If you’re trying to get a job in the entertainment industry, it helps if you know someone–or if you have the “right accents, hairstyles, clothes or backgrounds to join the best networks.” A study released by professors from the University of St. Andrews concludes that having the right accent and background goes a long way towards making sure that your resume (or “CV” as the Brits call it) shows up in front of a person who can actually get you hired.
The idea that your social circle plays an important role in your career advancement is nothing new. It has long been known that the best way to find a job is through word-of-mouth. Many job listings are never even officially publicly posted because the positions are filled by friends and acquaintances who know people who work for a company that is hiring; once the grapevine brings in qualified job candidates who have already been informally vetted, many employers won’t then go through the costly and time-consuming process of trying to find more people who are possibly qualified for a job.
For minorities, women, and those who are not well-connected, the lack of access to the social circle of people who already work in the industry makes it more difficult to break into high-profile positions in the entertainment field such as producer and director.
Without a formal system for assessing skills, the profession turned to word-of-mouth and personal knowledge when hiring staff. “Most jobs were gained through friends and friends of friends,” the researchers say. “Openings were rarely advertised and producers and directors tended to rely on the grapevine.”
Many of the staff inherit contacts in the industry, the researchers say, noting that “a surprising number of informants were married to others in the industry”. In one case the mother of one producer-director “had produced a prestigious BBC series so it was ‘natural progression’ for him to enter the industry through her network.”
“Others obtained work through indirect contacts. One researcher got her first post because her father, a fire safety inspector, knew a fire safety inspector in TV, who in turn knew a sympathetic unit manager. A production manager broke through a cycle of no replies from cold-calling CVs when she realised a distant relative was related in their turn to the managing director of a major independent production company.”
Even if you weren’t born “posh”, it’s never too late to start networking. Take every opportunity you can to go out and meet people. Learn to socialize and network. The next person to get hired for that plum position could be you–if you work on positioning yourself a well-connected social web now.