Five tips for getting work experience in TV

There are no two ways about it – getting into the media is difficult. As somebody who’s been trying to get into TV for a while now, it can feel almost impossible to get that first break. So when work experience opportunities pop up – especially with the really big names out there – hundreds of eager students and graduates flood the inbox of a poor unsuspecting work experience manager, vying to get their foot in the door.

Last month, I undertook a two-week work experience placement at the BBC in MediaCityUK, working on the production team for an upcoming Christmas TV show (let’s face it; there are definitely worse ways to spend two weeks!). I spent a week working in the office alongside the Production Management Assistant, getting an overview on how the producers make everything happen from start to finish, from coming up with the initial

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Filming from a Manchester rooftop, trying to ignore the biting November chill

idea, to getting in touch with contributors, to booking transport for the show’s presenters, to handling the raw footage from the camera teams. The second week, I was out working as a runner with all of the camera teams, assisting at shoots on various locations around Manchester. While on work experience, the BBC really treat you as an important part of the team – I was given real, practical tasks, handling a lot of responsibilities, and I didn’t even make a single cup of tea. Trust me, I tried, you have to make a good impression and all that…

From this placement, I’ve learnt so much about the industry and the kinds of jobs involved, gained some fantastic practical skills of how to co-operate on shoots and acquired some knowledge of loads of different roles along the way. If you’re really passionate about getting into TV, or generally working in the media, I can’t recommend it enough.

It is, of course, a difficult industry to get into and to get real-world experience in, so here are my five tips for getting experience while at university.

Perseverance is key

You’ll have to get used to rejection. Roles are competitive, and you’ll have to learn to bounce back, to figure out how you could improve (whether it’s your skills, your experience or your application), and to keep at it. It was the fourth time I had applied for this work experience placement, having previously been knocked back. This time round I made sure I’d gained a bit more experience elsewhere, really thought about how to articulate my experiences and enthusiasm for the industry, and made sure I put in a great application, too.

Don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you

The kinds of opportunities you’ll come across online will usually be those with the big names in the industry, such as the BBC or Channel 4, and this isn’t really representative of how the industry works. Do some research to find out about some smaller independent companies – they may not have work experience schemes on their website, but they will usually welcome an email asking about the chance to come in and shadow for a day or two. It’s a really great way to make connections in the industry, and in a smaller company you may even have a bit more room to show off your skills. A good place to start is TV Watercooler, who list a variety of companies offering work experience, although make sure to look elsewhere, too.
Also, while at university, take the initiative to create your own experience. Get involved with student media, such as the Mancunion or Fuse TV and Fuse FM – it’s where you can make your first steps into media, meet like-minded people, and also make all your mistakes!

Use social media

It turns out that we now live in an age where Facebook has become the place to find work, not just procrastinate from it. Pages such as The Unit List and People looking for TV work: Runners are good places to search for entry-level work, and to get tips on your CV.

Join the Media Club

The Careers Service’s Media Club meets regularly for guest presentations and networking events with professionals and recent graduates working in TV, film, radio, broadcasting, journalism and more. Join the club on Facebook.

Watch some TV!

This is definitely the easiest step, but arguably the most important! If you want to work in the media, you have to be passionate about the content and be able to show it. Watch shows that you like, and that you don’t – think about what makes a good story, or how you could make it better. Listen to the radio on the way into uni. Come up with your own show ideas – who knows, hopefully you’ll be able to make them a reality soon!

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