If you're a Hollywood assistant, the expectation from your boss will be that you’re “young and hungry,” with a no-task-is-too-small attitude, and that you’ll be able to meet her every need. And when asked to do menial tasks, you should be able to accomplish them without too much effort and with a positive attitude. If you scoff at a simple administrative request, you can kiss your Hollywood career goodbye—if you’re not willing to pay your dues, you’re never going to be able to move up the ladder. In fact, one of the most important things to remember about all the random things your boss asks you to do: The answer is (almost always) "yes." Do whatever you can to fulfill your boss's requests -- aside from learning tons of new things along the way, it will help you advance in your career much more quickly. You'll be trusted with bigger projects once you've proven that you're capable of accomplishing smaller tasks.
But what about the requests that aren’t so simple? When your boss asks you to get a random New York-based PR person who she’s never met and does not have contact information for on the phone at 10pm ET on a Friday, how on earth can you be expected to succeed? You may have no idea how to accomplish this task, but don't immediately say "No, that's not possible." Instead, respond with “Let me see what I can do,” and spend the next hour searching Google and your network of assistant contacts for someone who can get that person’s cell phone number for you. If you can be resourceful, you might actually be able to do it (pro tip: Google searches will save your life no less than a million times while you’re an assistant). This is why being a Hollywood assistant is one of the most insane learning experiences you can have—you’ll realize that you have the power to accomplish things you never thought possible. And again, it's these moments of going above and beyond that will get you opportunities to try your hand at higher-level projects.
Unfortunately, sometimes you’ll fail. There are some requests that will be beyond your control, like when your boss needs a last minute flight, only wants to fly on the Alaska Airlines red eye from LAX to JFK, and refuses to sit in a non-premium non-window seat, but they're all sold out. If your boss isn't powerful enough for a private jet, they're not powerful enough to rearrange seating on a commercial airline, but they might not see it that way. Still, don't say no outright. Take the time to present an alternative. Is there a similar flight on a different airline? A flight leaving from Burbank instead of LAX or that gets in at LaGuardia instead of JFK? Think about what's driving your boss's very specific desires and try to find a solution that meets the underlying causes. If you can present viable alternatives or try to get ahead of problems, you'll impress your boss.
Sometimes, you’ll have a difficult boss who will berate you for not having the perfect solution or for not fulfilling a crazy demand quickly enough. Or, they may ask you to do something illegal or unethical. Any of these things are awful, and if they happen, you should consider finding another job. You do not have to suffer workplace abuse.
Regardless of the situation, do your best to stay calm and solution-oriented in the moment. Your can-do attitude will be noticed by the other people in your office and external contacts, and that will help you build your reputation as someone competent and pleasant. That’s the type of attitude that’s going to get you ahead in this business.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
If you’ve been working remotely since stay-at-home orders began, you’re probably a pro at some of the basics by now. But if your company is planning to keep its work-from-home setup for the foreseeable future or move to a hybrid model where you and your boss might not get much face time, you might be wondering how you’ll navigate big picture changes, like getting promoted or asking for a raise. How can you make the case for your professional advancement when you’re out of sight, out of mind?
Every office culture is different, but some of the basics apply across the board. For instance, it’s unlikely your boss will just offer you a promotion or a raise out of the blue. The onus is on you to ask for it. How?
First, assess yourself. Why do you deserve a promotion? If the answer is that you’ve worked in the role for a while, that’s not good enough. Consider what the value-add would be to the company if you were to get promoted. Are you doing higher-level work already, so a formal recognition would be an appropriate course of action that will not only retain you but also free up your time to do more of that valuable work once you don’t have to focus on lower-level work? Great! You’re ready for a promotion. But if you haven’t shown capability for a promotion yet, you’ll need to get on that ASAP. Take initiative by volunteering for more projects, offering creative feedback and notes, and finding ways to prove your value. Consider if there’s anything you can do that would streamline an inefficient work process or a new avenue you can identify to mine story ideas or an opportunity to expand the company’s network, and go for it.
But it’s usually not enough to do the work and sit back hoping someone will take notice. That’s true in an office, and all the more so in a remote environment. You have to make sure your boss knows you’re doing all this awesome work. Check in regularly, whether that’s presenting updates at your weekly department meetings or sending recap emails at the end of the day, week, or month, as appropriate. Working remotely means more managing up -- make sure you are keeping your boss informed of your progress on projects so that she can look good in front of her boss by showcasing how great her team is.
