At 7 p.m. Feb. 27, Ithaca College’s chapter of the New York Film & Television Student Alliance invited Amanda Cerruti ’19, who currently works for Access Hollywood — a celebrity and event news network — to speak with student members about the trials, tribulations and successes of networking and finding a job in communications.
NYFTSA is a statewide organization that helps students connect and network with professionals in the communications industry through an annual summit. The alliance also plans outings to the Tribeca Film Festival, tours to major studios and visits to other chapters.
The college’s chapter offers opportunities like free headshots, a trip to New York City for the NYFTSA summit to help students network and meet professionals in the communications industry, and networking opportunities with well-known Roy H. Park School of Communications alumni and professionals in the top communications corporations in the country to NYFTSA members.
During this meeting, students spoke with Cerruti about her decision to move to Los Angeles and what her experiences have been networking and working in the City of Angels. Members were encouraged to ask questions and facilitate the conversation.
Cerruti said she attended the LA program through the Park School during her last semester of college and decided to move to the city after she graduated. Cerruti said that a year after she got there, COVID-19 made her job remote for two years. She said she is happy to be back in the office pitching ideas, producing and interviewing celebrities for Access Hollywood.
Cerruti spoke about working in the news section of Access Hollywood and said her biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to work in news or as an interviewer is to always be professional.
“Always approach everybody that you work with, with a sense of empathy and a sense of professionalism,” Cerruti said. “At the end of the day, the job is to sit down and interview and you go in prepared.”
In order to catch wind of opportunities in the first place, Cerruti said that her favorite method for networking and connecting with people who could help her land her next job would be getting a cup of coffee with someone and having a conversation.
“Most people are very inclined to take a coffee, but it’s not always going to lead to a job and I wouldn’t walk into taking coffee with someone as always expecting it to lead into an opportunity,” Cerruti said. “Every coffee that you get will be a learning experience.”
Cerruti said that her first job was as a runner for Access Hollywood, which is typically to supply coffee, tea, snacks and assist anywhere so production runs smoothly. She said that although these duties were not what she hoped to be doing, she encouraged students to take every task and do it to the best of their ability. Cerruti said future employers are always looking for certain qualities, especially curiosity.
“Show interest,” Cerruti said. “Talk to the people who have been at the job for years and ask, ‘Can I shadow you?’ The more interest you show, the more likely you are to be given an opportunity to help out with things. If you have the guts to go out and connect with the people in your field, people will notice.”
Cerruti warned that burnout is real if an employee is overloaded with work. She said employers do not want their employees to feel this way and encouraged students to keep in mind that they should always speak up for themselves when starting out in the industry.
“If you love what you do, it’s not always working,” Cerruti said. “However, if you work somewhere where you feel supported, and you say, ‘Hey, I am mentally drained right now’, no employer wants you to burn out if they want their employees to be at their peak … so talk to your employers. At the beginning, you’re going to be working long hours, that’s just the nature of the job, but don’t ever get to the point where you’re burnt out.”
First-year student Brendan Noone, a student member of NYFTSA, said he recently joined but has already learned valuable lessons from the NYFTSA meetings and said he looks forward to hearing more from other professionals.
“I’m hoping just to get more knowledge on how to successfully network and how to be a good intern and how to be a good production assistant,” Noone said. “I’m excited to understand more about how the industry works.”
Grant Johnson, co-president of the college’s chapter of NYFTSA, said the club offers about five speakers each semester and is an opportunity unlike any other on campus to speak to well-known people in the communications industry.
“They’re [speakers] typically big names,” Johnson said. “I mean, we had the vice president of DreamWorks speak at a meeting, so it’s kind of climbing up the ladder to try and get people to come.”
Melanie Kardos, the other co-president of the college’s chapter of NYFTSA, said that NYFTSA provides student members with long-lasting connections in the industry.
“I think it’s a great thing for students because networking is so important,” Kardos said. “Every time we have a guest come and talk to us, they’re always so happy at the end to share contact information and chat more with students and say, ‘Hey, if you’re ever in my city, I’d love to meet you.’”
The meeting ended with Cerruti giving one last piece of advice to the students. She said that it is easy to spiral when first starting out, but reminded the members that the best is yet to come.
“Graduating college is an interesting time, and it’s extremely daunting and extremely scary,” Cerruti said. “The best piece of advice that I can give is just to trust yourself and go for what you want. It’s not always going to work out and everybody’s journey will come the way it’s supposed to. If I had gotten any of the other jobs I had applied for, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Be patient, keep trying and things will take time, but you will get there.”