The Trials and Tribulations of Work Experience and Going About Getting It – by Hattie Pearson, XFM presenter

Make things happenHattie Pearson graduated in the summer with a degree in English Language and is now forging a successful career as a radio presenter. She’s generously shared her experience and inights to help those wanting to take a similar path.

“Spending a lot of my time at University hassling producers, presenters, editors and media-know-it-alls definitely helped me get a job upon graduating last year.

My work experience journey began before I started Uni at a radio station in Senegal, West Africa in a shed broadcasting to villagers in French about international goings-on. Half the battle is knowing what you want to when you ‘grow up.’ I was lucky I knew I wanted to work in the media and being able to admit I thrive on being the centre of attention (at least I’m honest)! Presenting, in radio especially was always the dream but wasn’t the only aspect of the industry I focused on throughout my time at Uni.

Freshers’ week gave me the chance to enrol at Fuse FM and the formerly known Student Direct, now The Mancunion. Between my degree, presenting my weekly entertainment show on student radio and writing the odd thing for the paper I actively went in search of the real world of radio and people who could help get me to where I wanted to be.

Acting on an email that got circulated to all Fuse TV members got me my foot-in-the-door at the Beeb for 2 weeks working at BBC Radio Manchester setting up all the content for Children In Need. Pretty cool opportunity that led to part-time weekend work as a Broadcast Assistant on one of the weekend Outside Broadcasts… what better way to earn some beer money?

Attending a workshop at The School of Sound Recording Manchester gave me the chance to put my CV in front of the Breakfast Producer at XFM Manchester. “Can I come and sit in on the show and see what you guys do?” was all I had to say. 18 months later I bagged a show on the XFM network. (I skipped the bit about dressing up as a 6”6 monkey and waking up at 4.30am once a week to cycle 4 miles in the dark to work.)

Despite trying for the BBC Production Talent Pool and getting so far then kicked out at interview stage, I ended up as an Assistant Producer at BBC 6music because I was already ‘in’ at the Beeb and knew someone who knew someone – right place at the right time kind of thing. Then the Meet & Greet Role at BBC Breakfast came because I acted on an email of: “We’re looking for people. Are you the right person?”

If you’re not sure what you even want to do then think about what you enjoy and are passionate about. Which TV/radio shows do you enjoy watching/listening to? You’ll generate much better ideas for a show that you’re genuinely like yourself. Work experience can be great to gain skills and make contacts but can also help you realise in fact, it’s not that specific area you’d like to work in so even if you have a terrible time you haven’t totally wasted your time!

It can be tricky to know who the best person to contact is. Don’t be afraid to ask, cold call, guess email addresses, get a LinkedIn account and use your initiative. It’s easy to forget that the people you’re contacting will have been in your place at the beginning of their career so they know how hard it is, just maximise each opportunity and the resources that surround you.

My advice is… fingers in pies. When you’re at the stage of being unsure, take what you can, talk to as many people as possible, begin to create a brand for yourself by asking “WHO AM I?” (especially if presenting is what you want to do), apply for everything and don’t be afraid of letting people know what you want from the experience it shows that you’re focused. Whilst you’re in the building make the most of your time.. don’t be just another work experience. Try to impress by showing you’re prepared to make a sacrifice and go the extra mile, if you’re memorable then you’re more likely to be asked back and get paid work (YAY). Show that you’re genuinely interested, prove you have ideas (even if you think they’re not that good) and don’t give up. Failing all that, offer cake to anyone, no better way to make a good impression.”

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