A few things have prompted me to write something about work experience and the one thing you need to get into the media: Passion. One thing I’ve noticed over the years about successful people in the media is that they all love what they do. Maybe you’ve noticed how people who work in radio have been lamenting the fact that Kenny Everett died 21 years ago this week. The fantastic Stephanie Hirst posted this, commenting how Everett influenced her
The thing is, Everett was BRILLIANT. A radio genius, but many of us would never have heard him on the radio during our lifetimes since for the latter part of his career he was only on-air in London. So, why do I mention it? Because it’s about passion. Presenters like Steph dig around and find tapes and collect them. She’s also a well known collector of jingles and a prime example of being passionate. People who work in radio love radio. They probably listen to (and care about) more radio than most people. They’ll know geeky facts about stations and who is doing what show where. Kenny was one of those people; he lived and breathed and despite a foray into TV it was radio he kept coming back to because he had passion.
The same could be said about TV. People who work in TV, love TV. They watch it avidly and have opinions. If there’s a big show starting they’ll be watching and probably tweeting about it. The media is an industry that loves passion. Why else would someone start a radio station about radio?
So, this leads me onto work experience. In a session at last months SRA conference in Cardiff the very wise Tom Johns made some excellent points on how to make a mess of work experience. You can read that here
In the session he makes sensible points about getting off your phone, asking questions, making great tea and doing your research. This should be a given. Know what it is you are doing and who it is you are working with. I’d also suggest having an idea of who’s job you want and getting to know them… not to steal their job, but to find out more how to get the job you want. This is where passion comes in. If you know about the brand and are genuinely interested in the medium you want to work in that can really help. Remember this is a competitive industry. It’s not like going to help out in a solicitors office or a builders yard. People who work in the media are passionate folk, so if you share their passion then you’ll make an impression. In this regard media is a bit like sport, in the most footballers love football. Which might explain why so many of them end up on TV being paid to talk about it; they have a passion for the game which has seen them through wet winter afternoons playing non-league for bus fare.
Getting on in the media is a fairly simple sum, that is partly down to luck but also about also down the things you do that create that luck. A former American president reputedly said “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have” and whilst he probably didn’t say that the logic remains. If you sit and wait for a job offer it’s probably not going to come, but if you do things like work experience and make that experience one that works for you, then your odds of being lucky have just gone up. Also by making an effort and getting yourself out there, making work and getting your hands dirty. In the video above one of my former students shows just that. He made the most of the opportunities offered, worked hard and showed that he had passion for what he did. That might mean listening to everything under the sun, but might also mean being prepared to work hard for no pay because you love it.
This leads me onto my last point and that is about grabbing these opportunities. At the University of Sunderland we’re consistently sharing opportunities with our students and experience shows that the students who grab these with both hands are the ones who succeed. Going to conferences like the SRA, MIPTV, Edinburgh TV festival are great ways of meeting people and learning about the industry, they also show that you are committed to your career path. Getting up at 4am to work for free or catching the megabus to attend a conference might be hard work or limit your social life but they are key to getting a job in the media. This is about showing your passion and commitment. I suggest to students that it’s about building up their armoury of tools: Having a related degree from a course the employer trusts is a good start but it’s by no means the only thing you need. If there’s student media at your university you need to have spent some time there, even if it’s rubbish. If it is rubbish, get involved and make it great. If there isn’t any student media, then start it (which is what I did). Then make the most of the opportunities that come your way. This might be work experience, masterclasses or the chance to go to conferences and get drunk with people from the industry. In the video above the brilliant Alistair Stewart sums it up, urging students to prove their passion by getting involved and showing not your aspiration to get into the media but also your burning desire.
Here are my tips:
- Learn about the industry you want to work in; read all you can (including textbooks) and listen to watch as much as you can. Also check out industry news via places like Media Guardian, Broadcast, Radio Today and things like the excellent Media Podcast (above)
- Grab the opportunities that come your way and make the most of them. Some of the experiences may be horrible, they might even not be exactly what you want but if they are a step closer then take them as they extend your CV it makes it look like you’re dedicated. You can always be fussy later.
- Get to know the products of the places you want to be. Know what they make and who the boss is. If you desperately want to work on X Factor or at Radio X then do your research. In this regard Twitter is brilliant. You can find producers, managers and owners here. They probably won’t offer you a job as soon as you follow them, but you will find out what they are doing and by adding them to complimentary tweets about their shows you could start a conversation.
- Care about your career and the industry. Remember you’re not working in a bank and (generally) the money in media isn’t good, but people do it because they love it. If you’re doing this because you can’t think what else to do, or because you quite liked it at GCSE then maybe rethink your future. Your skills are massively transferable and could easily find a home in PR, Marketing, retail or recruitment.
- Lose the attitude. People will remember how you behave, so be happy making tea, or filing or handing out flyers in the rain. If you showing willing to do that then better stuff can follow. Remember, that cat video your mate just sent you can wait.. unless it’s show prep then show the producer.
- Finally, remember passion. Get to love your medium. Enjoy it and enjoy talking about it.
If you have any tips to add, do add them below or tweet me @richardberryuk