Script to Screen & Everything in Between

by Casey Brown ’14

This past Saturday, Career Services and the Script 2Lewis Center teamed up for the event “Script to Screen & Everything in Between,” which hosted over a dozen alumni and industry professionals and a crowd of 120 students.

It wasn’t difficult to exit the event determined to go to Hollywood. The panelists’ passion for the industry was infectious.

“I would do it [write screenplays] now if I were paid a dollar,” said screenwriter David Digilio ’96.

The producers and business leaders were no less enthusiastic about their roles in the industry.

“Producing is very right and left brain,” said producer Daniela Lundberg ’98. “The process of making a movie is very rewarding.”

“I just love movies,” said Paul Hanson ’96, COO of Annapurna Pictures. “The end result is something that’s easy to understand and everyone gets it.”

Abhijay Prakash ’98, who came to Hollywood with a PhD in economics, still remembers his college internship in finance. “I found [it] so stultifying and boring,” he said. “I needed to dedicate my career to something I cared about. It’s really inspirational work.”

“I really love problem solving,” said Marissa Griffith ’90, who works as an entertainment lawyer. “At the end of the day, it’s really fun to go see the movies. It is a very fun industry to be in.”

Script 3But it’s not the easiest or most peaceful industry, the screenwriters readily admit.

“One day everything’s great and the next it sucks,” said Cormac Wibberly. Writing for TV, he explained, is especially fast-paced. “It’s like having a term paper and you’re always a week behind,” he said.

Nevertheless, the screenwriters spoke to the great rewards of their work. For one, writing is a way to keep learning.

“Writing is an incredibly complex craft,” said screenwriter Will Staples ’00. “There’s always a new lesson and that’s really exciting.”

“I’m an intellectual A.D.D.” said Albert Kim ’86, who has worked on scripts set everywhere from ancient Egypt to, currently, the American Revolution with Sleepy Hollow. “I can’t think of any other profession where you can just dive into a topic.”

The producers offered insightScript 3 into another role in the industry. This time, the duties were much different, including putting budgets together, bringing in equity, hiring, finding buyers, and putting the film out in the world. But often the role exceeds these administrative duties.

“You have to listen to people’s needs,” said Howard Gertler ’96. “That’s a lot of what producing is. … Be the calm at the center of the storm.”

“There can be a long part of development where you’re a therapist for a writer,” said Krista Parris ’95. “It’s a diverse commitment.”

On both the writing side and the production side, there were no magic bullet methods for “making it” in the industry. Instead, each of the panelists seemed to take his or her own path.

“There’s no set path to get into the business,” said Kim, “but that also means there are lots of ways.”

One tip from the writing side: keep writing. One tip from the business side: networking isn’t the be-all-end-all.

When it comes to networking versus building a skillset, “I would definitely prioritize the skill side,” said Prakash.

One way to build the skills needed to work in entertainment business would be to pursue an internship or further education in business or law, as Griffith advised.

Although the event was specific for producers and screenwriters, it drew a crowd of students with a wide range of interests—actors hoping to pick up tips, playwrights, video journalists, documentary filmmakers, and writers (like me) of various genres.

*photos by Lisa Martiny Festa



3 Job and Internship Search Strategies You Won’t Want to Miss

by Casey Brown ’14

So you’ve got the nuts and bolts down pat. Well, I have some strategies that will make your job search tool box that much shinier.

  1. Thank You Note Networking. Cold emails to an alumn on the ACN is something great to do, but wouldn’t it be easier if you already had background with the person you’re emailing? We’ve been growing up writing thank you notes for decades—for birthday gifts, holiday goodies, etc. If you attended a Career Fair in the past yew weeks, do send a thank-you note to recruiters. Same goes for after a Princeternship, summer internship, or informational interview. Networking can and should be courteous, and one of the best ways to make that happen is to show gratitude for positive professional time spent together.
  2. The Daily Emails. You don’t have to write me a thank-you note, but you probably will thank me later. Back in the dark ages (2013), I used to pour over internship databases and scour pages upon pages looking for that one, magic job. What was I doing? Today, it’s 2014, and on most major databases, you can save searches AND get email updates if a new job is added to your search results.
  3. Juniors, yes, now. If you’re looking to apply to something next year that may need extensive prep, now is the time. If you’re asking for references, junior spring is the ideal time. That way, your recommenders will have all summer to work on it for you, you can open a credentials file, and come fall, you can focus on your work. If you’re taking a standardized test, start thinking about test prep this summer. And finally, if you’re setting up a portfolio or personal website, start the project before finishing is immanent. Yes, all this prep may not be necessary, but it will let you have the moderately-paced senior year you’ve dreamed about!