Additionally, log all your achievements so you can present them to your boss when you ask for the promotion. If you do email check-ins with your boss, this is easy -- just compile them and clean them up. Otherwise, keep a running document on your computer where you note what you’re working on and what you’ve achieved. When it’s time to ask for the promotion, you can email this document to your boss for review so they have a visual representation of how great you are -- plus, if they need to make the case to HR or their boss, they’ll have the ammo in hand.
When it comes to making the actual ask, you’ll have to be strategic. Gone are the days where you can gauge your boss’s mood, knock on her door, and ask for a sit-down. Well, sort of. If you have a regular one-on-one, email your boss in advance and ask if you can put some time on the agenda to discuss your performance. This will help your boss prepare for the meeting -- you don’t want her out walking the dog on a call when you’re trying to have a big conversation! Ideally, you’ll pick a check-in that is otherwise unclogged -- it’s not a good idea to schedule this conversation when you have a big deadline or lengthy agenda.
If you don’t have a regular one-on-one, that’s okay! You’ll similarly want to email your boss and ask if you can have a conversation about your performance. Be polite, and ask for a time that’s convenient for her (or if you’re an assistant, take a peek at her schedule and find a time to suggest).
Once you have the call set, treat it like a job interview. Imagine if you were in the office asking for a promotion -- you’d make an extra effort to look nice that day! This is even more important when you’re at home. Get dressed (head-to-toe, even if it’s just a phone call) and close yourself off from distracting roommates, kids, or pets. That will help you appreciate the moment, feel confident, and focus on asking for what you want.
Keep in mind that just because you ask for a promotion doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it. But putting off asking for it until “the right time” or “you’re back in the office” or “the economy bounces back” is a surefire way to guarantee you won’t. So what are you waiting for?
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Have you ever sent an email to a work contact asking to reconnect, pitching a project idea, or requesting a referral, only to never hear back? You're not alone. Pretty much everyone has been work-ghosted at one point or another. But what do you do in this situation? Especially the ghost is someone you aren’t close with, it’s likely that you had an important or sensitive reason for reaching out, and getting ignored can trigger a lot of insecurities around your relationship. Your gut instinct might be to think they hate you and will never speak to you again.
The first thing you need to do in this situation is to avoid letting your imagination come up with worst case scenarios. The most likely explanation for ghosting is that the person didn’t see your email. Or saw it, meant to respond later, and forgot because it was marked as “read” in their inbox. This becomes more and more true as you reach out to contacts higher up the food chain. The number of emails department heads are getting each day is mind-numbing, so it’s no surprise that they miss emails frequently. And this gets even worse around the holidays or other busy times of year! You never know what’s going on, but be aware that if there’s a holiday or big industry conference coming up, it might not be the best time to email. Most importantly, don’t automatically assume they are ignoring you and write them off as a bad person. 99% of the time, the ghosting was unintentional.
If you haven’t heard back in a couple of weeks, follow up! Simply reply to the same chain and say that you’re checking in to see if they received the previous email and ask your question again. Most likely you’ll get an “I’m so sorry, I didn't see this email!” response pretty quickly. And you can continue the relationship from there. If you still don’t get an answer, this could be a red flag. If you’re trying to pitch a project or have a professional inquiry other than asking for a favor, you could try reaching out to a colleague of the person and explain the situation. They’ll probably be able to offer a reason that the other person couldn’t respond or get an answer for you. But it’s possible that the original contact doesn’t want to get back in touch. And if that’s the case, move on. There are plenty of other people to maintain relationships with.
One thing to note – none of this applies when it comes to job applications. It’s quite common not to hear back after you’ve applied for a role. Even when you’ve gone pretty far down the interview path. Is this right or fair? No. But it’s a reality we all have to deal with. You can always follow up with the recruiter or hiring manager every couple of weeks, but if you don’t hear anything, don’t take it personally. They were probably considering many other qualified candidates who all got ghosted as well.
The bottom line is: you have to give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t get too offended when you don’t hear back after sending an email. Instead, get comfortable with following up – a quick check in email is the best way to get an answer on something while maintaining the relationship.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Career transitions. They can be super scary. Or at least seem that way at first. But the truth is, not all career moves are full-blown transitions, and if you play your cards right, your next job may be closer than you think. Let’s break down the different types of career transitions and how to navigate them.
