For every aspiring writer whose Twitter feed becomes a sitcom, there are thousands of others toiling away at the assistant level, striving to one day be promoted to a full-fledged staff writer. Ideally that job is like a golden chairlift that carries them up the writer hierarchy, through mysterious titles like “coproducer” and “executive story editor,” before all of a sudden they’re running a show, creating other shows, and flipping through the Tesla catalog.
That’s the fantasy. Here’s the reality: Shows get canceled. The people in charge don’t always promote from within. Or a fledgling writer’s spec scripts—intended as writing samples, not for production—just aren’t good enough. So why keep the faith? The cyclical nature of television means that there’s always next season. Which is why some assistants remain assistants for years or even decades, always praying they’ll move up the ladder.I blogged a little about this last year. Basically, getting an industry job can be an invaluable learning experience and great way to make connections - but it's not a guarantee that you'll land a writing job (or at least a writing job that lasts). Sometimes, quitting your job and finding another way to keep beer in the fridge is the best decision you could make.
It's important to remember, though, that plenty of current TV writers got their jobs by being assistants first. Ask them.