In an industry where everybody knows everybody, you have to be careful not to burn bridges in your business relationships. But there’s one situation where the fear of getting blacklisted should not apply, and that’s when you accept a new job. Let’s say you’ve spent two years on an assistant desk at an agency and have a great relationship with your boss. In fact, he regularly tells you that you’re the best assistant he’s ever had, and he doesn’t know what he would do without you. And for an assistant, you’ve got a pretty good thing going -- your boss never yells at you, he lets you go home early every Friday, he doesn’t call or email after hours, and he takes you out to lunch on days when he doesn’t have one already scheduled. You’re pretty comfortable in your role, and you know that you're valued at the company. But there’s just one issue -- you don’t want to be an agent. It’s always been your dream to become a development executive, and you’re ready to make the move to a network or studio. But when you finally get a job offer, you start to question yourself. "Am I wrong for wanting to leave a boss who has treated me very fairly for the past two years? Would I be completely screwing him over if I left?" The answer is no.
The first rule about working in Hollywood is that you have to watch out for yourself. Others are busy worrying about their own careers, so if you want to advance in yours, you’re going to have to put yourself first. There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving your current job, no matter the reason. You've carefully thought through your decision, and you shouldn't feel guilty about doing something that's in your best interest. Your current boss might be a little disappointed when he learns he's going to lose you, but if he's a decent person and actually wants to see you succeed, he should be happy for you (and if he's not, you shouldn’t think twice about getting out of there). Especially in the entertainment industry, it’s completely normal for people to bounce around a bit, and no one is going to fault you for making a career move.
Still don’t believe us? There are a couple of things you can do put your mind more at ease. One option is to be completely transparent during the job search process. If you’re comfortable letting your current boss know you’re looking for a new job, go for it -- if he knows you want to take your career in a different direction, this shouldn’t be a problem. And if you’re lucky, he’ll even go out of his way to call on your behalf after an interview. Nothing looks better to a new employer than a current boss’s recommendation. However, transparency isn't always the solution -- sometimes it can be better to keep your job search a secret. You know your boss better than anyone, so use your judgment -- you don't want to be forced out or overlooked for a raise or promotion because the boss knows you're out interviewing. But if you have the kind of relationship where you can be open about your job search, it can often benefit you to be transparent.
The other thing you can (and should!) do is to find a way to leave on good terms. Don’t break the news to your boss and pack up your stuff the same day. Two weeks notice is standard, and your new employer will understand that (if they don't, it's a red flag, and you should tread carefully). You’ll also want to reassure your current boss that he’s going to be fine without you. Offer to help with the interview process and start to collect resumes. You know the type of assistant your boss needs, so your input can be extremely useful here. Then, leave everything very organized for the new assistant, so he’ll be able to pick up right where you’ve left off. Creating an assistant guide or tip sheet is always helpful. If your replacement is able to start soon enough, you’ll even be able to train him. Finally, make sure your coworkers know how much you’ve enjoyed working with them -- thank you notes are a great way to make a lasting impression. At the very least, make sure you sign off with a thank you email to your colleagues. As long as you’re not purposefully creating trouble when you leave, everyone should be on your side, regardless of where you end up.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan