It's impossible to read the news these days without seeing a headline about all the workers quitting their jobs. We all learned a lot about ourselves over the past year+ of the pandemic, including what we want/need/deserve from our employers. Plus, there's something exciting about the change of pace that comes with quitting after the world was so stagnant for so long.
But keep in mind that Hollywood isn't like other industries. It might be easy for a coder at a tech firm to quit their job and find another, better one. Our industry is fickle, though, and all about relationships. Many people are afraid that quitting will make them look like they aren't tough enough to handle Hollywood, or raise questions about their level of commitment during future interviews. It's one thing to quit if you already have another job lined up (congrats!), but it's a totally different story to walk off the job with the hopes of finding something better, especially if you haven't been at the company for a substantial amount of time. Sometimes, sticking around a little longer will give your career a boost, but in other cases, leaving is certainly the right choice. So how do you decide what's best for you?
First, think hard about why you accepted this job in the first place. Is it a stepping stone that is likely to lead to a position you are going to enjoy? For example, many agents ask for a one-year commitment on the desk and then will offer to help their assistants find their dream jobs. If this is the case, consider sticking it out. Combat burnout by putting your energy into networking and completing tasks at the office that will boost your resume to help pass the time. Another reason you might consider staying is if you're on a show that just isn't the best fit but isn't toxic. Finishing out the shoot can be worthwhile to fortify relationships and maintain your reputation, but you don't have to agree to come back next season if it's just not your thing.
If you're thinking about quitting because you're eager to transition to a new side of the industry, but there's nothing particularly bad about your current job, try to hang in there until you land the new role. We say this mostly because transitions within the industry can take longer than expected, and you want to make sure you can afford to live and can avoid an unnecessary gap on your resume. That said, you should create time to lean into the world you're trying to transition to! Attend workshops and events geared toward that sector, tell everyone you know you want to make the leap, apply regularly, and see if there are any projects you can take on in your current role that can improve your resume for your next step.
With all of this said, if you are in a truly bad situation, we'd suggest leaving. If your boss is one of those crazy Hollywood execs that will scream and throw a stapler at you because they’re angry that you dropped a call, or that their computer is frozen, or that it’s raining, you don't have to deal with abuse. The same thing goes if your paychecks mysteriously stop showing up on time or in full or if your role shifts without fair compensation (think: you're a production coordinator who also gets tasked with COVID safety). You may worry that you’ll burn a bridge by leaving, but think about it — anyone who will abuse you is not going to help you down the line! Even if they like you, they’ll resent you when you leave regardless of when you do it, and all you'll have to show for staying is worsened mental health.
Of course, this is a personal choice — you may want to stay until you find something else because you need the money or because a project you've poured your heart and soul into is about to get released. It's up to you, but however you make the decision, know that quitting will not ruin your chances of ever working in Hollywood again. You’ll need to carefully figure out how to address it in an interview, but sometimes quitting is the best choice. Trust your instincts and look out for yourself. After all, companies look out for themselves all the time, laying off employees without a second thought. You don't owe anyone anything, and your career should serve you.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
In the best of times, it’s easy to get frustrated with work -- and with all the ways work and life have changed since COVID, burnout is all the more persistent. Even if your office is one of the few that got everything right, a lot has happened that may have changed your professional outlook. Maybe all the headlines about the hot job market and/or the swell of job resignations has got you thinking you should just throw in the towel. And maybe that's the right path for you! But you may not be able to quit just yet, whether it's because your dream company doesn't have any openings, you don't have the financial security, your professional network isn't built up yet, or any other perfectly valid reason. If you have to pay the bills, you’re going to have to stick it out for some unknown period of time.
This point in your life is going to be tough -- we're not going to pretend otherwise. It may be beneficial to lean into self-care, including consulting a mental health professional if appropriate. But there are a few practical ways you can alleviate burnout right now -- things like making your company work for you, not the other way around. As long as you’re going to be stuck at a company, you should be doing things that will benefit you while you’re there! Here are a few strategies to help you approach your day and stay afloat when you’re totally over it.