Any questions? Come to walk-in hours or schedule an appointment!

In Defense of Humanities Majors

by Casey Brown ’14

If you haven’t read the Crimson’s “Let Them Eat Code” article yet, read it now and weep. Not because it’s true, but because it gets it all wrong.

Rest assured, the last thing humanities majors need right now is the advice of group of two people in librarya computer-savvy Marie Antoinette. Among budget cuts and decreased student interest (Harvard itself had a 20 percent decrease in humanities majors in the last 10 years),  the humanities major has become a hot topic in journalism. Crimson staff welcomes the decline of  English majors. The payoff, they claim, is an increased focus on scientific research and the retirement of dying discourse.

Sadly, they’re not the only ones who seem to think that a major in humanities has lost its value. As an English major, I’ve had to fill in the blank for the following conversation too many times.

Person A: What’s your major?
Me: English
Person A (choose one, or, fellow English majors, add your own):
(a)   “What are you going to do with that?
(b)   “So are you going to be a teacher after you graduate?”
(c)   “Oh, have you ever heard of that song from Avenue Q? You know, ‘what do you do with a B.A. in English…”

Why strangers feel the need to compare me to a singing puppet with a “useless degree” I will never know. More importantly, however, why do the Crimson staff and others seem to think we’re better off eating JavaScript for breakfast than devouring literature word-by-word?

There has been a flurry of explanations. New York Times writer Tamar Lewin explains that the recession has ushered in a “shift toward viewing college education as a vocational training ground.” Practicality calls for pre-professional tracks or those with the established paths to success.

Employment anxiety is perhaps not unfounded. In 2010 unemployment rates nationwide among recent English major graduates was 4% higher than that of chemistry graduates (9.8% versus 5.8%). Jennifer Levitz and Douglas Belkin from the Wall Street Journal note that as the U.S. pours more attention into the global economic race, the “job market … is disproportionately rewarding graduates in the hard sciences.”

Supply and demand, explains the Crimson staff.

By now you might have started wondering what you’re doing listening to career advice from an English major. Run away! Run fast!

But my voice—and the voices of my peer English and humanities majors—is exactly what is missing from much of the discourse.

As Verlyn Klinkenborg from the New York Times explains, when it comes to discovering the value of an English major, “In a way, the best answer has always been, wait and see – an answer that satisfies no one.”

Many proponents of humanities majors make broad statements that can’t encapsulate the diverse interests within English departments. Adam Gopnik from The New Yorker says all too simply, “So why do we have English majors? Well, because many people like books.”

But as Princeton students know, English is not reducible to a mere love of reading. The reason for studying humanities is not the same for everyone, and neither are our career paths.

No, English doesn’t offer a set career path, although many a successful career has started with an A.B. in English. We decided to be English majors for other reasons, only one of which may be the love of literature.

For Dixon Li, a senior in the English department and African American Studies department, English was not the clear first choice.

“I came into Princeton conflicted (like most people!) about what I wanted to study,” said Li. “On the one hand, I just wanted to read and write poems all day. On the other hand, I wanted to major in Public Policy and end up working on human rights legislation and advocacy for those displaced by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Those interests, he discovered, were far from mutually exclusive. “A steady flow of classes on literature, philosophy, art, and cultural politics has since convinced me that an interest in social justice can, and historically has, kept good and necessary company with creativity,” he said.

For Li, the humanities presented a passport not just to literature but also to ideas. “As an English major, I’ve gotten the chance to dabble in, think through, take pleasure in, appreciate, and disagree with a bevy ideas from all nooks and crannies of History and the world,” he said.

Jenesis Fonseca, a senior in the English department and African American studies department, recognizes the chance to study the humanities as an opportunity.

