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CAREER CHANGE - AM I TOO LATE?

December 2017 | Georgie McGahey

The average person changes career five to seven times. Is 2018 going to be the year you make a change in your working life?

As we hurtle towards the end of 2017, many of us will be making plans for the future. In fact, there is nothing quite like the bringing in of a new year to consider where you are and where you are going. You could be building on your current career trajectory, or having a severe re-think about where your career is headed. 

At whatever stage of your working life, changing career should be applauded. It takes a lot of thought, courage and effort to leave the familiar and comfortable and branch out to something new; we at MFJF salute you. However, if you have commitments outside of your working life there are some issues you will need to tackle first; especially if you are contemplating a career change to the film industry.  

On the whole, the film industry is very welcoming of career changers, mainly because they bring with them a wealth of life experience that’s readily translated to the office or set. If you’re entering the business side of the industry, from a business background, then you may find your skills fit nicely into less junior positions. If you are thinking about a radical departure, the likelihood is you will be starting at the bottom, which can mean taking direction from someone who is a decade younger, and potentially being the oldest intern in the office. For the right person, however, ascension is swift; as long as you stay positive and focused on your end game. 

This next statement is common sense, but it bears repeating. If you do not have relevant experience for the positions you apply for, you’re probably going to have to think about adding to your CV with some voluntary work. Fortunately, short films are often shot over a weekend, so you don’t have to quit the day job just yet, and can build up the relevant skills while pulling in a wage.

WHAT ARE THE KEY QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN APPROACHING A CAREER CHANGE?

Why are you changing career? Remember the saying ‘the grass is always greener’? Make sure this saying doesn’t apply to you. Think carefully about your motivations, if you’re thinking of a career change because you like the idea of doing something more ‘creative’, you might want to give your decision some more thought. Research the industry and the jobs on offer.

Can you survive on the wage? Money shouldn’t always be a determining factor, however, if you have a family money is always a factor.

Are you comfortable becoming a freelancer? If you're looking at production, the career path inevitably involves becoming a freelancer, which is a dramatic shift when you have always been an employee.

The slow burn. Do you realise you will infrequently be working for the first few years of your new venture? Favorable career changes are achieved over time, rather than one big push. Catching a break in the industry can take time, but you can use this to your advantage. Taking time off work to build up your skills and experience, rather than making one huge step into unemployment will ease the transition.

Have you considered saving a nest egg before you jump ship? It's well known that the first few years of your career will be badly paid and your earnings will be inconsistent. Do you have funds to tide you over in the interim? If not, shifts at the local pub might not be the career change you had in mind.

Lifestyle. If you are currently working 9 - 5, are you prepared to have your understanding of a working day turned upside down? People work until the job is done, rather than wait until the next day to finish the task. It’s an all-consuming industry for the most part, where work ethic and professionalism are vital.

If you DON’T do it now, will you always regret it? This is a life question, and well worthy of consideration. In twenty years from now, will you look back and say “I wish I had just gone ahead and taken the chance”. On average, most people spend two-thirds of their life at work, so unless the reasons for not proceeding are family related or financial, it’s a long time to be thinking “what if …”.

SHOULD I TAKE A SHORT FILM PRODUCTION COURSE?

If you're considering this route, take time to assess what you are going to walk away with. If it's information and trying your hand at some of the job roles, a course can be a great way to further your interest, and many are part-time courses to fit in with those already at work. If you’re considering a class because you think it will land you paying work, you might want to hold on. For the majority, a course will not land you a job, and you may decide you're better off saving the cash to pay for those first few years of irregular work.

WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE ON MY CV?

If you’re in your 30’s you'll have a full CV; but should you be listing everything? Remember, if you're going for those junior positions keep it short, be concise and make your skills relevant. Make the connections for the reader, so they know where your skills cross over and use your cover letter to explain your change of circumstances.

“Ensure that CVs are designed, and cover letters are correctly addressed. Make it as simple to digest as possible. Usually, those hirings don't have long to spend on each application, so it's essential that the facts stand out.”

Recruiter. 
Head of Development

Look at your back catalogue of work and make assessments, does your bar work from twelve years ago need to be on there? Remember your advantage - the mature, professional demeanour - apply that to your CV, make your skills relevant and if you don’t hear back, make amendments and build on the low-level experience needed to make the transition a success.

IF IN DOUBT ASK.

Possibly the best way to make a choice is to ask someone who has been in the same situation. So if you are a career changer with a story to share, or thinking about making the transition then let us know.  Everyone journey into the film industry is unique, but the one piece of advice that is frequently given is “persevere”. If you're changing career this information still applies, it may be months before you get your first interview but if you commit and keep the faith you should get there in the end. 

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