Guest Article: Alumni Liaison Specialist Emma Hartley on Making Connections for Career Success
Creative industries are exciting, challenging, dynamic and competitive. For many graduates, the leap from education to your first or next step in the creative sector can feel dizzying and, oftentimes, family and friends don’t quite understand. Who does? Toronto Film School alumni.
TFS graduates who have gone before you understand your path. They know the skills, knowledge, creative and technical expertise you have earned during your training. And, as working professionals, they understand the trends and demands of the specific field you are about to step into.
Could it be that alumni are the great untapped resource in your post-grad job search?
How to Find Alumni
Toronto Film School’s LinkedIn Alumni page is a great place to start. It is a current, extensive directory of alumni, easily searchable by location, company, year, and keywords such as program or company. Browsing the page is a fantastic way to learn about career path options related to your education and it is a great tool to identify professionals you can reach out to.
Did you know we also have an official Facebook Alumni community? Toronto Film School – Student & Alumni Forum is a space where you can network, promote your projects and find out about upcoming professional development opportunities, jobs and casting calls. Keep an eye on the group for our monthly Alumni Spotlight feature.
Building Alumni Relationships
Connecting with alumni via informational interviews is an exceptionally effective networking method. What’s an informational interview? A coffee chat. An informal 1:1 where you gain intel, from those in the know, about a particular career path or organization. These opportunities can help you craft a more strategic job search and make connections in your field.
5 Top Tips for Alumni Coffee Chats:
1. Clearly define your ask: You’ve found an alumnus you want to chat to, but before you reach out, define WHY it is you want to connect. Are you exploring career paths and looking to hear more about their role? Applying to the same company? Looking for perspectives on further training or joining a union? Clearly communicating what it is you want to learn from them is key to using their (busy) time wisely.
2. Do your research: At every stage of networking, research helps! Looking into their career path online first can help you craft a personalized outreach email that’s more likely to get responses. Tell them exactly what it is about their career path or role that impresses you.
3. Reach out directly: A referral through a mutual contact is ideal. Finding a direct professional email is the next best thing. If you are struggling to locate an email address, try messaging via their professional website; see if they belong to a professional crew database such as AccessReelworld or HERE; trial imdb.pro to view more detailed film crew information; browse union directories (e.g., DGC) for individuals and their contact info. A direct LinkedIn message or other social DM may also work, but first, check how active they are on that platform. If your initial email doesn’t yield results, send a polite, brief ‘nudge’ email after 7-10 days.
4. Be prepared: Yay! You’ve confirmed a meeting, now it’s time to prep. Make sure you reconfirm your meeting time a few days beforehand, test your tech if it’s on Zoom or know your route if it’s in person. Do your research so you have at least 10 questions you want to ask. Remember, you’re the one asking for the informational interview, so be the one to start the conversation, introduce yourself and keep track of the time!
5. Follow up: If your initial email doesn’t yield results, a polite, brief ‘nudge’ email is perfectly fine to send after 7-10 days. Following any 1:1 meeting, remember to send a THANK YOU email within 24 hours. And keep in touch, let them know how their advice has helped you on your career journey.
For more detailed tips, check out the TFS Career Portal on how to reach out, prepare and make the most of these meetings.
Toronto Film School staff and services remain on hand to support you through your next steps, to celebrate your achievements and connect you with other alumni. Here’s what’s in it for you:
- 6 months free career advising from TFS’s Career Services team
- 6 months access to Toronto Film School’s exclusive job board
- Year-round free professional development webinars
- Hear first about new alumni programming and opportunities
To update your contact information and to let us know what you’ve been up to, reach out to [email protected] We will be in touch with ways to collaborate!
We look forward to staying in touch and following all your future successes.
About the Author
– Emma Hartley (she/her) is a Career Educator who has supported thousands of emerging professionals through community building, career advising and job search support. Prior to Yorkville, she worked with students and alumni at Toronto Metropolitan University as a Career Education Specialist and as a Committee Chair for the media training non-profit, POV. She has a 15-year background in film and TV, working in Canada, US and UK. In her spare time, she runs the grassroots organization, Start in Screen.