For some of us, it’s hard to remember that being an assistant isn’t an end goal. For others, dreams of promotion pervade every coffee run, phone call, and after-hours script read. Either way, we didn’t come here to be someone’s assistant. We came here to be an executive, producer, director, and so forth. It can be extremely frustrating when you feel like you’ve hit a ceiling and you can’t make that jump to get “off the desk” aka promoted. I’m no expert, but as I learned recording this episode and witnessing people get promoted during my tenure as assistant, I’ve noticed some things that can help you make such a transition.
Whether or not you get promoted at your current company can often feel out of your control, and sometimes it is. That being said, I’ve seen people get promoted at companies that didn’t have histories of promoting. I’ve also seen people be promised promotions upon getting hired only to see that never materialize. There are a lot of elements of it in your control. Speaking broadly, you need to hustle, work harder than everyone else, and make yourself invaluable. You also have to advocate for yourself. There’s a difference between advocating for yourself and demonstrating entitlement. Prove to your bosses that you have something to bring to the table and that you’re ready. They ask for it by outlining why you think you are ready for the job and can handle it. Come to the meeting prepared—it doesn’t hurt to write up a list of ways you’ve contributed at the level you’re asking to be promoted to. Just don’t portray any sense of entitlement. Nobody has to promote you.
Sometimes it can be difficult to make the call that it’s time to leave for a new job. Sure, sometimes sticking around ends with you getting promoted. Maybe the department has to wait for headcount, or your boss needs to see that kind of long-term loyalty. Other times, it’s not in the cards and you have to move somewhere where you have the opportunity to grow, even if it means being an assistant again. Only you can make this call.
If you do decide to leave, choose a new job somewhere where you can learn a different set of skills or facet of the industry. You’re putting in more blood, sweat, and tears, so make sure you’re getting something from these new experiences. It’s also worth being clear in the interview that you’re looking to work at a company with growth, where you can realize your goals of moving off a desk. At this point in your career you have a lot to bring to the table. Own it. While it can be frustrating to make this lateral move, especially if you’re at the end of your assistant rope. However, your career is long, and it’s worth doing everything the right way.
Here’s some motivation for having that difficult conversation about a promotion or recommendation: