Assistant jobs put tyros with the pros

Exec Temps founder says to start in top office

I’m very optimistic about hiring opportunities in Hollywood, even though they’ve been reduced because of the current economic crisis,” says Stacy Milner. “Every single day, I’m still sending people out to work at the studios and networks. They’re always looking for quality, passionate professionals.”

Twenty years ago, after serving for 17 years as an executive assistant to network and studio chairmen, Milner founded Executive Temps, an employment agency designed to provide showbiz suits with experienced help. “I started the company because when I was at NBC, we didn’t like to call for temps, as we needed people who knew the players and could hit the ground running,” she recalls. “That’s when the light bulb went off.”

So where do the best opportunities exist right now? For Milner, new media, technology and finance on a variety of levels (from general accountants to financial analysts) are strong areas. “But a lot depends on the person’s drive and talents,” she says. “If they’re creative, it’s obviously feature and TV development. Reality TV is still hot.”

But, she cautions, the creative arena is still the hardest to break into. “That’s why everyone’s going to film school now, because they all want to get into producing, writing and directing.” Still, those without hands-on experience can leverage enthusiasm to their advantage: “All the companies need that young, hip person who’s up with all the latest trends, and usually that’s at an entry-level position, which means an executive assistant-type position that gets you alongside a top creative executive, where you start to learn the ropes and move your way up.”

Milner also stresses the importance of networking and points to the success of her seminar “Leveraging Up,” a protocol workshop for professionals wanting to launch an entertainment career (the book version is due out this spring). “It’s all about getting in and nurturing relationships,” she says. “If you don’t know anyone — and often people don’t — you get with an employment agency like ours that services that industry. So now we’re your access, and your resume and (possible) lack of experience can hide behind us.”

Once placed, however, it’s up to the job applicant to be responsible, resourceful and proactive, she notes. “You’ve got to wow them and make sure you’re on your game. You can’t be late or lazy, and never have the attitude that something’s beneath you to do. Many top executives started off in the mailroom, and your approach should always be, ‘I’m here to work, serve and learn.’ And when they get that type of motivated person, they’ll welcome you into the fold, and then you can start networking in earnest.”

Looking ahead, Milner also has a positive take on the industry’s current woes. “All those jobs that have been cut? They’ll have to be refilled as the market picks up,” she predicts, “and I see that happening as quickly as this summer and then into next year.”

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