Building a career is a step-by-step process, so here’s Professor Brown’s advice on how to get there, a little bit at a time. Part 1 of 3.
BUILDING A CAREER (PART 1)
In class this past semester, I told my students that building a career was a marathon not a sprint. “You’re not going to walk right out of school and get your dream job. It takes time.” They nodded with understanding, embracing this challenge. Then, getting more specific, I said, “If your goal is to become a director, or producer, or the head writer of a TV series, or a senior studio or network executive, then it will take you at least fifteen years after graduation, maybe twenty, to reach your goal.”
I thought they were going to beat me to a pulp with their iPhones. “Twenty years?! No!!!!!”
They weren’t exactly telling me that I was wrong. They were just letting me know that fifteen to twenty years was an unreasonably long time as far as they were concerned. It was one of those professorial/parenting moments where I completely understood how they felt, and just as completely felt I needed to enlighten them, give them a reasonable roadmap to success. Building a career is a step-by-step process, so here’s Professor Brown’s advice on how to get there, a little bit at a time:
Step One – That All-Important First Job
Students always ask, “What’s the best first job for me to get?” I have a stock answer, no matter whether they want to write, direct, produce, edit, be a cinematographer, or whatever. “The best first job is the first one you’re offered.” There’s a simple reason for this: getting your first job is ten times harder than getting your second job, because once you have a first job, you’re on the inside. You have a track record, people in the business who can vouch for your talents. You also have a more detailed understanding of the business, a growing network of contacts, and a whole lot more insider info than you did when you were a complete newbie.
So if your goal is to work on feature films, but the only gig you’re offered after graduation is working on TV commercials, grab it. I’ve heard all the objections: But what if I get typecast as someone who does TV instead of features? My usual answer is, “Would you rather be typecast as someone who works at Starbucks or is chronically unemployed?” Trust me – work and connections lead to other work and other connections.
Step Two – Work Your Tail Off and Do It With A Smile
Okay, you’ve taken a job that’s not exactly your dream job – in fact, it’s far from it. You’re getting coffee for people, running errands, doing all kinds of menial things. Hey, you’re in show biz, baby! Enjoy it! Be the best coffee-getter in the world and do it with a smile, because the last thing in the world your boss needs is some young kid just out of college complaining about doing a job that thirty other people would kill for. Your boss knows you don’t want to be a production assistant forever. Neither did she. But she also knows that she got promoted by being an outstanding, all-star, greatest in the world ever errand runner, not by being resentful and put upon.
Same goes for your salary. You’re only making $10 an hour? Wrong way to look at it. They’re paying you and giving you an opportunity at the same time. Show them you appreciate that. Work as hard as if they were paying you $50 an hour…which, by the way, is the fastest route to actually getting paid $50 an hour, by proving you’re worth that much.
Okay, that’s it for Part One. Stay tuned for Part Two.