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Friday, January 9, 2009

The Assistant Files

It's a new year and a lot of folks are in the market for new jobs, myself included.

Looking for an assistant gig in the entertainment industry can be absurdly difficult. Often you have to know someone just to get your resume in the door. You endure multiple rounds of interviews, usually starting with the outgoing assistant, who will give you the stinkeye and declare that you've never worked a desk as intense or busy or important as THIS one. It's enough to make a girl want to scream, "Listen, people. I know how to answer the phone. IT'S NOT BRAIN SURGERY."

Because there is such hot competition for even the most entry-level positions, sometimes we lose sight of whether a given job is one that we'd WANT. And with job postings so full of industry catchphrases, sometimes it's hard to tell just what the job entails. So I've compiled a list of common job posting language for your reference. Interpretations are based on my own experience and may differ for individual users.


Andy's Guide to Understanding Hollywood Assistant Job Postings:

Typical assistant duties: Rolling calls, scheduling meetings, reading minds.

Thick-skinned: You will be yelled at a lot and blamed for things that could in no way possibly be your fault. Crying is not allowed.

Long hours: Say goodbye to your non-industry friends, your pet, and sleep.

Organizational skills: You'll be expected to know at a moment's notice the exact location of every scribbled note, scrap of paper, and crumpled receipt that has ever crossed your desk. You'll keep all of these items indefinitely, in a meticulous filing system, even though you've also committed them to memory.

Must be flexible: You'll be required to run personal errands.

Must be discreet: You'll be required to run embarrassing personal errands, and claim them as your own.

Attention to detail: You'll be expected to remember which restaurants your boss has approved for lunch meetings, exactly how he takes his coffee, and which corner of the desk the trades should be arranged on before he arrives in the office each morning. Slack on any of these and you'll likely need to employ that Thick-Skinned quality, so I hope you weren't padding the ol' resume on that one.

Strong computer skills: The company doesn't have an IT department, so you should know how get all of the computers up and running again after he crashes the system trying to download the latest celebrity sex video.

Excellent phone etiquette: Must be able to lie convincingly on the phone.

Excellent communication skills: Must be able to decipher cryptic phrases such as, "Andy, why don't I see that thing on my calendar?"

Ability to anticipate: You'll need to provide a synopsis and a new copy of that script he took home but didn't read, without being asked, and in time for the meeting where he will pretend that he read it.

Desire to learn the industry: You'll eagerly memorize the phone number and client roster of every agent in town. And you'll do it for peanuts because the experience is so invaluable.

Ability to handle a demanding environment: Your boss will demand one crazy, unreasonable thing after another. You'll handle it.

Andy Sachs

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