Elyse writes: I’m moving to LA in February, and I’m looking for some employment insight. Since you’ve gone from an industry to non-industry job, you seem like a good person to ask. I have basically two options:
1. Since my goal is to eventually work as a TV writer, it seems like a no-brainer to take whatever industry job will have me, and make some solid contacts while I pay my dues and learn the ins and outs of the business.
2. Obviously my goal is to leave my current career (copywriter). But in light of how the economy’s been tanking, it almost seems like a more even-handed approach to nail down a job in my current field, then write/network like crazy/take some classes/hunt for a less-than-terrible industry gig in the off-hours. I know that in a lot of ways, this plan is a far cry from the first-hand experience I’d get as an assistant – but, since I can’t afford to go potentially months without paid work, I do want to be realistic.
As someone who’s been on both sides of the equation and actually lives in LA, what would you recommend? I’m stumped.
Good question. I would read through my old posts about the Job Search for more. Here's the thing: right now, you are an outsider. And in order to be a successful writer, you have to get on the inside somehow. Some people sort of slip inside by winning the ABC/Disney or Nicholls Fellowship, or they might have strong connections through their family. But the vast majority of us can't expect to be successful this way. I recommend that people get industry jobs so that they can become insiders. Make connections. Learn how it all works. Meet friends who will champion their writing. Without that, you're kind of doomed.
I don't work in the industry anymore, but I did for 2-3 years. Without the information I learned and the contacts I made, I don't think I would be equipped to forge ahead in my career.
For you personally, you don't really have to decide right now. Save some money and move to LA. Once you're here, try to get an industry job. If that doesn't work, at least you have your copywriting skills to fall back on.