When you’ve been on one level of the corporate ladder for a while, it can seem like a huge jump to get to the next level. Think: assistant to coordinator, PA to AP. A lot of entry-level jobs are really different in scope from the next tier up, and you’ve got to prove you’re ready to take on the advanced responsibilities. The best way to do this, of course, is to get promoted from within -- but let’s be real, sometimes you have to move to a new company or show to be seen for what you’re truly capable of (or to get the appropriate monetary compensation). How do you convince hiring managers you’re ready for that next title when you’ve never had it before? Try integrating some higher-level duties into your current role while you search. If you’re a development assistant, that means offering your own script notes when appropriate, or if you’re an agency coordinator, hip-pocketing a few clients. If you’re an AP looking to get into story producing, ask if you can create a string-out or sit with the editor and give notes. This is important both because it allows you to include these necessary skills on your resume and because it’ll prove to the people you’re working with that they can vouch for you to do these higher-level tasks.
MOVING TO A NEW SIDE OF THE INDUSTRY
If you’ve been working in one side of the industry for a while -- say freelancing as a producer -- and you’re looking to get a role as an in-house executive, you might be tempted to time travel back into assistant-land and start your career over. Don’t. Please, please don’t. Transitions to new areas of the industry are not full-blown career transitions, and you shouldn’t discount or discard your hard-earned skillset because you’re not looking for replica role. Instead, think about what you bring to the table that’s relevant to the side of the industry you want to be in. In the example of producer to executive, you have the management and development experience they’re looking for. Maybe you never managed a content pipeline, but you’ve managed an episode delivery schedule. Plus, you have knowledge of what makes a show successful on the ground and a new batch of creative contacts to work with. Even if you want to move to a totally different side of the industry -- like talent agency to content acquisitions -- you still have applicable skills and industry knowledge that you shouldn’t disregard.
MOVING TO A SIMILAR ROLE IN A DIFFERENT FIELD
More and more people are leaving Hollywood for content creation jobs in fields like Big Tech or advertising. With this type of transition, there’s a similar fear that you have to start at the bottom, but it’s simply not true. In fact, hiring managers at companies outside of Hollywood are a bit more industry agnostic and focused on whether you can do the role than whether you’ve always worked in that field (especially tech companies whose products didn’t exist a decade ago). Resist the urge to start at the bottom, and instead, boast about your ability to produce high-production value content or develop and pitch great concepts. The big thing to consider here is how to communicate your skills. You’ll need to rework your resume to avoid industry lingo (think “grids” or “hot sheets” or “slate”), delve more into descriptions of your responsibilities and accomplishments than a simple credits list, and create more context overall -- don’t assume everyone outside of the industry has heard of major production companies or high-rated cable series. Use the job posting as a guide -- consider why you’re able to meet the qualifications listed and write that on your resume! Just note: Ijf there are more than 1 or 2 requirements you don’t understand (and can’t decipher with a quick google search of the jargon), the role is not as similar as you think.
MOVING TO A NEW ROLE IN A NEW FIELD
The biggest and most challenging career transition is when you’re starting from scratch. Let’s say you’ve had enough of Hollywood and want to be a nurse. Your experience won’t translate, even if you worked on multiple seasons of GREY’S ANATOMY. In this scenario, you’ll need to go back to school -- which means your resume should open with education, even if you graduated from college years ago. Even for roles with fewer prerequisites than nursing, your resume should clearly explain your current interest so the hiring manager doesn’t think you applied by mistake. Consider drafting a professional summary indicating your interest in the switch (“Media professional with 10+ years of experience seeking transition to hospitality management.”) and craft your bullet points to explain the elements of your previous roles that are relevant to the job at hand. Similarly, if you’re looking to break into entertainment from a totally different field, consider taking courses in the area of the industry you’re looking to break into, joining a professional organization (like JHRTS), and highlighting relevant skills on your resume. If there are any roles in the new field that are more similar to what you’ve been doing (whether you’re transitioning into or out of entertainment) even if they aren’t your dream role, it may make more sense for you to move to a similar role in the new field and then to a different role in the new field (ie marketing executive at footwear company → marketing executive at TV network → development executive at TV network) than for you to start at the bottom, but that’s a personal decision based on how happy you’d be if the ultimate dream job didn’t pan out, how much time you’re willing to invest, and how much money you need to make.
The biggest thing to keep in mind when going through a career transition is that everyone does it at some point, and you’re not alone. Hiring managers have seen it all before, and if you tell your story well through your resume and cover letter, build a strong network of people who can champion you, and develop a strong set of skills, you don’t have to be stuck in a career you’ve outgrown. And if you know you want to transition to a new role but don’t know where to start exploring, consider our career coaching services.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan