I’m not an expert on Hollywood.
But I’m as much of an expert as I believe I can be at this point in my career.
Meaning, I’ve done the research, I’ve asked the right questions, I’ve put myself out there.
So while I’m not an expert, I think I can safely share a revelation I’ve had recently.
I’ve wasted a lot of my time here.
I’ve lived in LA for 482 days. That’s approximately 16 months. In fact, I’ll hit 16 months next Sunday.
When I moved here I felt pretty confident. Four years prior I had moved from Tucson, AZ to Portland, OR where I had no job and I knew no one. I survived that. I could survive LA.
Because I knew plenty of people. And I knew I could get a job (I got a great paying nanny job three days after I arrived in LA.) I also had more money saved up this time.
And I really did know people. I knew people who are pretty well-known in the comedy scene. I knew a photographer who knows pretty much everyone in LA. I knew someone who’d been a writers’ assistant on a show. I had friends from Tucson whom had moved to LA when I moved to Portland. Even though they didn’t work in Hollywood, they knew plenty of people who did.
And I knew people from Twitter. In fact, it’s where I found my mentor. He took me under his wing and introduced me to people; he submitted my resume; he invited me to his writers’ group. He’s been my greatest ally.
It should have been easy. Because I’ve always risen to the challenge.
But this time was different. I’d miscalculated. Sure, I’d miscalculated how hard it would be to break in to Hollywood, but more importantly I’d miscalculated my connections.
I was a Freshman trying to get in with the Juniors and Seniors.
And this meant I would forever be three steps behind. This wasn’t good for my self-esteem and it wasn’t good for my career.
At first glance, it might seem as if I had the right idea (and the right connections), but here’s the thing. It’s great to choose a mentor who’s a Senior, but as for choosing friends—it doesn’t work. At least not organically.
Because they already have their friends. Friends who can give help just as much as they receive it. Friends who know what it’s like to worry about your career beyond just finding a job. Friends whom they can vent to and not feel guilty. There’s a symbiotic nature in those friendships that will never exist between Freshmen and Seniors.
They’ve built their social network. And breaking into that is difficult and oftentimes futile. Not that it can’t be done, but should it be done?
I came to this realization when I attended my first mixer for feminist assistants (mostly women, but also people all along the spectrum).
Truthfully, I’d been slowly coming to this realization, but the mixer cemented it for me.
Here were my people. People who knew (and remember) how much it sucks to be at the assistant level. People who had ambition and know-how, but hadn’t quite gotten that break.
Because it is a break.
I heard so many stories similar to mine.
Women who had the experience, know-how, and the references and still didn’t get the job. They nailed the interview but they still didn’t get the job.
They should have gotten the job, but they still didn’t get the job.
It was relief to know I wasn’t the only one.
I still met people who could be great resources. People who hear about jobs, people who could give advice on how to further my career, people who were just slightly further in their career than I am.
But when it came down to it, they were still Freshmen like me.
And man did it feel good to know I wasn’t alone.
Because being surrounded by people more successful than I had the opposite effect. It made me feel more alone than I ever have before. I didn’t have anyone who truly understood what I was going through.
And maybe now I do.
And maybe, just maybe, if I’d figured this out sooner I could have saved myself a lot of time and strife.
So hopefully if you’re reading this and about to move to LA or just moved here or even if you’ve been here longer than I have and you’re wondering why you haven’t gotten further in your career—maybe this can save you some strife as well.