If there’s something I’ve come to realize as a result of living in Los Angeles’ and working in entertainment industry for the past six months is that ‘passion’ is really overrated. Yeah I said it, but when every person you encounter on your day-to-day interactions is a passionately aspiring director, writer, producer, actor or agent, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. And to be completely honest, passion alone isn’t going to cut it. It won’t help you stand out, it won’t get you a job, and it won’t make you get out of bed when you’re dead tired from work and the your mid-semester workload crisis that will hit you.
Instead, I’d like to encourage you to practice more than passion, so that you can be a standout candidate for any job or task and so that you’re able to describe yourself in ways people aren’t tired of hearing.
Don’t just sit there – breathing, existing. Get off your seat and ask people how you can help. Don’t be shy about it either. Don’t be proactive only when people are watching, because it becomes pretty obvious you’re trying too hard to impress. Clean the dishes, restock printers with paper, answer the phone on the first ring. This is how’ll you’ll get noticed – when you handle the little things, so that others can focus on their bigger, more pressing work.
People won’t expect you to know all the answers – you’re young and your learning curve is still very steep. However, you have no idea how many people don’t know how to do simple things on Microsoft Word, or how to compress a video, or how to fix a jammed printer. Here’s the good news: you can either be the answer, or find the answers. The Internet, YouTube, and other resources to your disposal will help you be the most resourceful person in the office.
This one is simple. People like to work with their friends. You might ask, “Pedro, I’m the most awkward person on the planet! How do I make friends?”
The answer is simple: the intern is always awkward, no matter how cool or suave you are. Just keep a smile on your face. People will want to get to know you; and the stressed out, caffeinated executives speeding past you will feel a lot better about the hectic nature of their jobs.
So, you’ve got the interview, but how will you show the company of your dreams that you’re the best fit? Be informed. Read the trades. Know what’s going on with the company, who works there, what projects they’re taking on, and where they stand in relation to the supply chain of the entertainment industry.
Interviews shouldn’t be a one-way flow of questions and answers. If your cover letter claims your “passionate about working for (whatever awesome media company you wish to work for)” you should have at least of handful of questions for your interviewer that’ll make you seem intelligent and curious.
BE ENGAGED AND INTERESTED
Earlier this semester, acting Professor Barbara Deutsch said it best: “Instead of being interesting, be interested.” Stop talking yourself up and listen to what others have to say. You’ll learn so much more that way.
This one is really huge. People in this business lead very busy lives. If you respect their time, they’ll respect yours, and when commuting to and from work takes two hours of your day, you’ll learn to appreciate LA’s heightened value on time.
BE AN ACTIVE LISTENER
You’ll learn most of what you’ll know about the industry works and of the importance of relationships by keeping your ears peeled. People will talk about their goals, issues and frustrations within the threshold of your hearing capabilities, and if you’re actively listening, you’ll catch glimpses of knowledge and a better understanding of the company and where it might stand on certain things.
I’m not saying you should eavesdrop on your boss’ conversations and meetings, but if they’re screaming at someone over the phone for whatever reason, it’s not your fault you overheard.
BE A PRODUCER
Much like being proactive, being a producer will help you achieve your dreams, because they’ll become personal goals. Set a time for your dreams too, and beat yourself up when you haven’t achieved what you’ve set out to do, because next thing you know you’ll be 30 years old.
Whether you’re really looking to make that trip across Europe or if you’re thinking of directing your own short film, go out there and do it, because there aren’t many people – if any – out there who will do it for you.
A lot of the higher-ranking players in the entertainment industry have been doing their jobs for decades. For the most part, they love what they do, but the nature of their daily work can become mundane. If you’re excited to come to work, to run for coffee, to deliver mail, or to sit-in on meetings, people will appreciate their jobs so much more. Most importantly, they’ll appreciate your presence, your determination, and your input.
Be yourself, more for your own sake, than for the sake of others. While you can probably get away with being someone you’re not so that others like you, this will more than likely make you miserable. Be who you are, remain humble and respectful, and people will want to work with you and for you.