlined in detail and are ready to dive into pilot writing.
Also, if one of you becomes busy, the other can take the lead for a while and vice versa. Right now I’m so busy preparing for my move to Portland and finishing up other projects, that I have no time to write. My partner is thus taking the reigns for a few weeks, till I have the time to jump back in.
4. Befriend the Friends of the Decision Makers
You might not know the people at the very top, but who else can you talk to? Is there someone who’s working your dream gig now?
These people might be a lot more accessible than the gatekeepers themselves. Not only do they have connections, but they probably have a lot of great advice for you.
Use Twitter. Read their blogs and comment. Build relationships.
Give Before you Get
How can you help these well-connected people out? Don’t ask for favours. Once they see how helpful and awesome you are, they will almost certainly want to do what they can to help you achieve your dreams (particularly if they had the same dreams themself).
Be genuine of course. Nobody likes to feel used. Form honest relationships with people you truly admire and if they pay off in other ways, great. If not, at least you made a new like-minded friend.
I wish I could elaborate more on my own experience here… But I will say that this has definitely been one of the most powerful strategies we’ve adopted to date.
Here are the strategies again:
- Develop Your Craft and Show off your Talent in Unconventional Ways
- Be Proactive, Look for Alternative Strategies and Diversify Your Approaches
- Partner Up
- Befriend the Friends of the Decision Makers
The key to all of this is taking continuous action and building momentum.
The funny thing is, the more action you take, the more incredible opportunities start popping up.
It’s like the universe telling you that you’re on the right path. You start noticing opportunities everywhere. More and more wild coincidences begin appearing. It truly feels otherworldly.
Do you have any strategies of your own for hacking the hiring process and scoring those elusive, hard-to-get gigs?