- The people. Did you get the sense that the people on your future team have fun personalities that align with your own? Can you envision yourself hanging out with them? Were they friendly during the interview rounds, or did one person rub you the wrong way? One of the most important factors that will dictate whether or not you’re happy at work is the team you’re on. So if you didn’t get good vibe from someone or have heard that your potential boss has a reputation for being difficult or abusive, you’d do better to pass on this one and continue looking for other opportunities.
- Your lifestyle. Make sure you do a thorough cost/benefit analysis to determine how this career choice will affect the overall scope of your life. Start by asking the following questions: Does the role fit in with the desired lifestyle you’d like to lead (or at least get you closer to it)? Is the salary is enough to maintain or improve your current standard of living? Are the benefits going to cover whatever personal needs you have? How long is the commute? What are the hours, and are they flexible? If one of these elements isn’t working for you, perhaps there is some room to negotiate on salary or flex time to make up for it.
- The role. How excited are you about the work that you’re going to be doing? You might have an offer from a prestigious company but in a role that’s below what you’re capable of. In this case, the company name is probably not going to make up for the fact that you will be bored at work. Look for a challenge and a team that supports learning and growth. You may have spent a lot of time thinking about the position and getting yourself hyped up about a potential opportunity, but it’s good to step back and reassess how excited you are about the actual role you’ve been offered.
Hooray! You just got a job offer! Your potential employer has decided that you’re the best fit for the role, and now you get to flip the tables on them and decide if they’re right for you. As we’ve said before, you shouldn’t always take the first offer you’re given -- put some careful thought into your decision. Accepting a new job is a big deal and will define your life for the next few years, so you should choose wisely. Here are three things to consider when evaluating whether an opportunity is a good fit:
We’re often asked if temp agencies are worthwhile as part of the entry-level Hollywood job search. How likely are they to get you where you need to be in your career? The answer isn’t that simple and depends very much on individual circumstances. Let’s look at the pros and cons of using them.
Temp positions can be very helpful for those who are between jobs or are looking for a first job and need immediate income. If you can’t financially afford to commit to the job search full-time, a temp agency could be very helpful for you. Temp positions can also help fill resume gaps while you're between jobs. On the other hand, temp positions don’t offer benefits, so they won’t provide the same level of financial stability as a full-time job would. Plus, they require you to pull focus from your regular job search -- you won’t be able to apply for as many jobs while temping as you would if you could spend full days on your applications, so keep this in mind when making your decision.
Another pro: Temp positions will give you valuable administrative experience that can help when applying for full-time roles. In entry-level entertainment positions, it’s crucial for assistants to have strong phone, scheduling, and other administrative skills, and a temp position could help you build up those skills for your resume. That said, there is often an expectation that temps will have a strong administrative background coming into the job, so be aware of this when applying to the temp agency itself. (And know that a temp agency may redo your resume to help promote the skills you'll need for their available jobs -- but this resume may not work as well as an entertainment-focused resume for assistant jobs. We can help with that.)
Finally, temp positions can get you on the right career track and will sometimes even lead to a permanent role at the company. If you’re looking for a development assistant position and have the opportunity to temp on a development desk, this will look great on yourresume as you apply for jobs down the line. However, there’s no guarantee that you’ll land in the right role -- you could end up on a business affairs desk and have to work your way back into the field that you’re interested in at a later date. In addition, many supervisors hire temps with no intention of transitioning them into full-time staff members, and this can limit learning opportunities. If you’re on a short assignment, you can be assured that this is the case. On a longer assignment, you may have a chance to showcase your skills, but you’ll really have to go above and beyond to secure that full-time position, as a supervisor is unlikely to assign anything more advanced than administrative tasks. The exception to this rule is when a job is listed as temp-to-perm, in which case you may not even need to go through a temp agency. If this type of posting pops up, don’t hesitate to apply!
No matter what, you need to be careful when you apply through a temp agency. Some agencies take cuts of your paycheck or promise only to send entertainment opportunities your way but actually put you up for many other types of jobs -- and because of the nature of the business, your rep may border on pushy in her pitch to you. If you need the cash, or it's a short enough job, go for it. But don't get scared and commit to a longer term assignment that doesn't align with your goals just because it's something. You will find another job if you try hard enough -- don't sell yourself short.
Ultimately, you’ll need to look at your personal circumstances to evaluate if the temp agency route is the best option for you. If this is something you are considering, Sam Wilson at Any Possibility has come up with a comprehensive list of agencies you can contact.
