How you treat the janitor is more important than how you treat your boss.
Having worked in and out of the entertainment industry for the last 20 years I have notice a few constants that allow for a long term career in the biz.
- it takes 10 years of working at it everyday to make a living at it.
- who you know gets you in the door, talent lets you stay there.
- who you are as a talent gets you noticed, who you are as a person determines your longevity.
Sure, there are exceptions to all of these statements, but from my experience these are the norm.
The 10 Year Plan – Several friends of mine are working at successfully high levels within the entertainment industry. They are VPs in major Hollywood companies or actors in successful films and they all have one thing in common.
It took them 10 years to get there.
Ten years to understand the business, to determine a path, to start at the bottom of the food chain, to persevere, to make contacts, to network, to develop a top-notch work ethic and to show their talent. All of that allowed them, when career changing opportunities made themselves available, to take advantage of that one chance to turn a passion into a career.
Why 10 years? I don’t know. All I know is that 10 years after college graduation, those who started in the entertainment industry and never gave up were making a living at it. It’s just how long it seems to take.
Most people starting out in the industry or looking at the biz from the outside often undervalue the importance of being ready when your opportunity arrives. If you work in the biz long enough, it will come.
Will you be ready?
Will you have used every job both in and out of the industry up until that point to your best advantage, to develop communication skills, to understand the biz and the politics that sometimes drive it, to hone your unique skill and develop a work ethic that out-rivals every other.
Everyone in the industry started at the bottom. They were all the lowest of the low and worked their way up. They all worked for free or for almost no pay. They all sacrificed and worked two jobs to pay the bills while trying to reach their dreams. They all swallowed their pride and took it on the chin. They all dealt with egos and bad behavior and divas.
But they learned the ropes and then started climbing.
I learned more about television when I worked as a production assistant (gopher) than at any other time. Every day I had to get lunches for people and, instead of hating it or thinking I was better than that, I took every opportunity to learn as much as I could.
When it was time to gather the orders for lunch, I would purposefully get to each department early, so I could watch them work, learn, ask questions.
I would watch live television being directed, editors trimming shots, audio engineers adding sound effects, costumers working on new clothes, make-up artists touching up actors, lighting teams setting up the lights, audio boom operators rehearsing and, of course, actors, producers and directors working on set.
It was better than any film or television school I ever could have attended. It was like having a skeleton key to every door in the studio. Someone may challenge why a costumer is in the editing suite, but no one ever questions a gopher being anywhere.
It’s no different in the business world. Different levels of employees have different access to areas of the building, but the janitors have keys to everything.
So, learn, learn, learn. Work hard, be nice to everyone, even the jerks. Unfortunately, jerks know people who can get you a job too.
Plus, as a Christian, we should always be nice to people, to emulate Jesus’ teachings about forgiveness and turning the other cheek. It doesn’t mean we turn into a door mat, but it does mean we reply to even the most stupefyingly offense moments with grace and humility.
I once heard a phrase from a Saint that said “We love God as much as those we love the least…” That includes the jerks. Every person, from the janitor to the CEO, has a necessary job, has value, goals, dreams, hopes and feelings.
As fellow members of the Body of Christ we must recognize our membership in each other. We must treat everyone with kindness, especially the janitors or security guards or administrative assistants.
Think of how many people assisted Jesus and the Apostles during Jesus’ time on Earth. Most of them are not mentioned in the Bible and have been forgotten, but that doesn’t make them any less important to the success of the mission.
If you don’t give up, if you have talent and a work ethic and treat others with kindness and respect, in 10 years time, so many people will have quit or moved on that the competition will have thinned while, at the same time, your experience will have grown.
And you’ll be able to make a living in this industry.
Next time… Who You Know.