January 30, 2003

Executive Search Executive Stephen Unger Profiles the Entertainment Industry for Students at The Anderson School at UCLA

JANUARY 30, 2003 — Extolling this as an extraordinary time in entertainment, Stephen A. Unger, managing partner of Heidrick and Struggles’ media and entertainment practice, spoke to a standing-room only crowd of MBA students at The Anderson School at UCLA. Unger cited several recent high-profile examples of changes in the management of major media and entertainment corporations, including three new heads of home video at Warner Brothers, Paramount and Sony in just the last month. He views this volatility as creating a marketplace that is full of opportunity, which can be good news for jobseekers interested in entering the entertainment field. He also believes this is just the beginning of upheaval since change begets change.

“When it starts shaking at the top,” Unger predicts, “it shakes throughout.”

Unger also had unique insight into his audience, because his wife, Kathleen, received her executive MBA from The Anderson School. He joked about trying to help her with statistical homework and failing to get even one problem correct.

Entertainment is an enormous industry, and Unger detailed some of the broad range of activities encompassed by it, offering many lucrative areas to explore. Industry revenues have continued to show substantial growth right through the recession, even in the hard hit Internet-related sectors. Unger characterizes globalization as one of the tremendous drivers of business opportunity, especially in the exporting of content.

“Intellectual property is the largest export in the United States in terms of balance of trade,” Unger said. “And big chunks of intellectual property are manifest in music, and in television and in motion pictures.”

Unger commented that the 25 percent or so of The Anderson School students with international background have a built-in advantage. Cultural fluency, which he defines as the ability to be as comfortable doing business in Tokyo or Paris as in Los Angeles, is a vital skill that the globalization of business will demand.

Unger noted that the entertainment industry experienced less of an impact from the recent recession, and he expects the excessive downsizing the recession spawned to contribute to positive job growth in the sector for 2003. Also, demographics indicate there will be a talent shortage, increasing as the baby boom generation retires. A key source of these new jobs will be in the intersection of consumer technology and entertainment. Having the ability to move from one industry sector to another will be vital to succeed in this vortex of opportunity. Unger recommends studying across different disciplines and becoming conversant with, if not actually mastering, as many skill sets as possible.

Determining if entertainment is right for you involves doing your homework on yourself first with an honest evaluation of what you do well and enjoy doing, according to Unger. It is the foundation of building the compelling story you need to sell yourself to others. Then you find the kind of jobs that capture those qualities and then the companies that hold those jobs and finally who their decision makers are and how you can influence them.

“It’s really knowing yourself. I think that’s 75 percent of it. Knowing what you are good at. Don’t fool yourself. Not, oh, there’s a job out there I want to grab it,” Unger advises. “It’s knowing what you’re good at and going after it.”

Unger strongly recommended that students find a great mentor, because in order to get and keep great jobs and to advance, you need a great champion. He suggests that students use UCLA as a platform to introduce themselves to industry insiders. Spending time determining who will take an interest in you as an individual, instead of reading the want ads, can be a much more effective career search strategy. He also recommends doing your homework on the people you will be working with to avoid getting yourself into a situation you could regret.

“It doesn’t matter how much you are getting paid, and it doesn’t even matter what you are doing if you don’t like the people you are working with,” asserts Unger.

Though Unger noted that an MBA is not a “meal ticket,” he views it as very helpful to launching a career. He mentioned a few of The Anderson School’s graduates who have gone on to succeed in the entertainment industry, including Brian Becker (’82) of Clear Channel Entertainment and Brain Mulligan (’90), formerly of Universal, among others.

“It is an exciting and rare opportunity to listen to someone who has such extensive experience in entertainment,” said full-time MBA student Stephanie Atlas (’03). “He was really able to give us a great snapshot of what’s happening now and where he sees the industry is going.”

Considering a career in entertainment, possibly in home video or theatrical marketing, Atlas has served internships with 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. She is currently vice president of corporate relations and career development for The Anderson School student’s Entertainment Management Association.

“We are very grateful to have Mr. Unger take the time to share his extensive knowledge of the entertainment industry with us,” said Jon B. Kaplan, associate director of the Parker Career Management Center, sponsor of Unger’s presentation. “As a key executive recruiter in the field, he has valuable insight into a very important industry for many Anderson School graduates.”

In December 2001, Unger was named 61st on the annual “100 Most Powerful” list of The Sporting News, and 65th on CableFAX Magazine’s “100 Most Influential in Cable” list. Before becoming a dominant player in the executive search field for the past 15 years, he was associate producer of an Emmy award-winning film and in senior management positions at Universal Pictures, CBS Theatrical Films, and Filmways Pictures (which is now MGM).

Contact Information

Media Relations, (310) 206-7707, media.relations@anderson.ucla.edu

Media Relations