When you’re an intern or an assistant, it’s easy to feel like you’re at the bottom of the food chain with no hope of ever getting recognized for all the hard work you put in. And it's true, many of your efforts will go unnoticed by your supervisors, but that's just part of the job. However, there are a few simple things you can do to stand out when you’re in an entry-level position that could open up doors for future growth. These may seem minor, but trust us, they will have a huge impact on how your supervisors perceive you and will also help make their lives easier.
1. Come in early and leave late
So much of making it in this industry boils down to luck, which essentially requires you to be in the right place at the right time. But did you know you actually have a little bit of control over the luck factor? Think about it: If you’re always in the right place, you’ll definitely be there when it’s the right time. If you’re the first to come in to the office and the last to leave, you’ll be around when your boss has an emergency he needs to you handle, and when he sees he can rely on you in a moment of after-hours crisis, he’ll think of you as indispensable. You should never leave without checking in with your boss first, and try your best not to leave before he does.
2. Manage your own tasks
One of the hallmarks of an employee who’s ready for more responsibility is someone who can manage himself independently. If you have tasks your boss expects you to complete daily or weekly, do them without an extra reminder. Many interns or new assistants wait for their bosses to ask before doing a simple task and then wonder why no one takes them seriously. If your boss wants to read Variety every morning, make sure it’s on her desk as soon as she gets in. If you know your boss likes to have drinks confirmed before lunch, don’t wait for her to ask you to confirm them -- set a reminder for yourself to send an email at 10am, so they’ll already be confirmed by the time she remembers to ask.
3. Maintain office decorum
This should be an easy one, but appropriate office behavior seems especially hard for interns and assistants fresh out of college to master. The workplace -- even a small, casual office -- is not a super chill place, especially when you’re entry-level. Your boss might wear hoodies to work and prop his feet up on his desk, but you can’t do that until you’ve proven yourself. Dress one level more professionally than the person right above you on the ladder, and curb any casual habits like having a messy desk, blasting music, and checking your phone. You might see your superiors acting more lax than you are, but remember that they’ve earned that right, likely by being buttoned-up in the early stages of their careers.
4. Grab opportunities by the horns
You might think it’s best at this stage of your career to keep your head down and do the work that’s been assigned to you. But no one is going to respect you if you don’t exert yourself. If your boss or a more senior employee needs help with a project, be the first to volunteer. If you notice your boss is swamped, and you’re so bored you’re reading comments on Deadline, ask if there’s anything else you can do to take some work off her plate. If you think of an opportunity for the company to grow or improve, do some research in your downtime and put together a proposal. The more interested you are in the company, the more the company will be interested in you.
You might think networking is your own personal business, and to some extent, you’re right. But if your boss sees that you’re attending JHRTS events, scheduling drinks with assistants at other companies, and socializing with other people at your company, she’ll think of you as someone who wants to grow within the industry. Plus, if you’re well-connected, you may have the opportunity to bring in new business, which will REALLY make you stand out. Don’t be obnoxious about who you know and how “Hollywood” you are, but don’t be shy about letting your boss know you had drinks with her agent’s assistant or that you learned something really neat from an industry panel.
We know Hollywood internships and assistant positions can be demanding, and this might seem like a lot to remember on top of all your assigned duties. But if you can turn these five tips into long-term habits, you'll be setting yourself up for success!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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