Bird in the Hand

A reader asks:

I am currently working as a receptionist at a post production house in Hollywood. I took this job not too long ago, assuming that as this place is fairly renowned, it would eventually provide me with the opportunity to move on in the business toward some of my real interests: script development and/or production coordinating. Having been here for a chunk of time now, I am realizing that not only will this job not propel me toward anything related to what I want to do, as they deal mostly in graphics, but it also requires that I sit at a desk for 10 hours a day waiting for the few phone calls that inevitably die off before mid-afternoon.

I realize that I am complaining while I am in a situation where I receive a steady decent-sized paycheck. This is hard to come by in the current economic situation and I am well aware of how blessed I am to have obtained this position.

I have been offered two unpaid internships with well-known, established production companies, one of them on a studio lot, one of them with two well known tv shows and major feature films in development. I’ve done an internship before and know what the work there entails. I just want to make sure that these internships will at least have the potential to open doors for me to begin working in something I am actually passionate about.

I will get to the point: do I leave my solid, boring, unproductive job to pursue more meaningful and interesting (and also unpaid) work, or do I stick it out here and wait for a paid opportunity to waltz along and save me from my misery?

As I’ve said before, it’s almost impossible to get anywhere in this business without taking a risk.  But the question is, what are you risking?

How long can you sustain yourself as an intern?  Are you independently wealthy?  Are your parents footing the bill?  Your spouse?  This is probably not a good time to be eating into your savings.

Another way of looking at it is, most people are out of work now, anyway.  If you’d been just a little less lucky, your only question right now would be, “Which internship should I take?”  (The one on the lot, by the way; practically everybody has a show “in development.”  Who knows if that’s for real?)

If you can sustain yourself–or be sustained by someone–I’d suggest jumping ship.  If not, wait until the economy, or your own personal finances, improve.

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7 Responses

  1. My two cents (to your old post for shits and giggles):

    – determine the bottom limit of your finances
    – determine the peak stamina-limit of the (current) job
    – while waiting for your patience to run thin, work harder at making yourself more marketable in some way, such as building a larger network of colleagues, altering your lifestyle choices (partying), training, or finding a new job opportunity altogether.

    It like this: the things you can control are how much you can convince yourself of one thing or another, and the things you choose to do in your free time –training, meeting, socializing, etc.
    The things you obviously cannot control are the opinions of others and (especially) their sense of familiarity, which of course does not mean you have to necessarily change; you must however be self-aware of what you want to sell or portray in some way. This portrayal is the compromise in which the things you can control merges with the things you can’t control. Some would call such things manners, other would call it a first impression; I call this merging a compromise.

    Good luck.

  2. I know this is an old post, but in case you’ve stuck it out… Seems to me that if you’ve a stable job at a post house right now, hang on to it and see what you can get going on the side. If you’ve got as much free time as you say, see if you can hook up with a development person, offer to do some work for free, and do it in your apparently ample free time while getting paid. Alternatively, write a script and try to get development contacts as you shop it around.

    That said, I’ve been there, and I ended up quitting after a family emergency (dramatic situations can lead to changes) and then the economy crashed and although some awesome things happened, I really lost a lot of money and wish I’d stuck it out and used my connections there to move into a better job.

  3. Really man, are you serious right now? First of all passion is overrated, money is independence. You can’t sit there and think about the work, rather you should just look forward to what you can afford. That’s how I live, I produce the minimum amount of effort to not get fired, and chill the fuck out when I get home. The more money you make the more you realize that stuff like goals and passion is a waste of time.

    1. In regards to what Mike said above, I have to disagree. You may not mind working a job that you don’t care for or get excited about, and that’s perfectly fine. For the majority of people though, work is a major part of their lives, so setting goals and finding work that they can be passionate about can be very fulfilling.
      I can’t imagine working a job for my entire life where I’m constantly looking at the clock and counting the minutes until I get to go home.

  4. Definitely take the ‘lot’ internship. Over a year on a lot you’re bound to meet someone who will be instrumental in advancing your career, and the economy is recovering anyways – jobs will be more plentiful next year on the off chance it doesn’t work out.

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