The key to moving up in Hollywood is to be a great assistant. Great assistants get recommended for higher-level jobs and often don’t even have to apply with a traditional resume and cover letter. But what does being a great assistant actually entail? Almost anyone can answer phones and schedule meetings, but there's a lot more you can put into the job if you want to reach that next level.
To be a great assistant, you need to go above and beyond for your boss and think two steps ahead of him at all times. For example, if your boss typically drinks a little too much while watching football on Sundays, make sure you never schedule a nonessential Monday morning meeting for him, even if that slot is theoretically “open.” If he must pitch a network on a Monday, remind him on Friday and again on Sunday morning, so he remembers to keep his hangover in check. Another example: If your boss calls every evening at 7pm asking to roll calls, make sure the call sheet is ready at 6:50 and finish all your other tasks beforehand -- make it clear that it’s not a surprise to you that it’s call-rolling time.
Even outside of phones and scheduling, there are ways to stand out. Be an information machine. Read the trades every day and send your boss clippings of relevant articles -- everything from competing shows getting picked up to good news about clients and contacts. If you see a name on the phone sheet regularly and learn that this person has landed a new job, make sure you tell your boss to send a congratulatory email. He may not have time to keep up with all the exec shuffles, and he’ll be glad you were looking out for his relationships. And it’s not just your boss who will be impressed by your berth of knowledge -- when you network with other assistants and coordinators, they’ll get a sense that you’re on the ball and might even recommend you for a position (and you’ll already have a head start on your interview research!).
Even though on the outside, it seems like being an assistant is as easy as picking up a phone, the truth is, being a great assistant takes a lot of finesse (and patience!). Hone your skills beyond the day-to-day tasks, and you’ll find doors opening for you as you advance in your career.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan