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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

4 Things I Learned as a TV Assistant

So you landed your first job in entertainment? Congrats! Being an assistant is an exciting job. But it’s also extremely challenging: the hours are long and the pay is mediocre at best.

If you want to work in the glamorous world of TV, however, it’s a necessary stepping stone to get where you want to go. Here are a few things I learned (the hard way) in my first job to help you succeed in the entertainment industry—and probably other fields too.

1. Everything Will Go Wrong

As an assistant, you’re in charge of so many logistical details that sometimes things fall through the cracks—and very often, things that are out of your control. The best thing to do is to figure out—and solve—those problems before your boss realizes your mistake. If it’s too late and she’s already discovered that you booked her car to the airport at 11 PM instead of 11 AM (true story), remember that she doesn’t really care whose fault it is. It’s your problem to solve. And it should have been fixed five minutes ago. So, assume things will go wrong. And when they inevitably do, stay calm and work hard to figure out a solution.

2. Take Notes

To minimize the number of these types of disasters, be as prepared as you possibly can be. Never show up in your boss’ office without a pen and paper. Write down exactly what she wants you to do, and if you’re unclear about anything, ask questions! She might get annoyed, but that’s nothing compared to how she’ll react if you book her flight to Greece instead of Georgia because you didn’t ask what she meant by “Athens” (fortunately, not a true story).

3. Network, Network, Network

Film and TV is an industry of connections. Once you get hired, it’s easy to place your networking activities on the back burner and stop actively trying to meet new people. But it’s crucial to get the scoop from your new co-workers. You want to understand the way the company is really run—the stuff HR won’t tell you. Not to be confused with gossiping or knowing who is dating whom and why, the inside scoop is knowing that your boss tends to be most approachable in the morning because she gets tired in the afternoon—valuable information that will help you get ahead.

4. Choose Your Boss, Not Your Job

Someone gave me this advice when I was job hunting and I nodded politely, smiled, and promptly disregarded it. I was so anxious to land a job that I never stopped to consider what kind of manager I wanted. But when choosing a boss, you want someone who will invest in you, mentor you, and understand that there’s a lot about the working world you don’t know as a recent grad. How can you get a read on a potential manager? Ask her to describe the day-to-day duties of the job and her management style. Pay less attention to what she says and more to how she seems to perceive herself. If her answers seem contradictory or she talks in circles (“This job is really demanding, but at the end of the day, I’m pretty laid back”), be careful. Know that that’s the same style she will use when communicating assignments and feedback to you in the future.

Ultimately, working in TV takes patience, a lot of common sense, and a little bit of savvy. But the payoff can be engaging work, great perks, and an incredibly creative workplace. If you keep these tips in mind, you’re already 90 percent of the way to becoming your boss’ best asset.

Ever wondered what it’s like to work in TV? Or just love knowing the inside scoop on your favorite shows? NYC-based Anusha Deshpande fills us in on everything entertainment in "Industry Insider." Check back every other Friday for more.

Photo courtesy of Bob Bekian.