TEA Connect Blog

28 August 2020

“On the other side of crisis can be opportunity” - TEA members gather to discuss how to move forward mid-career

Nearly 200 people gained jobseeking tools and advice at the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) webinar, "Pivot Point: Re-Entering the Job Market Mid-Career," presented August 20, 2020 as part of TEA Digital programming.

The free, hour-long webinar was targeted towards mid- to late- career professionals (10+ years’ experience) who have lost their jobs - or are experiencing job insecurity - in the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding economic crisis. It was recorded and is available for viewing on TEA TV. #TEAdigital


TEA is here for you

TEA is pleased to be able to offer this kind of support to the industry as part of our mission to serve the global themed entertainment community with information, resources and tools, including the TEA Digital events, which range from the full-fledged Thea Awards Digital Case Studies conference currently taking place, to networking mixers such as the EME mixer takiing place on Sept 15, a webinar series, watch parties, TEA Chats on LinkedIn and more. Other TEA resources include the TEA Job Board, which is free of charge through the end of 2020 and the annual TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index, the TEA TV archives of past conferences and educational events, and TEA's social media channels. TEA members have an array of benefits open to them to help with networking and visibility, including their TEA Member Directory listing.

The information-packed "Pivot Point" webinar was moderated by TEA International Board Vice President Clara Rice of JRA. Industry experts shared tips, wisdom and guidance on how to assess one's skillset and present oneself to potential employers in the current job market, touching on resume preparation, social media positioning, video interviews and more. Each contributor to the presentation team was able to provide a unique perspective that complemented the others' and reinforced the general spirit of the session: “We’re all in this together – there’s no shame in being in the position we are in.”



  • Mk Haley - Visiting Faculty, UCLA
  • Courtney Hill - Global HR Business Partner, WhiteWater
  • Julie Reyes - Vice President, Eleventh Hour
  • RJ Temple - Founder / Creative Director, The UpBeat Imagination Workshop Inc.


Above average levels of unemployment in the attractions industry

Clara's introduction included some sobering data, balanced by hope: "In our industry the unemployment rate is at 25%, that’s compared to an industry average of 10.5% - we are more than twice as high. For those who are employed, the outlook isn’t brighter – about 65% of people don’t feel engaged in their jobs. For those over 30, unemployment setbacks are often compounded by household and or personal responsibilities. For those later in their careers, there is a fear of ageism when re-entering the workforce or a fear of what may happen to the nest egg they’ve built up over the years if they suddenly find themselves in a new situation. But, as we’ve seen in the past, on the other side of crisis can be opportunity – on the other side of uncertainty can be discovery – on the other side of stagnation can be hope and growth.”

Attendees were polled about their employment status and job security: 

What is the job market like right now?

Julie Reyes shared observations on the current job market, including that we have yet to reach what the “new normal" will be. She noted that companies are being conservative about bringing on talent, endeavoring to make sure every hour is billable, and more likely to seek freelance and contract talent than offer permanent positions. Job seekers may not be going back into the same roles they had before. "Treat the job search like its own job," she said, "starting with your resume."

Let’s look inward…

Courtney Hill, as a career coach, said, "This is an opportunity to take the time to reassess your career direction and your skillset, and how to apply those to industries where there is demand." She provided some tips to maximize strategies to find new work.


Assess skills and past experiences

Mk Haley – a longtime "go-to" guru for many people in themed entertainment – acknowledged that self-assessment isn’t easy, encouraging the group to get an outside perspective. "Ask other people for input on how to best sell yourself and your skillset. Focus on foundational skillset and transferability. Nobody hires a generalist," she said.

Reinventing yourself

RJ Temple referred to his own multifaceted career journey as an audio specialist and entrepreneur. He encouraged people to be bold. "Creativity at its core comes when you have nothing," he said. "This is a great opportunity to find out who you are as a person. Investigate your talents, find out how you can use them in the current time. Be courageous and self-empower when opportunity is low."

He quoted the late Wayne Dyer, acclaimed author and self-development speaker: “You can’t always control what goes on outside but you can always control what goes on inside.”

Show off what you can do and get used to talking about it

Mk and Julie shared important tips to help jobseekers get results.

Those who haven’t been on the job market in years may face special challenges, noted Mk. "You have to understand how the art of finding a job has changed – but at its core, it’s still about networking," she said. "Your LinkedIn profile is the norm for networking. Think about your LinkedIn profile as a database of your entire life, and your resume as a subset of that. Employers also need a portfolio of some sort that communicates what you do. A large company can get 1,000 applications in 48 hours; don’t be discouraged, and work quickly. Rise above the fray!" She reminded attendees to make the most of the resources and tools provided by TEA membership and the TEA community. [The TEA Membership Directory can be found by clicking here - now is the ideal time for members to update their profiles.]