Create new relationships. It's cliché because it's true: Relationships are everything in Hollywood. The more people you know, the more successful you’ll be. At the same time, every company depends on various partnerships to keep its business running -- finding a distributor for a movie, hiring a director to bring a script to life, utilizing a new advertising platform…the list goes on. This is great news for you, as it gives you an excuse to network while being a huge value-add to your team! In the short term, you might bring in a partner that helps your current company, and that can lead to internal boosts like a promotion or more interesting projects. More importantly, these connections will also be part of your network down the line. They may help you find a job, and they could be key players in your success at future companies. For example, if you’re a development executive, and you take a bunch of general meetings with writers, you’re adding to your roster, and you’ll be able to contact these writers when you’re at your next gig and have an opportunity for them. Even better, your new boss will be impressed by the breadth of your network. You can also create new relationships within your office -- most employers love it when their employees work with other departments to create synergy, and these co-workers will likely become your friends over time. Prioritize relationships above all. There’s usually something on your to-do list that will require meeting someone new -- check that one off first.
Focus on your professional development. If you’re burned out at work, you probably feel like you’re wasting time. A great way to combat that feeling is to learn something new! Volunteer to lead a new research project. Take advantage of any professional development opportunities your company offers or enroll in a course. Watch YouTube videos to learn the ins and outs of PowerPoint and Excel and wow your team with your improved skills. Read and watch content that interests you as potential source material. Attend (or volunteer to speak at) a conference. The key is to identify an area you've always wanted to learn more about and go for it! Not only will this help curb your boredom, but you'll likely develop expertise that will benefit you in your career long-term.
Do the job you were hired to do. Think about the job you were hired to do -- literally, the job description you’re getting paid for. Is that the job you’ve been doing, or are you completing assignments above your pay grade? Most of us operate with an “I need to earn a promotion” mentality -- we want to impress our supervisors in hopes that it will pay off in the long run. But if you’re in a dead-end job, the extra work is not going to pay off, and even if you think a promotion could be your ticket out of burnout-land, the relationships and skills you cultivate from the first two tips have you covered in that area! Don’t stress yourself out trying to be an overachiever for someone else. Your boss can’t fault you for getting what’s expected of you done. Do the job you signed up for, nothing less, nothing more. You’ll have more mental energy (and potentially after-hours time) for other things. Which brings us to our last point...
Lean in to your personal life. If you’re unhappy at work, try to balance that with happiness in other areas of your life. Spend time with friends and family. Keep up with your favorite hobbies. Volunteer for a cause that's meaningful to you. Give yourself something to look forward to after work each day -- if you're really deep into your burnout, it might be helpful to keep a written list of something you do each day that brings you personal joy or to have an accountability buddy you can swap "happy thoughts" with (we've done this!). When someone asks you what’s new, answer them with something that has nothing to do with work. It's easy to get wrapped up in our careers when we're pursuing Hollywood dreams, but at the end of the day, you only get one life, and your work should support it, not detract from it. Plus, you won't have any great stories to share with the world if your life experience consists of work emails, Zoom meetings, and a mile-high pile of scripts. As much as you can, avoid checking work emails after hours, on weekends, or on vacation. Your team isn't your family. No one's life is on the line if you respond to an email at 9am instead of 2am. Any company that can burn you out is a company that will put their bottom line above your well-being -- so if it would be a "business decision" for them to lay you off in a restructure, you don't owe them your personal time. Plus, studies continually show that people perform better at work when they're happier -- so your boss is benefitting from that trip you take to Cabo!
We're not suggesting that you should ditch all your responsibilities (you don’t want to get fired for cause!). But there are plenty of ways you can reframe your job to be mutually beneficial, and you should channel your energy into those endeavors. And always remember that your own mental health should come first. Your work situation will eventually change, and in the meantime, there’s a lot you can do to make life a little more pleasant.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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