ferris wheel
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9 sources of strength and sanity in an uncertain industry

by Jenny Yerrick Martin

In my job as a hiring executive, my work with my alma mater, and through my website, YourIndustryInsider.com, I interact a lot with young people who are just starting out in entertainment. It can be a very intense time. For many of them, varying amounts of fear, bravado, confusion, ambition, loneliness, wild optimism, and deep despair seem to be bubbling just below the surface of their calm – or not-so-calm – demeanor. As an industry veteran who was once new to the biz, I remember the mishmash of feelings. These new grads remind me of me and my friends from all those years ago.

As my career has matured and I have endured the ups and downs of working in the industry and found my own way, I have developed reliable sources of strength and stability which I always hope the industry rookies I meet develop as early in their careers as possible – earlier than I did, at least.

So below, I share a partial list of my own reminders, a “best of” maybe, for making a living and making a life in the entertainment industry.

Remember your “why.” Why did you want to be in the industry in the first place? Did you want to work with creative people telling stories that move audiences? Become world famous? Find a job that married your love of music with your love of television? Whatever it was, that “why” will provide you with a trusty compass that can guide you and help you to decide which opportunities to take advantage of.

Remember your “no matter what” friends. You probably have friends with whom you celebrate your successes and other ones you contact when commiseration is called for. They’re not always the same people. The fair weather ones don’t want to hear about your doubts and downers and the foul weather friends may not enjoy hearing about your ups, especially if you are experiencing more or better ups than they are. Find and focus on friends who are with you for the ups and downs. Those are the ones that will still be with you 20 years – or more – into your career (and your life) in the industry.

Remember that you got to where you are. It’s easy to feel like you don’t know anything when you are just starting out – or even when you aren’t just starting out, if you are surrounded by people who are masters at what they do. But you got where you are. You graduated high school. You got into college and graduated from that, too. Maybe you’ve landed a job or two on the ladder to where you want to go. Wherever you are, give yourself credit and know that you will get much further before you are done.

Remember that everyone has doubts. This can help you in a number of ways. It will remind you to be kind when dealing with peers and decision-makers alike. It will teach you also that demonstrating confidence can help you get those decision-makers to decide in your favor. It’s not so much “fake it until you make it,” as it is loaning them a bit of your belief in your project or yourself. And if you aren’t feeling the belief at that moment, borrow some belief from someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself. And yes, be kind to yourself when you’re having doubts.

Remember the Ferris wheel. I picked up this one at a Boston University alumni event I attended (side reminder: love your alumni association). CBS President Nina Tassler was interviewing Red Hour President of Television Debbie Liebling about her career path. Liebling had been famously ousted from a high-profile post several months earlier and had recently landed a great new position. She compared industry careers to a ride of a Ferris wheel. “You’re up and then you go down and then you go back up,” she said, making a circle in the air. Your career might not be that dramatic, but even if it’s a small Ferris wheel, you will have up times and down times. It comes with the territory.

Remember your inner life. Far be it from me than to tell you to find God, but you must find some measure of happiness and peace within yourself if you ever expect to find happiness in your career. Otherwise, you will just be buffeted around as you experience highlights and low points. Meditation, church, therapy, hiking… Keep looking until you find something that works.

Remember your outer life. By this, I mean the life outside the industry. Don’t wait until you achieve your career goals before you fill out the rest of your life. Cultivate your “any weather” friendships. Find romantic relationships and even start a family. Regardless of what happens in your career, your life outside of the work you do will provide you with a center of gravity and perspective you cannot get anywhere else.

Remember to love hearing no. This one came from my friend, television producer Deb Spera: “Learn to love hearing no because you will hear it a lot.” People will say no to you and your projects way more than they will say yes, no matter what level you get to and, though you will love the yeses more, you have to take the nos in order to get to them.

Remember that you don’t know. When I was in college, the Internet as we know it didn’t exist. Most of us didn’t even have PCs. Cable television was just starting to grow, with an uncertain future. You simply don’t know what the next 20 or 30 years will bring. What will the defining technology be and how it will be used? How will peoples’ taste in entertainment evolve and what sorts of business models will be created to make money delivering it to them? You don’t know and you can’t know, any more than I could. Have a little humility when prognosticating about what’s coming and prepare to be surprised.

Jenny Yerrick Martin

About Jenny Yerrick Martin

Jenny Yerrick Martin is an executive at a studio-based film production company. She is also the creator/writer of YourIndustryInsider.com, which provides profiles of successful industry professionals, career advice, and other information on getting in, moving up, and making it in the industry. She is the author of the book, "Breaking Into the Biz: The Insider's Guide to Launching an Entertainment Industry Career". Follow on Twitter @showbizinfo

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