(how’s that for alliteration?!)
There have been several times over the course of the summer that interns, students and people going into their first job in the real world of television have asked me for advice – they want to know the secret to becoming needed, liked and successful. Often, I end up telling many stories, and hope they can pick up the essential truths. Then, I send them to my archived blog post “employment advice” and hope they’ve learned something and put it in practice. I really like my original list of ten pieces of sage advice, but I’ve now added another ten. These are great tips for those getting their first job and for the rest of us they should be common practice. If not, there’s still time to change! Here they are:
10. Be on time. If you can’t be on time, then be early. It’s disrespectful, arrogant and unacceptable to keep other people waiting on you – even if you’re the big boss man.
9. Check your work, then recheck it. If you’re writing, use the spell checker and grammar checker. If you’re shooting, check the recording before you walk away. It’s always harder and more expensive to redo something – and you may not be the one offered the chance to fix your work.
8. Learn all you can before you think of leaving. Jobs are hard to find. Good jobs are extremely rare. If you’ve been given the opportunity to work under someone who knows what they’re doing, then soak up all the knowledge, contacts and good habits you can. Don’t leave them immediately after they’ve invested in you the skills to make you useful. Be patient.
7. You are not the world’s foremost expert on anything. Be humble. Just because you know the keyboard shortcuts on After Effects doesn’t mean you know more than the old guy who does it the slow way, but has been animating for years and knows his craft. There’s an arrogance that exudes from many college kids and new hires that really ticks off those of us who now regret hiring you.
6. Offer to get coffee (or Red Bull or…). You’re expected to do stuff that you think is beneath you. This never, ever ends. Be a servant, happily, but don’t become a slave. If this is your first gig, you’re probably the lowest paid person on the crew, so nobody should expect you to buy the coffee – just do the legwork of getting it and bringing it back hot and as ordered. Then, help unload the trucks… you get the idea.
5. Shut up. If the old guy is telling a story, don’t try to up the ante by telling your story. If there’s a problem don’t butt in with your solution. You should be close by, ready to work without being asked, happy, and quiet.
4. Pay attention. Turn off the damn cell phone. Don’t sit on the set and text. This happened yesterday… we were taping a show in the studio and two assistants were sitting in the shadows, constantly texting. They had to be asked for everything. Very tiresome.
3. Learn as much as you can. Even if you only want to direct, learn signal flow from the engineers. If your career plan is to be in front of the camera and read prompter, make friends with the camera guys and editors and learn what looks good and how to make their lives easier. Trust me, pretty person in front of the camera, pissing off a shooter, editor or prompter person can make your life hell.
2. Don’t steal or lie… (or break the other 8 commandments, for that matter). Don’t stick a roll of gaff tape in your bag. Don’t make excuses. You’ll get caught some day. Really, this stuff grows and when you do get caught it won’t be pretty.
1. Make friends. Your friends and contacts will get you many more opportunities down the road than your reel will get you. I have friends that I’ve helped get jobs that frankly, I wouldn’t hire again, because they just aren’t that good. But, because of our friendship, I helped open doors for them when they asked. People want to be with friends. Have a great attitude, do your very best, follow my two lists of advice, and as you do, make friends, and then work to keep them.