3 Things That Separate Good Hollywood Assistants From Great Ones

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Photo Source: Courtesy HBO

Getting an assistant job is tough—but proving yourself as an assistant is even tougher. And you’ll definitely need to show your boss and network that you’re a great assistant because that’s the only way you’ll get promoted, recommended for future jobs, and move up the Hollywood career ladder.

Being an assistant in Hollywood isn’t just about doing your year on an agency desk and then magically getting your script greenlit. If that were the case, everyone would succeed! Rather, the assistant phase of your Hollywood career is designed to separate those who really get it from those who aren’t fit for the industry. So how do you ensure you fall into the former camp? These three qualities are what it’ll take for you to stand out as an assistant.

It’s hard to make the transition from college life to a demanding desk job. But professionalism is key to Hollywood success. On the digital side, that means a professional email address and outgoing voicemail message, a social media presence you wouldn’t be embarrassed to show your grandma, and a strong email etiquette. In the office, it means dressing appropriately, showing up to work before your boss, leaving after she leaves, focusing on work while at work—not the endless scope of the internet—and respecting your colleagues and boss.

It’s best to stay one step more professional than the most professional person in your office; in a casual environment, you shouldn’t wear a suit all day, and you certainly shouldn’t be the dud who skips every weekly happy hour, but you should also recognize that the more seasoned people in your office have earned the privilege to act a little looser than you have as an assistant. 

The biggest separation between good and great assistants is their ability to be resourceful. You want to be the person your boss can rely on to meet the needs she doesn’t even know she has yet. What does this mean practically? Read the trades every day and clip articles that are relevant to your boss, from projects that should be on her radar to mentions of her contacts that might warrant congratulatory emails. Use your time rolling calls to anticipate your boss’s asks—if she mentions any follow ups on the call, take initiative to schedule them. If your boss’s boss asks a question your boss doesn’t know the answer to, dig around and find the answer for her.

It’s your job to be your boss’s right hand and the best way to do that is to think two to three steps ahead at all times. This will also help you develop some of the qualities you need to be promoted. For instance, if you long to be a development executive and are constantly pinging your boss with relevant news about competitive projects, you’ll be positioned to take the initiative and start building grids, something you’ll need to do as a coordinator.

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The very nature of an assistant job is that you’re tethered to your boss; their success and failure can be traced back to you, and you often have to ask for their permission for basic things like when you can take lunch or whether you can take a personal day. So it can be hard to think of yourself as independent in this role. And yet the best assistants function totally independently so that their bosses can focus on their own work. This means asking fewer questions, having more confidence, and getting your work done without much help. Of course, when you first land on a new desk, you’ll have a lot of questions about best practices and your boss’s specific needs, but it’s best never to ask the same question twice. Develop a system that will help you stay organized, keep track of important players (both internal to and external to your company), and take the initiative to anticipate your boss’s needs.

If done right, being an assistant can help propel you to the next level of your career. But if you snooze through the job with the belief that any monkey could answer a phone, you’ll likely be stuck in assistant hell—or flung out of the industry altogether. So while you’re focusing on getting that next job, make sure you’re also focused on being the best assistant you can be. 

This post comes from our partner Hollywood Resumes,

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Angela Silak + Cindy Kaplan, Hollywood Resumes
Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan are the co-founders of Hollywood Resumes, a resume writing and career services firm that caters to entertainment industry clientele. Since founding the company in 2016, Angela and Cindy have helped professionals at all levels and in all areas of entertainment craft their job application materials. They have also led numerous workshops for university and professional organizations through Hollywood Resumes, and they recently launched “Hollywood Assistant Training,” an online course that prepares Hollywood hopefuls for entry-level roles. For more information on Hollywood Resumes, visit www.hollywood-resumes.com.
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