“My journey as an artist and a scholar is intrinsically connected with the fact that my parents did not have access to a formal education,” said Fonseca. “Early on, I learned that reading and writing are privileges.”

For Fonseca, a co-founder and past president of Ellipses Slam Poetry Group, writing and sharing translate into a way to give back. “I feel like part of my responsibility in having these privileges is being able to research and make heard the voices and stories of people who don’t have the same opportunities,” she said. Her goal is to “keep writing and encourage others to write,” she said. “I could see that happening through the practice of performing poetry and teaching workshops.”

For recent alumna Christina Campodonico ‘13, an English degree is indeed empowering. When asked what she’s going to do with an English major, Campodonico responds, “What can’t I do with an English degree?’”

Since graduating  last June, Campodonico has put her English degree to work. “In the few months since graduation I have already worked as a development intern for a film producer, taught dance classes at my neighborhood studio, written educational materials as a freelance writer, developed two blogs, and become an online tutor” she said.

Campodonico also points out that, despite what the Crimson staff may think, technology is not going to supplant the humanities any time soon. “Technology may change as developments in STEM fields gain advancement, but the transmission of knowledge, from art to science, will always be valued,” she said. “The future of both the arts and sciences lies in how we can marry the two.”

She mentioned Princeton history professor Emily Thompson’s book about sound in New York City in the 1920s which came with an interactive website available to the public. “Because of her research a multitude of people, who don’t have access to an incredible resource like Firestone, can still engage with the past,” said Campodonico.

To scholars like Li, Fonseca, and Campodonico, English is about books—and so much more. Studying English remains a unique and valuable path toward understanding the world, delivering justice, and giving back.

Interviewing Tips: A Chat with Hilary Bernstein ’14

by Casey Brown ’14

cb photoHilary Bernstein, senior in the Economics Department, has interviewed more times than the average Princeton student has celebrated his/her birthday. A pro in the interview, Hilary landed an internship last summer at Bates White, an Economic Consulting firm in DC where she will be working next year. She has a few pointers—and a few words of wisdom—to send your way.

Casey Brown: Let’s start with the basics. In a nutshell, how do you prepare for the interview?

Hilary Bernstein: You research the company, prepare questions in advance, research the position, go over potential questions the interviewer might ask you. You maybe ask others if anyone knows anything about the company or has worked there and attend info sessions.

CB: What was one of the most difficult things you’ve had to face in an interview and how did you solve it?

HB: Once I was asked a very technical financial-type question, and I really had no idea what the answer was. So I tried to explain my logic and reason to the best that I could.

CB: And what was the outcome?

HB: It wasn’t great. This was a pre-interview, so luckily it didn’t really count for the actual thing. My interviewer coach just said I needed to familiarize myself with these types of questions before going into the interview.

CB: So what are some of the more tricky questions you’ve had to face?

HB: The more technical questions relating to finance in my case. And some of the case studies can get very tricky. The easiest questions for me to answer are personal questions about myself, my resume, my interests, etc.

CB: Do you have any advice for people who might have to answer financial-type questions or case studies?

HB: Practice! Especially with case interviews, practice, practice, practice! It’s good to pair up with a partner. But there’s definitely a methodology and structures that can help you format your thought process. For me preparing for the interviews felt like studying for a test.

CB: What is one of the most positive interview experiences you’d had and why?

HB: I had a fair number of positive interviews. I felt I answered the questions on the ball, was articulate and engaged with the interviewer, we had good chemistry and I felt like I provided genuine and good answers—and I could tell they were interested in what I was saying.

CB: What advice would you give to students to have equally positive experiences?

HB: I’d say prepare in advance and just overall, be talkative, enthusiastic, energetic, and seem excited about the position and what you would bring to the position.

CB: How would you describe the correct tone to have at the interview?

HB: Definitely professional. Don’t use slang terms or make assumptions that your interviewer would know specifics about Princeton, for example. Ask appropriate questions as well. You wouldn’t start by asking, “What’s the starting salary?”

CB: How do you plan for the part where you ask the interviewer questions?

HB: Definitely do research on a company beforehand and try to speak with someone who works there or might know about the industry. Since you’ll likely have multiple rounds with different people, you’ll want to prepare questions that you can ask multiple people without running out. For instance, what is your favorite thing about your job, least favorite thing? What’s your career path? Or, what direction do you see the company moving in the future? So I guess questions that are opinions and subject to personal answers are good because you can ask the same thing to multiple people. Otherwise you might exhaust generic questions about the company with multiple people who will give you the exact same answer.

CB: Any myths about interviewing that you’d like to dispel? Anything you thought going in, and now your mind has changed? Or anything you might hear people saying and think, “that’s not how it is”?

HB: I guess that you have to get it 100 percent. It obviously depends on the company, the industry, and the firm. But you don’t have to think that you have to be 100 percent perfect in the interview.

CB: How do you avoid the nerves?

HB: Just take deep breaths! And try to make yourself comfortable in the interview environment.

CB: So when you go into an interview, what are you thinking? Is there something you tell yourself when you go into it? How do you mentally prep?

HB: Positive self-talk. It’s just like before a big sporting event or a competition, or psyching yourself mentally to take an exam. But I’d just say positive self-confidence and positive self-talk.

CB: What does it feel like when your hard work pays off?

HB: It’s the best thing in the world! If you get the position and if it’s what you wanted, your hard work paid off and it was worth the whole app and interview process!

Thanks, Hilary!

Career Mojo

by Casey Brown ’14

As far as I know, there’s a secret to success, and you probably won’t like it: You’re not going to find success on TigerTracks—or any other job board, for that matter.

shutterstock_150515870“Success” won’t be posted on UCAN or Idealist, and it won’t be handed to you in a flyer, at the interview, or on the first day on the job. (If it were, wouldn’t that be great?)

I’d like to be so bold as to pose a new definition of success that isn’t about landing a job; it’s about believing that the job you will do is the job you should be doing. In other words, success must come from you, and the support—whether from family, professors, or career counselors—is what will help you to get there.

There are some difficult steps along the way, the first of which is to know thyself. You might not be visiting the oracle at Delphi, even though having your future told might be nice in an age of endless options. As entrepreneur Bo Bennett explains: “Success is not what you have, but who you are.”

Who am I? How’d I get here? Okay, Descartes, relax. There are some modern day tools that will help you bypass the existential crisis. Many of these, from Strong Interest Inventory to the StrengthsFinder, can help you gain perspective on all those hidden talents you may not have realized you had. What could be better?

Are you “The Inspirer?” “The Executive?” “The Scientist?” Myers Briggs, also available at Career Services can help you find out.

Of course, everyone has a pretty good sense of what they are good at. But finding out more, you might gain a language for talking about your abilities—and how that can translate into your own personal definition of success.

But for anyone who has taken the SAT, you know there’s only so much multiple choice can say. The next step is getting to know you. Listen to your tendencies. Do you like risk or stability? High energy tasks or a steady pace? Engaging with new people or working with a small, tight group?

This streamlines right into step two: know thy options.

It’s like an exit on an airplane: look for a job “keeping in mind that it might be behind you.” And knowing your options has a lot to do with discovering them. Your success story isn’t out there waiting to fall in your lap, and it’s not going to come buzzing to your doorstep on an Amazon delivery drone.

Once you know a little more about your interests, let that lead you to talk to alumni or professors, try a Princeternship, read more about your interests. Maybe you’ll find, refine, or redefine your idea of success along the way.

Internships, Funding, and More…

by Casey Brown ’14

Last Friday, Career Services hosted the All-Princeton Resource Fair for Summer Internships and Funding. The fair featured a wide array of internship and funding opportunities offered around campus–from the Lewis Center for the Arts to the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

“The variety of programs and departments represented at the All-Princeton Resource Fair is a true testament to the impressive opportunities available through Princeton,” said Andrea Rydel, CS’s Assistant Director of Internships & Career Counseling, who spearheaded the fair.

IMG_0416Lasting for three hours, the fair hosted 22 programs and 542 students attended. Every year, students find excellent opportunities for work, study, research, and exploration through Princeton-specific programs.

As Rydel explains, “Summer opportunities can transform your undergraduate education experience.”

Among the students at the fair was Martina Fouquet ’16. She offered straight-forward advice for fellow students about career and summer plans, “Always explore.”

“Keep your options open,” said Fouquet. “Even if you have one field you’re really interested in, always make sure that you don’t close the door on another field you might be interested in. (Follow your heart if) it is pulling you somewhere.”

If you weren’t IMG_0201able to make it to the fair, here are some Princeton-specific opportunities you may not know about. Visit the Career Services website for a comprehensive list of Princeton-specific programs and opportunities.

Council of the Humanities
Princeton undergraduates, including seniors, may apply for grants of up to $3000, funded by the endowment of Edwin F. Ferris, Class of 1899, for summer internships in writing, publishing, and journalism, both print and electronic media. The goal is to help students acquire experience in news organizations, including television networks, and in companies that publish books, magazines or other journals. The grants are administered by the Council of the Humanities.

Center for Health and Wellbeing
The Center for Health and Wellbeing (CHW) is an interdisciplinary unit within the Woodrow Wilson School, which seeks to foster research and teaching on the multiple aspects of health and wellbeing in both developed and developing countries. CHW is home to the Program in Global Health and Health Policy (GHP) and to the Health Grand Challenge.

Davis International Center
The Davis International Center is committed to providing services and programs that support the growth, development, and welfare of international students and scholars on multiple levels—immigration regulatory advising and processing, cultural adjustment, social enrichment, and assistance with practical matters related to living in the U.S. The Davis IC also acts as a center for cultural and educational programming that advances cross-cultural understanding and interaction between U.S. and international students and scholars and promotes cultural competency across the University.

Princeton Entertainment Internship Program
This collaboration between Career Services, the Princeton in Hollywood alumni group, and Marc Rosen ’98 (Founder, Georgeville Entertainment) provides internship and full-time opportunities within the entertainment industry (film, TV, music). Past participants have interned at companies such as Sony, IMG, CW, Showtime, Georgeville TV, Half the Sky, Shine America, Branded Entertainment, Underground Films, and many more.

Looking Forward

Still trying to figure out job/summer plans? Coming up next semester are more fairs, including the Summer Internship Fair, Nonprofit Career Fair and the Start-up Career Fair.

When it comes to fairs, a little preparation can help you present yourself a pro.

As Anne Haque ’17 recommends, “Come prepared with some questions or at least a background on what you’re interested in or get the information you need.”

Find more tips here and a list of upcoming Career Fairs on TigerTracks.

Four years, one major, one post-graduation path, so many decisions.

Mixed up in these decisions are dreams, practicality, experience, and as I found, talking to other students this past week, a lot of passion. If there’s one thing that unites a student body with so many diverse interests, it’s the gusto with which they approach their fields of study and profession. This week I had the opportunity to learn about several students’ unique major and career decisions. 

Sometimes the decision is easy, as the decision for a major will be for sophomore Emanuel Castaneda. Since he has always been interested in business and finance, “economics seemed like an appealing quantitative major,” he said. Also considering majoring in math, Emanuel believes economics to be the better choice since “economics is also extremely applicable, which is something I found mathematics sometimes lacked,” he said. Economics seems like an easy choice for many across the board. “Econ” is one of the most popular majors on campus, perhaps due to its applicability for a wide range of potential career paths, from business to law and politics.

However, sometimes it’s not future career goals but positive past experience that motivate the decision. Junior Miriam Holmes is passionate about teaching. She is majoring in English and completing the Teacher Prep certificate and the certificate in theater, and her career goals combine these interests into one path: teaching theater. “Arts can give students the opportunity to express themselves or be good at something that is not purely academic—it is not only a place for emotional release, but perhaps it can be a motivator as well,” she said. Her decision speaks with admiration for her own teachers in the past. “My teachers have been so inspirational to me, and I would love to be able to inspire others in that way.”

Often, however, finding your path turns out to be serendipity. “Upon matriculating at Princeton, I thought I would study Biology,” explained Samantha Gebb, senior in the Architecture Department, “but on a whim I took the Architecture introductory studio design course and fell in love with the department and the discipline.” Architecture turned out to be the perfect fit for Samantha, “I enjoy the graphic, synthetic way of thinking and the opportunity that the discipline provides for combining all of my interests and examining the world from a multitude of angles,” she said. Although she’s not sure if her path will lead her to a career as an architect who designs buildings, “I am certain that my architectural education will serve me in whatever I do,” she said. “It has taught me to be simultaneously critical and creative.” The past few years, Samantha’s interest in architecture led her to pursue a study abroad program in London and a summer internship in Brazil.

