Not every PA job will lead directly into a position in the camera dept. It takes time and effort. It can take years to get the experience and build the network. Keep taking every opportunity you can, you never know which PA job will lead somewhere. At least you're able to learn by observing others, and paying your rent in the mean time.
I have taken PA jobs when I had nothing else and they have turned into AC jobs when I was able to prove my abilities and fill their need. Granted I was still running out and picking up lunch, but I was also doing rental preps and returns and helping the camera ops with lens, batteries, filters, etc. (they were video productions, so only the op and myself).
If you want to learn equipment better, consider working at a rental house. The downfall is that they usually are full time, leaving only weekends to work on shoots, but it's an investment in yourself by increasing your knowledge, like film school, but you get paid instead of paying out.
Let everyone know what you ultimately want to do.
Edited by Michele Peterson, 11 June 2008 - 05:17 PM.