So you’ve decided to make the move to Los Angeles to pursue your hopes, dreams, or that special someone you just can’t let go (even after the restraining order). Congratulations! The good news is this move has worked out for literally millions of people, otherwise this city would be nothing but a bunch of cow pastures and oil fields.
The best way to make sure your move works out is to make sure you’re working soon after you get here. This article is to point out some of the expectations you may have before you get here, and the realities you face when you finally step into the warm SoCal air.
Expectation: Employers can’t wait to take a chance on fresh talent.
Reality: No one wants to get burned hiring and training someone who’s just going to leave.
The first thing you must realize is that your newness is itself a hindrance to your employment opportunities. Many people come to this city with delusions of grandeur, only to find out that life here isn’t any better than it was back there. Millions of people make the trip, followed by millions more tossing in the towel and Ubering to LAX after less than two months.
If you don’t already have something sweet lined up before you get here, you might have to take whatever you can get. Which leads me to our next check on self-delusion…
Expectation: My perfect job is waiting for me so I won’t have to consider anything else.
Reality: The “perfect” job is the one that pays the bills.
When I first came to LA, I had a list of jobs/professions/occupations that I would never consider (which might have been longer than the list of jobs I actually wanted). No matter what happened in my first few months on the West Coast, these were the positions I looked down on, as if taking them it meant my life was a complete failure.
List of places I said I’d never work: in a restaurant; in a sales job; in a corporate electronics store; at Blockbuster Video; as an office assistant; in a cubicle; for “The Man.”
List of places I ended up working: see above.
Turns out these “failures” were the keys to my prolonged success. Except for Blockbuster (rest in peace), these outlets are still a fine way to begin your transition from transplant to working LA taxpayer.
Don’t limit yourself because it’s not your first choice; the reason we take these jobs is so that we’re still here when our first choices are ready for us. The only thing you should be above is having to pack up and move back into your parents’ basement. (Here are some great places to find a job quickly.)
Expectation: Who needs a plan? I’ll just wing it.
Reality: People who “just wing it” usually leave the quickest.
Maybe you’re one of those people who really digs going where the wind takes you. Isn’t that why we all make the trip to SoCal in the first place? That’s a fine mindset to go on—if your mindset is “tourist” as opposed to “transplant.”
If you really, truly want to make this city work for you, that means making a list and checking it twice (real or not, Santa’s got a great work ethic). Taking the proper steps before you get here gives you the best chance of becoming gainfully employed ASAP.
Examples of Planning for Successful Job Hunting include (but aren’t limited to):
- Crafting a solid resume, because employers actually do read those things
- Lining up references before you get here (this means no burning bridges on your way out, sorry)
- Use The Three Fs (family, friends, and former employers) as resources for LA employment connections or opportunities
- If you have a choice, live in a neighborhood close to places you’d like to work. This town is massive, and if you’re making the four-hour round trip from Burbank to Santa Monica every day your work/life ratio will be horribly unbalanced.
Expectation: “Regular” jobs don’t matter because I’m going to be famous.
Reality: You’re not going to be famous if you can’t afford to eat.
The saddest reality for expat artists is discovering that Hollywood hasn’t been waiting for you to get here. There are already plenty of people here that it doesn’t much care for, and until you prove otherwise it’s going to treat you the same way.
Sure, there are the rare instant success stories, like the famous “Josh Hartnett got a movie contract in five days” tale. Then there are the slightly more likely “Jon Hamm struggled at the bottom for twenty years before lucking into the right role at the right time” stories.
The much, much more likely story is that you could have a fair amount of success, and maybe even achieve some form of fame, but you won’t get anywhere near it if you don’t get yourself a steady stream of income first. Hopes and dreams aren’t edible (except at Disney, which by the way is hiring).