Like Samantha, Elise Backman, a junior in the Woodrow Wilson School, has also spent several summers abroad in Brazil. Headed for a career as a diplomat in the Foreign Service, Elise spent last summer studying abroad and then interning with the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia. Even before her time abroad, Elise has always had a passion for speaking other languages and learning about other cultures. Her passions and experiences persuaded her to pursue a career in Foreign Service centered on Brazil and its region in Latin America. “I fell in love with the region,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a region that is very well understood by policy makers today. There’s so much potential for economic and cultural exchange between [the U.S.] and Brazil. I really want to be a part of fostering that partnership and making it stronger in years to come.” Elise sees her role as a diplomat like that of the social connector in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point—but within a policy framework. “I think diplomacy is the government’s role in fostering relationships with people outside the state department,” she said. “Diplomacy is all about making relationships and making them stronger.”

Get to Know Career Services’ New Website!

CaseyBrownby Casey Brown ’14

This year, Career Services has launched a new website. This new design combines state of the art technology and advice into one place. It’s easy to navigate, aesthetically sleek, and still your trusty career toolbox.

Okay, great. Now how do I use it?

Simple: Just start clicking. One of the features of the website is easy navigability. Resources are organized largely by stages in the career journey. Just look to these new icons to guide you:


Click on image to enlarge

Then, as you start your search, pay close attention to the sidebars. On the left you’ll find an outline of resources that expand when you click on the page, offering more subcategories to search. On the right sidebar, you’ll find suggestions for further research: keep your eyes peeled for tips, videos, related links, and quotes from the Princeton community—just like these below.

CS pix 2CS pix 3


CS pix 4

Additionally, check out the new one-stop for job search databases in the top right-hand corner. If you’ve already been to the end of TigerTracks and back, these resources might help you refine your focus or broaden your horizons.

Tiger-Tracks-screenshotFinally, since the dawn of the Internet, organizing has never been quicker. Think ICE schedules. Career Services’ website design also includes an easy-to-read calendar of events. And (get this) you can import them directly onto you iCal. It’s never been easier.

Don’t take my word for it though—check it out for yourself. If you feel so inclined, give us your feedback on the website, too!


The Best Post-Career Fair Follow Up Email You’ve Ever Written

After a Career Fair, there comes the follow-up. If you made contacts at the fair last Friday, now is the time to send a short acknowledgment of this interaction you shared.

Typing activityYou don’t have to be a super hero, but a little etiquette goes a long way to ensure that the job search isn’t just a frantic expedition (anyone remember Legend of the Hidden Temple?). This isn’t a game show and we don’t have to climb through mazes or swing on plastic vines to ‘win.’ Thankfully, this is the real world and leaving a lasting post-career fair impression is as simple as writing an email.

Here are some tips that will help you set a personal record in follow up email writing:

  1. Keep it professional. Even if it’s an email and you’re tempted to put an emoticon. Just don’t do it. Also, don’t send a thank you note from your phone. Autocorrect is one thing, but even if you spell everything correctly, think of that “sent from my iPhone” message at the bottom. Right—not a good look. A professional tone shows you’re serious about the job.
  2. Send it now! The career fair came and went. If you’re the kind of person who sends holiday thank you notes in March, fight your nature before your contacts have forgotten you! Write a note NOW! Besides, being prompt is an integral part of putting your best foot forward. Which brings me to…
  3. Helping your interviewer remember you. Jog their memories, and perhaps mention a topic of conversation. The first line is a good place to reference where you met and under what circumstances (Career Fair, of course).
  4. Affirm your interest. Perhaps you were passionate about a certain position the company offered. Mention that again and take the chance to reconnect that with your strengths. Being forward is often expected.
  5. Wait, there’s more? Offering to provide additional information is always helpful to both parties. Maybe you’re not writing an email, but in fact a cover letter as part of a job application. If so, then turn here for more information.

Bottom line, if you consider working for and with a professional community after graduation, the Career Fair conversation could be your first person-to-person interaction within this community. The follow up email could be your second, so here’s your chance to make it count!