I am so grateful that I have been blessed with incredible mentors and bosses throughout my career. Great mentors don't just teach you valuable lessons, but they also help set you up for success. Recently, I was working on a small TV segment for a friend and mentor. It was probably one of the most fun and laid back gigs I've ever done. The showrunner is a friend and mentor of mine, and though I wasn't hired to write per se, he hired me for my sense of comedy writing and sure enough threw some writing opportunities at me. At the end of my stint on this gig, I learned an incredibly valuable lesson that no one has ever said to me before.
I worked pretty fast on this show, and I wasn't doing it intentionally. It was just difficult for me to tell how long something would take me, and I also would get so sucked into the work sometimes it was difficult to break my eyes away from the screen. At the end of my gig, the showrunner joked with me, "Justine hasn't learned yet how to keep a job in television," because of how quickly I worked. It was such an interesting and eye-opening statement, I think it's one of the most valuable lessons I've learned.
There are a few major reasons for his statement. One, if you work too quickly in television, the studio or network can just let you go, because you've done all your work and they don't want to keep paying you if they don't need to. They can take what they would pay you the rest of the time to pay for an extra editor or some other need. So, you think you're being all awesome, and suddenly you're out of a gig three weeks early, and they don't pay you the three weeks they thought they were going to have to pay you.
The second reason working too quickly can actually hurt you, is if you join a show where other writers have been on the show for a long time, and they have a certain rhythm going, you don't want to risk making other writers look bad. The takeaway I walked away with is if you're given five days to write something, take five days. Making your fellow writers look bad is a big no-no.
Thirdly, if you over-deliver, it will set a standard and become expected of you. This can lead to burnout or doing way more than you're actually being paid for. When I started out in this industry, I think similar to many people starting any career, you think if you prove yourself and do all these great things, your higher ups will value you more. But I have learned that that is not necessarily true. They don't necessarily see you as a person to be valued, but as a person they can take advantage of. It's like, "This person will do all these different jobs, and we only have to pay her for one."
This is not to say don't give your best. I believe strongly in doing your best and making yourself useful, but the lesson here is to think big picture and know what will really help you get ahead instead of burn you out early or get you burned early. Work smarter, not harder.
Have a jawesome good day!