podcast·3 min read

Skimm'd from the Couch: Bela Bajaria

Apr 14, 2021

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Bela Bajaria is the woman who makes the decisions about what’s going to be your next binge-watch. She’s the head of global TV for Netflix, and has helped bring some of our favorite shows, like “The Queen’s Gambit” and “Bridgerton” from the page to the screen. So how’d she actually get the dream job? Perseverance. Because she started as an assistant…and now she’s here. And btw, she also lost a job along the way. This week, she sat down to tell us how you can still get the Hollywood ending for your own career. 

On Being An Assistant

Carly: I was giving advice to a family friend recently who's entry-level and [they were] talking about an assistant job at a company. And she said, "But I don't want to be an assistant." And I want to stop there because I'm curious what your advice would be to anyone today who's like, "I want to get my foot in the door, but I don't like this job description."

Bela: So I think you have to just get in the door…. You have to get in the door and once you're in, you work hard and you meet people, but you have to get in and people are not going to hire you at the middle level if you don't have experience doing it from the beginning. When you're an assistant, you are on the phone. You are the first person who gets the script. You are the first person that gets notified. You schedule the meetings. You know all the players. And I think it's an incredible opportunity. But I also think you have to use it. 

I think people go into it and think, "Oh, I'm an assistant. I'm doing administrative work." Well, you're an assistant who has access to all of the information to learn. And I decided and made a commitment to myself that for a year and a half working at my first assistant job, I would be a sponge. I would read everything. I would watch everything and I would learn everything that was available to me.... And so to me, it's such a great opportunity to be an assistant because you actually have access to all the information. It just depends on if you're actually paying attention to it.

On Getting Let Go

Bela: I got fired. And I think what is hard is you just feel like, "Wait, I built this amazing team. We've had this success. I care so much about the company. I care so much about the people. I care so much about the business." And it was really a gut punch.

…. So it's the rejection, it's dealing with failure...and then just regular livelihood, right? It's your career. But I cared deeply about the studio and I cared deeply about the people. And I also felt very personally invested because I had hired every one of those people. And so it really felt like my own business being taken away from me. And it was devastating in so many ways. And it was the best learning experience I've ever had in my personal or professional life…. My job is not who I am. So I thought. Until you don't have that job. And then it really is the questioning of identity.

And then you deal with the [fact that] I'm going to go home and tell my three kids I got fired. And I think people don't talk about that part of what that feels like.

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