Julie gave further insight into how jobseekers can stand out in the crowd by being as specific as possible about their contributions to a project so that someone can readily recognize their abilities and be able to say, “'I want that for my team, my project, my client.'" And it was pointed out that while an NDA may prevent a jobseeker from mentioning a project by name, it's still possible to be clear about the type of project and one's contributions to it. For those who don't have a project to point to, it was suggested to do a spec project with colleagues. 

The employer's and recruiter's perspectives

With so much competition in the job market, it's important to stand out while adhering to the process. Courtney Hill talked about getting into the "A" pile: “When it comes to the A, B and C piles of recruiting, B is the Mediocre pile, C is the No pile. How can you be creative, still pass the 'bots and land in that 'A' pile? Follow all the tips from this session and be as creative as possible."

RJ let the group know that it’s ok to be yourself, and that a good fit is important from both sides. “Take some time to get to know the culture of the company that you want to be a part of. Come in with a level mind - convey that you’re not just interested in the job, but that you can solve problems and are easy to work with.”

Mk pressed on the importance of not overdoing it – “When we say it’s a very competitive industry, it is. But you don’t need to run a parade through my backyard. Do the little things that make you a little bit different. Be a member of an organization such as TEA. Be polite, and be interested in things.”

Embracing 'Plan B'

Clara emphasized the importance of maintaining relationships throughout one's career to foster a better community. Building and keeping a strong industry network ensures it will be there when we most need it. If someone throws you a lifeline - for instance, they helped you find new opportunities with an informational interview, an introduction, a portfolio review or other support - let them know how it turned out, and do the same for someone else when you can. 

"My mother used to say that 'success in life is the ability to cope with Plan B,' but I believe that success in life is the ability to THRIVE with Plan B," Clara said.

See the post-event Q&A 

In response to additional questions from the webinar attendees, TEA has published an extensive, supplementary Q&A. A sampling appears below. 

Q: Tell us more about making it past the HR 'bots and the resume-screening filters that are looking for VERY specific terms. How do I know if my resume isn’t getting through because I’m not considered to be qualified - or because I didn’t use the *exact* right terms for creatively-focused projects?

A: The HR Bots are actually an ATS - Applicant Tracking System - designed to track applicant information. Essentially an ATS is a database for candidates, so all your contact info, resume etc. are available to the recruiter. While the ATS software does scan for a match in terms of relevant terms [software names, titles, industries], there is still a Real Live Human Person reviewing that resume. The software does not reject or delete any resume. To ensure your resume gets the right attention, be sure you are using language that pertains to the job you’re targeting. For example, make sure required software or industry experience is listed on your resume if you have it. Be sure you are using similar language to describe your experience, not just relying on titles as those vary widely from company to company. If your current role is called a Project Wizard, but the company you’re applying to calls it a Project Ninja, make sure your resume includes the similar experience required.

Q: How can younger/young people succeed in building a successful career when corporations race to give the least amount of pay/benefits, and the only way to survive is to change jobs every 1-4 years?

A: Unfortunately, particularly if you are in a larger market such as Los Angeles or Orlando, or working for a company that employs thousands of people versus dozens, that is a bit of the nature of the beast. A lot of it has to do with the cash flow volatility of our industry - if companies pay top-level salaries, and then a major client misses a progress payment, then the company has to either lay people off and reduce salaries, whereas if salaries are kept at or maybe even slightly below average, they are able to keep people on for longer because they can better weather the cash flow issues and demand fluctuations. 

Smaller companies in off-market cities are usually better at providing a solid benefits package, because they are not having to support as many staff members, and their potential talent pool is smaller. It’s harder for many of them to attract talent because of where they are located, so they want to hold on to and be good to the talent they have. That usually means greater longevity if you land with one of those studios.

Q: Do you have any perspective on looking for jobs when forced to work outside your desired field, due to job market and financial considerations?

A: Lean on your transferable skills! A project manager is a project manager. An engineer is an engineer. A designer is a designer. There are certain skill sets that are paramount for those positions, no matter what industry you are in. Make sure to emphasize those skills and the resulting deliverables as you apply for positions outside your desired field. Also, even if it’s not your desired field, hone in on the qualities of an outer-industry position that would make that change desirable. You may discover a new passion in the process!

Report for TEA by Erica Schwehr, TEA Director of Operations



Posted by Erica Schwehr



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