May 31, 2022

SCA’s First Jobs Program Surpasses Over 1,000 Alumni Hired

By Benjamin Pola

The USC School of Cinematic Arts' First Jobs Program has reached the incredible milestone of placing more than 1,000 SCA alumni in their first industry jobs, with 624 of those positions secured during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since launching in 2017, the program has also coached, mentored, and encouraged hundreds of recent alumni, 1-5 years out of school, through monthly professional development webinars, mock interviews, and 1:1 career talks.
 
First Jobs was created by leading television producer and USC alumnus Aaron Kaplan (A Million Little Things, The Chi), in partnership with the School of Cinematic Arts, to help recent SCA alumni land their first paid jobs in the entertainment industry. The program works by partnering with companies like Kaplan Entertainment, who agree to consider the eager, well-trained, recent alumni as potential employees. In the initial launch, Kaplan was joined by SCA alumni Nahnatchka Khan, Josh Schwartz, Tim Story, and the late John Singleton, who all pledged to consider program participants for entry-level jobs. Since then, the program has grown to include over 700 participating employers.
 
First Jobs is run out of SCA’s Office of Industry Relations and overseen by Lisa Fox, Media Talent Development Manager. Fox and her student worker are the cornerstones of the program’s success, managing the day-to-day operations and providing support to both alumni and employers.
 
First Jobs alumnae Isabella Donato, now an Executive Assistant at the CW, says the program gave her job search a needed boost. "At first, I was searching for jobs on my own through LinkedIn and it felt like I was getting nowhere, which was pretty dejecting,” says Donato. “So when I joined First Jobs, it was so helpful to get all the emails with the opportunities listed out because these positions are not always publicized. And that alone is hard because you can’t apply to something you don’t know about.”
 
Each week, Fox curates and distributes an exclusive job list from the participating employers. It connects First Job participants directly to hiring managers and HR departments, giving them a level of access that is only available through the program.
 
David Zander and Eriks Krumins of MJZ, the largest commercial agency in the world say that for companies like theirs, having access to a database of qualified candidates is also a game-changer. “The biggest thing for us is that things move pretty quickly in the advertising business,” says Krumins. “So, what has been so meaningful and helpful for us is being able to go to Lisa, knowing that the program has done a lot of pre-vetting for us. So we literally just take the candidates she refers to us. And we’ve had a great experience so far, and all our clients have as well.”
 
Since the program started, more than 60 First Jobs alumni have been promoted from their entry-level roles to more mid-to-senior-level positions at the same companies. This is encouraging for many MFA graduates, who often come to the program with some professional experience already.
 
First Jobs is open to any School of Cinematic Arts alumnus or minor degree holder who graduated from their programs five years ago, or less. The program’s job board covers the range of degree programs that SCA offers from Animation roles to writer’s assistants to various crew positions and gaming opportunities. As another First Jobs alumnae Miranda Hutchinson, an Assistant at CAA, put it: “There is no harm at all in joining. It will only give you more resources. It’s a win-win any way you look at it.”
 
For more information on how to get involved with the program, CLICK HERE or contact Lisa Fox at firstjobs@cinema.usc.edu.