When you move to LA to work in entertainment you are told, “get a job in the mailroom and it will help you learn the ropes.” You are supposed to apply to every major talent and literary agency in Hollywood and hope and pray that someone calls you. You know if you get it, you’ll work long hours for pennies, but it’s an incredible learning experience.
In the mailroom, I met my career soulmates. These people became my entire life. I was with them for twelve hours a day, in a room with no windows, lots of scripts, and constant eager energy. We struggled together, we fought together, and we secretly competed with each other. But it’s together that we figured out how to immerse ourselves in the culture and the industry as quickly as possibly.
I finally made it out and was moved onto a desk, assisting an agent. I was completely aware of the fact that I could end up with a boss who refused to call me by my first name or allow me to take bathroom breaks. But some people get lucky and your boss shows you the ropes. They train you to think quickly under pressure, they challenge your ideas, and teach you the core aspects of the industry. Hopefully during this process, and most importantly in business, you learn to treat everyone in any trade with respect.
I was one of the lucky ones.
Though, on a day-to-day basis, I was pretty scared shitless to go to work. Agencies sort of make you feel as though everyone is smarter and more important than you and that everything you do is so meaningful and significant. Your entire life changes at the blink of an eye and you sell your soul in return for the chance to be educated by some of the most powerful people in the industry and interact with the best of the best. It’s a really bizarre concept, but it seems to work.
After I graduated from the agency life, I realized I could essentially do anything. I don’t think I’ve ever been tested so much in my life, but being taught the core skills so early in my twenties, I felt, was essential. My patience, intelligence, and smarts, and charm were all called into question at one time or another, so I learned how to rise to any occasion. I was also able to build a huge network of incredibly talented people.
If you learn one thing in the mailroom, it’s that you should be proud of the work you are doing, no matter what it is. If you learn one thing in your 20’s, whether you are at a job you love, or a job you hate, it should be: if you aren’t happy, you need to find a way to do something else. The moment you start to feel like you’ve lost a connection with who you are and your purpose, you need to make a change.
When you are spending such a large amount of time a day working on something, you should not be able to live without it. Through this process I was able to start learning how to make decisions on what I want, and how to get there, and I feel like I’m on my way!
By Alex Devlin