Figuring out your salary is the most awkward part of the job application process, and arguably, it's the most important. You don’t want to lose out on a job because you aimed too high with ridiculous salary demands, but a low salary sets you up for lower earnings for years down the line. Remember, most raises are calculated on a percentage basis, and 10% of nothing is, well, nothing.
In entertainment, there’s very little you can do about your salary in your first entry-level position -- assistants are typically offered a certain rate, especially at agencies, and that’s that. But just because you don’t have much power to negotiate when you start your career doesn’t mean you should hold on to that bad habit forever! Before long, you’ll start getting a version of the question, “What are your salary requirements?” By the time you've gotten an offer for your second job, you should be ready to negotiate. So, how should you answer the question?
One big tip: Do your best to avoid throwing out a number first. Try to force them to show their cards, so you know what you have to work with. If HR asks about your salary requirements, pivot with, “Well, I’m actually curious, what is the salary range you anticipated for this position?” If you get an answer that’s way higher than you expected/wanted, that’s great! It gives you room to bring up other types of negotiations -- maybe for flex time or more benefits.
If the hiring manager doesn’t let you get away with the pivot technique, offer a range. The range should start at the lowest number you’re willing to take and go up $10-$15k from there, or whatever’s reasonable based on your research (hint: Glassdoor is a great resource for figuring out average salaries in your industry). They might only offer your minimum, but there's always a chance you'll get lucky with an offer that's in the middle or top of your range. What you’re trying to avoid here is giving a number that's lower than what they had in mind -- if you say you were thinking $60k, and they were going to offer $75k, they will probably accept your low standard, costing you a ton of money!
It's also hard to pivot when you're asked to enter your salary requirements in an online application. However, in some cases you can leave this section blank -- if the rest of your application is great, HR will ask when you get a screening call. If you must write something, write a range or a number in the middle of your range with “(negotiable)” or “(flexible)” next to it. Even better, skip the online application entirely, use LinkedIn to find a person in the hiring department, and email them directly (you'll have far more success in your applications if you can get your resume into the hands of an actual human).
Now sometimes, regardless of how you handle the salary question, HR will offer a lowball number, and you should counter with your demands, backing them up by reinforcing your qualifications and citing some research. If the company can't meet at least your current salary, you have to decide if you're willing to take a pay cut. And if you do, we hope you have a really good reason -- after all, you're not running a charity. In this case, it’s worth asking for non-monetary benefits that may make up for the salary gap. But a better option might be to wait for something that pays appropriately -- don't shortchange yourself.
The biggest thing to remember is to go in unafraid. If a company doesn’t hire you because you’re too expensive, you probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway. Decide what you're worth beforehand, and stick to your guns -- you'll thank yourself in the long run.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
It’s the first day of your summer internship, and you walk into the office ready to take on the world. After you meet your new internship supervisor, she somewhat frantically shows you to your cube, gives you a few office supplies, hands you a stack of scripts to read, and heads back to her desk. But wait, what about the grand tour of the office, team lunch, and detailed explanation of everything the department is responsible for? Isn’t she supposed to stick with you for the day and make sure you feel welcome? Think again. Your supervisor is busy -- she might be an assistant trying not to miss her boss’s phone calls, or she might be a creative executive with a full day of meetings ahead of her -- and your well-being is rarely going to be at the top of her mind. If you want to succeed in your internship without feeling let down, you’ll need to remember one thing -- your internship is not about you.
Let’s take a moment to review the purpose of an internship. For you, it’s a great learning opportunity and a way to build your network. But employers aren’t taking you on as an intern out of the goodness of their hearts. Although most internship supervisors enjoy helping industry newbies learn the ropes, the main reason you’re there is because they’ve decided that you’ll be able to make their jobs easier by taking on some of the team’s work. Keep this in mind as your start your internship -- if you can look at your internship from your supervisor’s perspective, you’ll inevitably take a different approach to handling the work and make a good impression as a result.
So what does this mean for you? First, you’ll have to accept that many of your assignments are going to be tedious and boring. Interns are often responsible for creating detailed spreadsheets, making lists, or handling administrative duties. Many of these tasks are extremely time consuming, and you may start to get tired of them. But think about the big picture -- if you’ve spent eight hours working on a spreadsheet, you’ve saved someone on the team eight hours of extra work (provided that you do the assignment correctly). If you do an excellent job, you’ll make a great impression on your supervisor, who in turn will help you find an assistant position when the time comes. And then, you’ll be able to toss your annoying busy work over your intern -- it’s the circle of life!
Secondly, you need to figure out how not to be a pest. If you’re constantly hovering around your supervisor’s desk or disrupting meetings to ask questions, you’re going to drive everyone crazy. When given an assignment, do your best to ask questions up front. If something comes up that you don’t understand or aren’t sure how to approach, try to figure it out on your own (being resourceful is a key quality that a good assistant must have, so you might as well start practicing now). But sometimes you can't figure it out on your own, and in that case, you should consult your supervisor. Just make sure you don't interrupt her -- if she's on a call or totally in the zone, shoot her an email with your question or use the company's chat system to let her know you need her when she has a minute. If she looks free -- and no, her lunch break does not count as "free," even if she's eating at her desk -- you can skip the email and ask your question face-to-face. But this only applies if it's a short, task-specific question. If you have more general inquiries about the department or industry, need career advice, or want a progress report, set a meeting with your supervisor to go over your questions in depth. She’ll be happy to accommodate -- it may not always seem like it, but she definitely wants you to learn something through this internship!
Of course, you should take the initiative to make the internship work for you. Just be resourceful and do it in a way that doesn’t waste other people’s time. If you want to read through all the scripts on the development slate, go for it. You can even share your notes with your supervisor (as long as you’re okay knowing that most of the time they won’t get read). All of this is good practice, and no one will fault you for taking on work that wasn’t assigned. Also, you should try to set up various informational meetings with people in other departments -- remember, the most valuable part of an internship is the professional network you can get out of it!
Ultimately, the key to success in any internship is making sure you strike a balance between learning/networking and supporting the company. If you do all your work well, take initiative, and remember that the company doesn't revolve around its interns, your experience will be worthwhile.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan