Do’s and Don’ts to Further Your Entertainment Career

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After participating on entertainment career panels for several years (as well as mentoring several interns), I’ve noticed some things that may help someone in a new/budding career.

Before I go into those things, I have to mention that most of the grads/new workers I run into feel, well, lost.  Not only is there a slow-growing economy but there is also a lot of pop culture to do with television and film where in the story, someone looking for a job gets one within the show’s hour (or for a film, maybe a few weeks!).  Everything in this digital age is fast, fast, fast – no wonder there is frustration, and even depression among many millennials about things not progressing that quickly.

That’s when I encourage grads/new workers to look to history for examples – like Thomas Edison (it took him 10,000 tries to create a workable light bulb), Abraham Lincoln (failed in several endeavors, both Congress and business), Steve Jobs (fired from Apple, only to return in triumph) and J.K. Rowling (once penniless, her first “Harry Potter” book was rejected several times).

Now they all had two things in common: a) a great work ethic and b) the refusal to give up.  Basically, I think if you have those two things going for you, you’re ahead of the game right there.

Here are the things I’d like to pass on:

Do’s & Don’ts:

  1. Don’t feel entitled. One of the main subjects discussed at these career panels is how many people (sorry, millennials again) start off thinking that they don’t need to make coffee, don’t need to do errands, don’t need to do photocopying – a panelist related how he had told one new hire who said he just got a bachelor’s degree, “What, am I supposed to do it then?!”  You’re at the beginning of your career, so try to be enthusiastic, happy and energetic – decent first (or second and third) jobs are hard to find in today’s competitive market.
  2. Do go the extra mile.  Volunteer for stuff.  Show up early and stay late once in a while. Look for solutions to help your boss.  Do something to make you stand out, like even bringing in terrific chocolate chip cookies – one girl was remembered for a new assignment because she was the “girl that makes the great cookies!”  Seriously, you never know.
  3. Don’t take criticism personally. Benjamin Franklin actually made a list of his faults and went through them all the time to correct himself.  And look where he ended up – as a diplomat to Paris and a Founding Father, not bad. Criticism of how you work can actually help you, although if the criticism is just plain cruel, that’s different.  But always think, if it might be constructive criticism, how you can learn from it, how you can learn to be a better executive/production assistant/screenwriter/actor or whatever.  Try to develop a tough skin.
  4. Do brush up on your knowledge. That means all kinds of knowledge.  If you want to be a screenwriter, learn about the important screenwriters of history – Billy Wilder, William Goldman, etc.  Who are the top screenwriters of today? Or directors or producers or business executives? Most of the grads/undergrads I mentored not only did not know the names I brought up, they couldn’t come up with five names themselves (so of course I gave them a pop quiz a week later). You really need to know what to say when film people start comparing notes.  Also general knowledge – classical music, art, history and classic literature.  A lot of guys love to talk about Ernest Hemingway (especially if they’re writers).  Knowledge about these things is usually impressive.
  5. Don’t dress down. Yes, I know there are casual Fridays, but what if a visiting executive comes in to your company, sees that you have flip-flops and holes in your jeans – and they’re looking for a new development assistant?  It’s happened many times that someone met by accident can change your life.  My friend met someone in the parking lot at work and he ended up introducing her to some great business contacts.  Be always at your best, think nice-dressy.  Bring a jacket to work and put it on your chair, even if you have no cause to use it.
  6. Do hang out with positive, ambitious people.  There was a study done in a newspaper a few years ago about extremely successful people, about one of the main things they had in common.  It was found that these people decided to socialize or work with others who were more successful, and thought that this had helped them a great deal in their career.  So think hard about whom you hang out/work with.

There’s many more do’s and don’ts that I can think of, but meanwhile, think back to things you’ve read and heard – how can you learn by others’ examples?  That’s another “do” – do keep learning.

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Lisa Carroll is a contributing writer for HRTS.