The easiest way to land your first P.A. job is by getting the people who do the hiring to know you. There are two main routes you can use:

Consider getting an internship
Network, network, network

Consider getting an internship

Many TV interns are able to parlay their experiences into paying jobs. Why? Production managers and coordinators, producers, and directors often maintain loyalties to the folks that they have worked closely with in the past. In other words, if you build good will with your supervisors, they just may remember you the next time they're gearing up for production.

Clearly there is one obvious drawback to interning - working for free. You might not even get transportation fare or a lunch allowance! (But hey, at least you can sneak carrot sticks while you're peeling them for the "talent.") In exchange for your hard labor, you'll probably get college credit, which means essentially that you're paying them to work. Because the law frowns upon people working with no remuneration - and believe us, interning is work - many larger media companies have special internship programs where you must prove that you are receiving college credit. Some companies will allow you to intern for free even if you're not getting college credit, but these companies are exceedingly rare (and potentially shady).

As an intern, you'll probably feel as if you're being taken advantage of. You're right! But keep in mind that there's a big difference between "taking advantage" and "really taking advantage." If you find yourself picking up dry cleaning, walking your boss' dog, or babysitting any kids on a regular basis, you are being taken for a ride. Especially if you're asked to do all these things in a g-string.

But we digress: you still need to know how to find an internship in the first place.

  • If you're looking for a showy, flashy, "big city" internship, your best bet is to visit the network sites directly and search for info on their internship programs. While we can't do all the work for you (lazy ingrate), we've gathered a few links to get you started:

    NBC internships

    Time Warner / HBO internships

    ABC/Disney internships
  • If you're looking for a small-town gig (like the aforementioned public access show on dog grooming), check out InternshipPrograms.com. Here you can search for internships by location, as well as get the insider scoop on companies by reading profiles of "real" interns who've been through the schlepping. Another way to go is to dial up your local television station and ask them about internship opportunities.

Network, network, network

If you haven't interned (or if you have and weren't offered a paying job), you are going to need to find someone who will offer you that coveted first P.A. position. As we said earlier, there are tons of people lined up for these jobs, so you will need to network like crazy. This could take weeks. In fact, you may spend months working your tail off trying to land a P.A. job. And, without fail, the first P.A. you meet is going to tell you that his or her mother/father/aunt/uncle/cousin is a friend/relative/business associate/neighbor/significant other of the producer/director/production manager/receptionist, and his or her mother/father/aunt/uncle/cousin called the producer/director/production manager/receptionist who got him or her a job in one day. Get the point? This is a business wrought with nepotism, and connections are everything. Don't panic though. Here's how to play the game:

  • Take stock of who you know through your immediate family, your family's circle of friends and your own circle of friends. If that doesn't lead you to anyone, begin talking to your friends' families, your neighbors, and your doctors/lawyers/shopkeepers down the street. If you studied communications or TV/film studies at college, try to get back in touch with your professors.

  • If you don't know anyone at all, it's OK - you're not out of the game yet. Make a list of all the production companies you can find in your local yellow pages and online. Go to your local library and find copies of Hollywood Reporter, The Ross Reports and Variety. These magazines should list which shows are in production, and where.

  • In this field, you need to make a face-to-face contact. You can send in random resumes or contact Human Resources Departments, but you won't get too far. One way to get "in" is to request informational meetings with individuals who do the hiring, or influence the hiring. Go armed with research about the person you're meeting and the company itself. Look well groomed. P.A.s wear jeans to work, but for this meeting, you must be stylin'. Ask questions about the people themselves and the company. In the end of the meeting, the person might ask you for your resume, so have it with you! If they don't ask, don't offer. The person you meet with may also suggest some other people to contact - if they don't, ask for suggestions yourself.

  • Follow up by writing a note (to whomever you met with) thanking them for their time. Hopefully, if you have enough informational meetings, someone will think of you the next time they are gearing up for production.