An internship at a small company has certain advantages over one at a big company -- what you may sacrifice in name recognition, you’ll make up for in access to executives and potentially more interesting assignments. But there are some common pitfalls you may encounter when you intern at a small company or for a small team, and it’s important to know how to navigate them, or you’ll risk losing the otherwise valuable connections you’d make. Here are a few problems you may have to contend with:
1. You don't understand your assignments.
It’s likely that employees at a small company hired an intern because their plates are already pretty full, which means your supervisors may not have much time to dedicate to introducing you to their processes. You might get a brief orientation on your first day and a quick explanation of any new projects, but you’ll likely spend a lot of time working independently. If this is your first professional experience, it could be overwhelming -- and even if you’re more seasoned, you may still have a lot of questions about the work you’re doing. The first thing you should remember is that your supervisors hired you to make their lives easier, so they expect you to do projects correctly -- they don't want to redo your work. To that end, don’t feel bad asking questions, especially if the information you need isn’t readily available to you elsewhere -- you should never submit incomplete work or miss a deadline because you're feeling stuck. At the same time, you need to be resourceful. Don’t ask questions you could easily figure out on your own.
2. Your supervisor doesn't pay attention to you.
Sometimes it might seem like your supervisor doesn't even notice you, and that's definitely not the best feeling. Don't take it personally -- she's busy, and your happiness and wellbeing isn't always going to be her top priority. But the truth is, even if your supervisor comes across as unavailable, she knows that hiring an intern means providing a certain amount of education. Take initiative and ask if you can set a time to sit down one-on-one and ask any larger questions you have about the company and possible career trajectories. That’s the best way to build a strong relationship and secure a useful contact that will help you down the line. She’ll likely appreciate you for showing an interest and enjoy the opportunity to share her wisdom. Just make sure you're respectful of her schedule.
3. You're all alone.
At a small company, you might be the only intern, which can make fitting in hard. If there’s an assistant around your age, you can try to build a rapport and friendship with him, but it might be daunting to approach mid-level or high-level executives. Even if you’re lonely, don’t let it show. Try not to keep earbuds in at all times -- it makes you seem unapproachable and will shut out any potential office conversations you could otherwise join. Keep a professional demeanor and get your work done well, even if the social vibes of the company leave a little to be desired. You can always exercise your mojo on nights and weekends.
4. There's no one to model behavior.
If the company is so small that there are no entry-level employees, it may be hard to figure out who to take your cues from. Assistants make great role models, since they are still paying their dues and are actively focused on maintaining a professional image 100% of the time. But mid-level and high-level executives may have a more relaxed attitude that they’ve earned over the years, especially given that at a small company, they're often the ones making the rules. They have the freedom to dress casually, work remotely on occasion, or take long lunches. Sometimes, they may afford those luxuries to you as well, but even so, you should make sure to prove your professionalism. Internships are the best time to learn how to conduct yourself in an office, and there are different expectations for entry-level employees with an unproven work ethic and mid-level employees with a track record of excellent deliverables. Act one level more professional and poised than the least casual person in the office, and you’ll stand out as someone who's reliable and worthy of a recommendation down the line. Or maybe you'll even get hired as an assistant, since there’s an opening anyway!
Despite these potential pitfalls, interning at a small company can be a valuable experience -- you get to see how the entire machine works, instead of just one piece of a larger corporate puzzle. And if you spend your time wisely and dedicate yourself wholeheartedly, you’ll find yourself on a path toward success!
One of the most challenging aspects of assistant life is that your boss will never know how much work you actually do. Since you're there to make his life easier, you should make it your goal never to let him in on what happens behind the scenes — if you can keep something off his plate, do it. Your boss may never know that scheduling his lunch with an important contact took hours and hours of back and forth emails and calendar juggling, and that's a good thing, even though it's frustrating to do good work for little or no recognition. So how do you impress your boss if he's completely unaware of all the hard work you're doing to keep his life running smoothly? By becoming the go-to person for information. There's no better way to showcase your long-term viability as an employee than to be the person your boss can rely on to tell him anything he wants to know at the drop of a hat.
If you can stay on top of the calendar, phone sheet, and contacts, you’ll probably be able to relay a lot of information off the top of your head, which is great. But if there's too much to remember, have a system for finding the answers to simple questions very quickly (for example, you could bring your phone or laptop into a meeting so you have easy access to the calendar). But that's only half the battle. You've also got to have a solid strategy for finding information that isn't as readily available.
Sometimes you'll be asked for information that requires a little digging. This is when you’ve got to be resourceful. When asked a question you don’t know the answer to, respond with “let me check,” or “I will find out," and then check, find out, and report back promptly. Make it seem effortless. Never admit that you don't know the answer, or worse, that you don't know how to find the answer. Do whatever you can to figure out the information on your own, without asking others. If you simply don’t have knowledge of a company process and there's no written material you can comb through to learn it, ask another friendly assistant for help. Try to avoid asking others on your team, especially if it's outside of their purview. If you’re constantly pushing work onto your superiors, it will get back to your boss, and you won’t be able to maintain your image as a person who can magically produce information out of thin air (aka a rockstar assistant).
Strive to be the person that can come up with the correct information the most efficiently — it will set you apart from others and show your boss that you're indispensable. If your boss thinks you know everything, he’ll begin to trust you with higher level tasks relatively quickly, which is how you’ll eventually earn that promotion.