Assistant to Exec: Making the Leap

September 4, 2013 – Colour Assistants ushered in the fall season with a career focused panel discussion hosted by HBO. Over 80 assistants filled the indoor/outdoor patio at Bugatta Restaurant on Melrose as senior level executives delivered valuable tips on getting to the next level in the business.

The three-hour event was moderated by Debra Langford, President of The Langford Company. Panelists included HBO Director of Drama Development Chris Gary, NBC VP of Comedy Development Simran Sethi, President of Bluegrass Television Quan Phung, SVP of Programming for Fox TV Studios Pancho Mansfield, and BET Senior Director of Original Programming La Tanya Newt.


• Make yourself indispensable to your organization. The more integral to the company you are the more they will want to keep you and make sure you are happy which can mean a promotion into a more senior role

• Find something you’re good at and use it as your calling card i.e. being great with notes, reading everything and having a point of view about what you’ve read, getting known as the “numbers” guy who can easily talk about ratings and box office. Whatever works for you that can set you apart from the rest of the pack

• Develop a strong network. Getting your next job will likely be due to a friend connecting you to a great opportunity. But unless you have a wide reach in the community you won’t hear about those key jobs when they come up.

• Connect with others with whom you share a common background. Use your alumni network to expand your business relationships.

• Be strategic about whether to get that MBA. Getting a graduate degree isn’t for everyone. For some it’s a great way to supercharge a skill set, but for others it just might not deliver the desired results. Make sure the degree will actually help you carve out the path you want before leaping into a lengthy and costly program.

• Remember, there are many ways to get where you want to go. The first step is to get in the door. Once you are in you can maneuver into other areas that line up with your goals.

• Say “Yes!”. Say it often and joyfully. Show you are willing to do even the smallest of jobs and do them well without your pride getting in the way. Step up and take on tasks you can deliver big on that can also help you gain the visibility you are looking for. Even outside of the office, take on a leadership role in an organization and hone your managerial, operational, and speaking skills. Executive presence isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something you develop over time.

• Don’t give up! This business can be grueling and defeating, but you have a great support system in your Colour Entertainment colleagues. Eventually you will get where you want to go, but you can’t get there if you stand on the sidelines or leave the field altogether. So call a friend to commiserate then get back out there!