Liz writes: For the past few months I've come so close to getting kick ass assistant jobs only to be passed over in favor of those with more "administrative experience." I've been told by two different HR reps that I would have gotten said jobs if I just had more assistant/admin work on my resume.
Does admin work mean "assistant" work? It seems like such a catch 22 that you need administrative experience to get an assistant position, but the only way to get administrative experience is by working as an assistant.
I understand your frustration, since I went through the exact same thing a few years ago. Yes, admin experience and assistant work are basically the same thing: answering phones, scheduling meetings, keeping an executive's calendar, making copies, organizing files, generating correspondence, etc. It's not difficult work and can be learned very quickly, but many bosses want to hire assistants who already have experience doing these things. Many Hollywood assistant jobs are not entry level.
One thing you can do is try to get a job that's a bit lower on the food chain, like office PA, receptionist, mailroom, intern, etc. Sometimes in these jobs, you'll get to do assistant and admin-type work some of the time, so you'll gradually get more experience. I actually started in the mailroom, and then I got to train to be a floater (someone who fills in for assistants when they're out sick). After that, I was deemed ready to jump into an assistant job at the agency.
You could also see if you could gain some admin experience in a less-snooty office outside of Hollywood. I had one agency HR guy tell me I should go get a job at a doctor's office or something for a few months and then give him a call. That didn't end up being necessary for me, but I could see how it wouldn't be the worst move if you can't seem to find a Hollywood job.
However, many people start right off as assistants without any experience. This usually happens when you A) have a strong connection to get the job, B) find a boss willing to hire you despite how green you are, and C) convince the person interviewing you that you can handle it. I do think you have to be confident in interviews. Rather than emphasizing how you've never been an assistant before, highlight the fact that you're a hard worker and a fast learner. You don't have to lie, just present yourself in the right way. You want to assure them you can do the job - because trust me, I'm sure you can.