Friday, July 17, 2009

Coordinator Purgatory

It's been years since you chose the arduously auspicious path of a career in the entertainment industry. Your days as an intern seem as distant a memory as your high school graduation or your driving test. The thrill of landing your first "real" job has recently been trumped, because you've recently worked your way from the lowest ranks toward the executive level. Although you haven't quite made VP yet, it won't take long to get used to not having to scramble into work before your boss arrives to make sure his/her computer is on and their bottle of Fiji is next to their phone sheet.

So you've just made it out of the assistant pool. You must feel pretty good about yourself, but it is important to acknowledge the fact that there were other assistants who were also gunning for that promotion. If you were brought into the company as a coordinator, then you won't have as much trouble proving your mettle to the support staff since they haven't worked with you on their level, only to see you rise above them. But if you were made a coordinator above other assistants in your department who have been there longer or felt they deserved the promotion over you, then you'll have to strike a delicate balance between maintaining your relationships with potentially embittered assistants and organically asserting authority over them. Sometimes, the situation is volatile enough to become counterproductive. In cases like this, you can either have a private one-on-one chat with the embittered assistant in a neutral environment that won't intimidate him/her, like a coffee shop. I wouldn't recommend drinks, though. If said embittered assistant, after a couple of cold ones, decides to let loose with why your promotion was bullshit and why he/she should have your job, well that's just an uncomfortable situation to put yourself in. Once you've made nice and have the support of all (or at least most of) the assistants, you'll feel less compelled to look over your proverbial shoulder. Now, you've got to make a checklist of how to get started on the next chapter of your career. Here are six steps that will help you on your way:

1. Go Shopping – It's time to look the part. While you may have gotten away with slumming it behind a desk in jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops on certain days, that time has now passed (except possibly on a half-Friday before a 3-day weekend). Your wardrobe gives you an arena to demonstrate a heightened sense of professionalism, and also to nonverbally assert a certain degree of authority over more casually-dressed entry-level employees.

2. Renew Passport & Get Frequent Flyer Programs Going – In the event you'll be asked to travel for business, you want to make certain that the only preparation involved is booking the flight and packing your luggage. Whether it's to a location shoot, a trade show, another company office, or to deal with specific clients, you'll have to make sure your passport is renewed and that you're able to cash in on your exhausting travels by registering with a couple of different airlines' frequent flyer programs. Your business expenses charged to your credit card should accrue frequent flyer miles as well.

3. Take New Bosses out to Lunch / Drinks – You'll need a crash course on the nuances of dealing with certain people (i.e. clients, other executives) on a different level than you had as an assistant. Since you're expected to hit the ground running, there is little room for a learning curve. Get some advice from executives at your company over drinks or lunch, as they will likely provide you with information that may not have been conveyed to you back in your jeans-and-flip-flop days. Oh, and don't forget, these lunches/drinks should now be on the company dime!

4. Get Involved With Correspondence - Ask to be included on as many email distribution lists as possible. As you all know, in Hollywood, information is king, and the more you know about the company's activity, the better you'll look to your colleagues and clients.

5. Get in Good With Interns. As a coordinator, you may not have an assistant, but establishing diplomatic relations with interns can get them to act as direct reports. As you may (or may not) remember from your days as an intern, you wanted to feel useful in the sense that your work was contributing toward important projects which move the company forward. Make the interns feel as if they're helping save the company, and they'll perform the most menial of tasks for you. Keep the interns busy and motivated, and you'll look like a shrewd manager to your direct reports.

6. Keep a List of Accomplishments - To ensure job security, maintain a list of every project or client you've been working with or various accomplishments during your stint as a coordinator. Think task-oriented as opposed to day-to-day duties. In this harsh era of corporate mergers and multiple rounds of layoffs, coordinators are often some of the first to go when hard times hit a company, but if you can defend the importance of your position by listing tasks completed or clients satisfied, then this can only help you from falling prey to downsizing.

Congratulations on your ascension from the ranks of right-hand (wo)man. Once the butterflies subside, you'll feel a rewarding sense of self and hopefully a renewed motivation to show the big-wigs that you can play on their level. Just remember to never get complacent, never stop learning and always maintain focus on the big picture. Since you've already made it this far, who knows how much more room there is to grow?

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