Thursday, September 18, 2008

Decoding Job Postings

Sean writes: Can you decode some of these office job descriptions: thick skin, demanding environment, "go the extra mile" and maybe say what they are trying to say. Can you explain what rolling is, phone sheet, and dropped call is too.

Thick skin = you can handle being yelled at. You won't take it personally, and you won't let it affect your ability to be cheery on your very next phone call. It's so hard to say how thick your skin will have to be; some bosses will yell at you every day, embarrass you in front of co-workers, and even talk about your incompetence to people on the phone when they know you're listening on the line. Some will make it personal and tell you you're worthless. But many will just keep it all business. Do this, do that. Don't do that ever again. It's hard to say - you definitely don't need a thick skin to work for my boss, but he's probably more the exception than the rule. I don't think anybody should have to put up with verbal abuse, or even rudeness. But does it happen? Sure. Sometimes it helps to remember that it's not your boss's job to make your life easier; in fact, just the opposite is true. Your boss is focused on making money and succeeding in a tough industry. Plus, s/he already has been an assistant and paid his/her dues. I don't think that gives anybody an excuse to be horrible to assistants, but you have to be able to suck it up a little to be an assistant. It's not about you. Even if you're brilliant and have great ideas. You are being paid to be an assistant.

Demanding environment = this is very general, but in the assistant world I would say it probably means dealing with a high volume desk: lots of calls, scripts, contracts, clients, emails, projects, meetings, just lots of everything. You have to be organized and detail-oriented. You have to be able to prioritize. Anticipate. And for some people, the pace never slows down.

Go the extra mile = This is a little contradictory to the "know your place as an assistant" attitude I mentioned earlier, but it means more than just phone answering. It means doing your homework: reading scripts, knowing who the execs are at studios, networks, production companies, etc., watching TV & movies, reading the trades, knowing TV ratings or box office performance, being extra helpful to clients, networking, bringing in new clients or projects, etc. Basically, the more involved and knowledgable you are, the better. Going the extra mile, to me, would also mean just being thorough. Don't just find a title if you can also find a logline. Don't just find an address if you can find directions and a map. You know?

Rolling & phone sheet = A lot of what assistants do is answer phones, make calls and keep track of all the calls on a phone sheet (generally a list on your computer, though I've heard of a few old-school bosses requiring paper trails). Sometimes execs trade calls back and forth for days. You will make the calls for you boss, saying "I've got SoAndSo for Whatshername." Then if Whatshername gets on, you say "one moment" and put your boss on the line. If your boss is out of the office you will connect the calls to his/her cell phone. It sounds overwhelming at first but it's the kind of thing you can do in your sleep (and unfortunately will) after a day or two. Dropping a call is when you accidentally hang up. Happens to everyone at some point. It's best if you drop it while your boss is driving through the canyon, since it's totally realistic that you would have lost the connection. :)

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Dave Ale said...

How you are able to do that job and still write is beyond me, I couldn't do it.

Ari Gold seems to be more real everyday.

Amanda said...

Like I said before, I don't work for an Ari Gold - my boss rocks. But yeah, the Aris are out there. It's tough.

You have to remember how tough competition is here. There are plenty of people willing to work for these kinds of people.

finds life hilarious said...

Ari Gold is actually pretty cordial compared to some people around town. He tends to apologize and does favors for Lloyd from time to time.

Most bosses in town will tell you that the position "has potential for advancement" when they really just want someone to handle their entire life (except for the fun stuff), take the blame for anything that ever goes wrong (A Hurricane hit Houston! What's wrong with you!), and stay there for years because they know how long it takes to train someone to anticipate every weird idiosyncratic aspect of their day-to-day life.