Experts Tout Keys to Career Reinvention in WiTH Webinar

Career reinvention often seems daunting, especially during this period of COVID-19 crisis and disruption, but there are three key career “lighthouses” that members of the media and entertainment industry can use to navigate these challenges, according to career experts who spoke Aug. 27 during the Women in Technology Hollywood (WiTH) webinar “Learning, Connection, and Community: Harnessing the Winds of Disruption.”

During the two-hour webinar, presented in coordination with the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), four career experts discussed how focusing on learning and remaining connected with other members of the community can significantly help those looking to make any major career moves, especially during the pandemic, design a career roadmap and improve their networking opportunities to find a position that is right for them.

Keynote 1

Up first was Dr. Joanna Massey, speaker, author and thought leader, who used her keynote, “Creating Advantage in Adversity: Reframing Career Crisis to Career Catalyst,” to focus on the “career pivot” that many people find themselves having to make.

“If you’re like me, when you hear the phrase ‘career pivot,’ you instantly want to grab a gallon of ice cream and sit on the couch for days watching reruns of your favorite childhood TV shows rather than deal with the reality that the career you’ve had for a decade – maybe even more – might not be working for you any longer,” she told viewers.

Massey knows that the word “pivot” inspires a “sense of dread or the need to hibernate for a week” because she’s been “downsized” in her own career in the entertainment industry five times, she pointed out, noting she has given herself the title “The Queen of Pivoting.” At just the age of 28, she had been able to become a vice president running public relations and marketing for a TV production company and, at 32, she had moved up the ranks to become a senior vice president of corporate communications and publicity at a TV network, she recalled.

However, that was “where my career trajectory went from looking like me climbing a corporate ladder to me climbing around a jungle gym” in 2006, after her network merged with another network and she ended up pivoting to a job at the parent company in the then-new area of digital programming, she noted. Only 18 months later, she was “downsized” out of that job, during a writers’ strike and right before the 2008 recession, she told viewers, adding she ended up being out of work six years. She decided to start studying psychology during that period and ended up with a doctor of psychology degree, but decided she didn’t want to do that for a living and eventually decided to pivot back to Hollywood and back to PR. After more pivoting that included a return to New York City to be with her mom after being in Los Angeles 30 years, she started doing what she is doing now: Serving as a communications consultant, author and public speaker.

Massey went on to urge viewers to not be resistant to change, but conceded it can be so hard to pivot because the human amygdala makes us “hardwired to resist change.” It is important to hold off on making major decisions until the prefrontal cortex in charge of problem solving and rational decision making is back in charge, she said, suggesting everybody do whatever it is that helps them to be calm in order to get centered so the amygdala is no longer in charge. You may have to dump all the ice cream and stop binge-watching Netflix in order to get there, she noted. Once rational again, what job seekers should do is figure out what they are good at and figure out if they like doing it and can make money from doing it, she said.

Keynote 2

During the next session, a fireside chat between her and Eric Iverson, CEO, CIO and CTO of Iverson Consulting and CTO of Global M&E Vertical at Amazon Web Services, Iverson insisted “I’m not giving up my ice cream” and asked her to reassure everybody watching they did not have to really do that.

Massey conceded that ice cream is a weakness for her also, but noted “there is a big difference” between eating two scoops of it as a treat and a whole gallon, which can create a “whole downward spiral.” The key is “moderation,” she said.

While the 2008 recession was disruptive to the M&E sector, it was not as disruptive as the pandemic has been, Iverson also pointed out. Indeed, “we are experiencing the five stages of grief” right now with COVID-19: Shock, denial, anger, bargaining and then “ultimately you get into acceptance,” Massey replied, adding it is important for everybody to realize it is “perfectly normal” to be experiencing these feelings now and that many people are experiencing the same thing. It is, however, important to “reframe negative thinking” so it does not spin out of control, she said, suggesting it may be a good idea to call a friend to help.

One metaphor Massey said she has used to provide successful advice is to think of oneself as a wave in the ocean when experiencing a loss of control with one’s career. Maybe you don’t want to go the shore and hate doing that, but “you don’t have a choice” because the ocean is forcing you to the shore, so she suggested: “Let go. Enjoy the ride. Accept it and figure out when you get back out in the surf what you want to be doing as a wave.”

For those members of the Hollywood community specifically who have found themselves in another industry as a result of a pivot or even not working at all for a while, Massey said that “as long as you stayed in touch with the technology that we’re dealing with” in the industry, “you can go back – it’s not a problem.”

Keynote 3

Up next, at the start of the keynote “You Aren’t A Robot, So Why Do You Sound Like One When You Introduce Yourself?” Joanna Bloor, CEO and founder of The Amplify Lab and a self-described “potentialist” and aspiring “fairy godmother,” warned “you are about to step into an interactive session.”

Bloor challenged viewers to think about whether companies perceive an employee’s value in terms of his or her productivity or potential (“the stuff you’re going to do”). “Maybe they want a little bit of both, and yet we live in a world today where we only talk about our past and our productivity, and what we’ve accomplished,” she said, adding: “That makes us all sound a little like robots… I think it’s time, especially in this crazy future we are navigating through, for us to take agency over our future selves.”

One major challenge we all need to come to terms with, she told viewers, is that “every decision made about you and your opportunities is made in a room you are not in – and I mean every decision,” including whether somebody wants to go on a date with you, be a friend of yours, work with you, buy from you or hire you – and you make the same decisions about other people.

With that in mind, there are two sets of questions that everybody should try to ask themselves, especially when looking for a job: (1) “Do they even know that you exist? Are they talking about you? Are you part of the conversation at all?” And it can be “super hard” to get into that “consideration set,” especially if you do not look like or sound like the other people in the room and who they normally hire, she noted. (2) “If you are in the consideration set – if they are talking about you — what is it that they are saying about you in that room and is that something that you want them to be saying?” She also urged everybody to update their resumes because there are “really terrifying statistics when it comes” to them. One major issue with most resumes is “they are only telling a story of your past; they’re not telling a story of your potential – and it’s your potential that the hiring manager wants,” she said.

In one part of the interactive portion of the presentation, she asked viewers to specify what words people would use to describe them. We all already have a “personal brand” that has been built over years, she went on to say, adding, “the question is: What is it and is that serving you?” It is important that everybody knows what they are known for today, she also pointed out.

Keynote 4

In the final keynote, “Finding & Cultivating New Career Opportunities,” Nicole McMakin, CEO of Irvine Technology Corporation (ITC), urged viewers to increase their networks as soon as possible.

Specifically, she suggested viewers: Join industry-relevant groups; make themselves known as resources and speakers; volunteer to take on projects at work and outside work; create groups around their passions; and become very active on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a “wonderful opportunity for us to be able, in a virtual world, to get to know people,” she said, adding that everybody should: “Be known for something” and promote your brand statement there; have strong referrals from managers you previously worked for on your profiles; follow up with those in your network often, with emails, notes and birthday wishes; be vulnerable and ask for help; and become an active poster.

During one’s hunt for the next career opportunity, meanwhile, it is important – if you are not pressed for time and money – for you to “take time and be thoughtful around what you want in life” – and don’t want in life — as it pertains to money/pay, work life balance, commuting, travel and the type of organization you want to work for, she advised. She also suggested that while searching for a new job: Reach out to as many recruiters as you can; start applying online to very specific opportunities; and set a timeline for yourself.