Ep145: [CASE STUDY] Navigating a Difficult Career Transition | with Sam Lavin

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Last year writer/director Sam Lavin came to me because she had never felt more scattered. Amidst unemployment and managing the pandemic she said to me: “I’m typically a very ambitious person, but I’m finding it hard to stay on projects and get things done. I’m not motivated because I don’t know what I should be doing.”

As an award-winning DGA director, assistant director, and writer who has worked on film and television projects including Lucifer, The Mayor, and Criminal Minds, she came to me as a 2nd AD with hopes of transitioning to the directing chair. Like many hit with a generous dose of perspective when the pandemic hit, Sam realized she was stuck and didn’t want to be a 2nd AD anymore...but she had no idea what to do next - and that lack of certainty left her paralyzed. She was dreaming of making her next major career transition into becoming both a 1st AD on major tv shows as well as a writer & director (and she knew she was ready!), but she had no clear path or next steps to make her vision become her reality. This led to wasted days of scattered attention and feeling “busy” but not “productive.”

After joining the Optimizer coaching & mentorship program, Sam was able to design a plan that led her to firmly landing in the 1st AD position on a major streaming show for Apple, and she’s now poised to finally become a director. In today’s conversation we talk about the practical steps she took to work through the mental barriers that were stopping her from being productive and moving her career forwards, how she has become a focus machine getting more done in a few months than she had accomplished in years, and most importantly how you can apply the same principles to build momentum in your own career and life.

No matter the career transition you are hoping to make next, even if the rungs of the ladder you want to climb might be different than others, the path is almost universally the same for all of us. You first need clarity about your next steps so you don’t inadvertently waste years of effort climbing the wrong ladder. Then you need to develop and hone the skills necessary to do the job you want next. And thirdly you need to build the right network of people so you can leverage those skills and convince them you can do the job, even if you might not have the experience yet. Simple...but far from easy. Learn how Sam did it and how you can do it too.

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Here's What You'll Learn:
  • What brought Sam to the Optimizer community and her career leading up to now.
  • Sam's daily routine before she became a student in the Focus Yourself program.
  • How we helped settle Sam's scattered mind and anxiety about where her career was headed.
  • The obstacles Sam encountered when trying to find focus and clarity in her life.
  • The mindset change that helped Sam make the transition from 2nd AD to 1st AD.
  • How the Focus Gym helped her finish her pilot that she hadn't been able to complete before.
  • The piece of feedback she received that changed her mindset about becoming a director.
  • How the cancellation of an AFI program she had applied for gave her confidence to network more.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY: Your beliefs about yourself have the power to transform your life.
  • Networking saved Sam from doing unnecessary steps to transition her career to the next level.
  • Sam breaks down the skills necessary to become a director and what you can and can't learn by being a 1st AD.
  • What positions most commonly get to the director's chair from film and television crews.
  • The goal every 1st AD has to keep in mind when on set.
  • How the politics of being a woman as an AD has made it tricky to navigate her career.
  • Understanding the difference between confidence and arrogance and how to apply it to your career.
  • How applying logic to networking was the key to helping Sam shift her mindset to make it work for her.
  • What is the magic formula for networking and how it relieves the anxiety of reaching out.
  • Sam's advice to anyone who feels like she did a year ago before she started the program.
Useful Resources Mentioned:

Work With Me | Optimize Yourself

Continue to Listen & Learn

I need help making a career transition | Optimize Yourself

Insider's Guide to Writing Cold Outreach

How to Find the Right Type of Mentor For You (and When You Should Seek the Best)

How to Go From Cold Contact to Your Ideal Mentor In Seven Simple Steps

IMDbPro for Networking: The 10 Features That Will Take Your Outreach to a New Level

Ep80: How to Avoid Getting Pigeonholed, The ‘Concentric Circles of Networking’ & More | with Doc Crotzer, ACE

Ep104: How to Keep Working As An Editor (After You’ve Made the Transition From AE) | with Susan Vaill, ACE

Ep126: On the Importance of Building Relationships, Asking Questions, and Never Giving Up | with Andi Armaganian

Ep129: How to Cultivate a “Service-Centric” Mindset (and Why It Will Make You More Successful) | with Agustin Rexach

Ep127: Chasing After the Next Gig vs. Building Your Career | with Kabir Ahktar, ACE

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Guest Bio:

Sam Lavin is an award winning DGA director, assistant director and writer who has worked on film and television projects including “Lucifer”, “The Mayor” and “Criminal Minds”.

Samantha adapted and directed the British play “Key Change” in its West Coast premiere. It received an LA Times 99 Seat Beat Critic’s Pick for its innovation and raw staging of a story highlighting women in prison.

Samantha wrote and directed the film, "In Memory of Me" which screened at over 40 festivals worldwide, winning awards including Panavision’s New Filmmaker Grant. She also created a television show called "Out of the Frying Pan" which was optioned by NBC/Comcast.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared by Debby Germino and published by Glen McNiel.

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

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