The first talk of Employability and Enterprise Week was held by Sean O’Brien who is a Television Studies 2012 Graduate. He talked to us about the career he has had in TV and gave us the ups, downs and some very helpful tips about the industry and hopefully this post will help you decide whether a career in TV is the one for you.
Work experience is key!
The main thing I took away from this talk was that having a degree doesn’t 100% guarantee you the job you applied for, it’s the work experience on your CV that will set you aside from the others. Sean told us that even though he has a degree in Television Studies, he was sure that it was the great deal of experience on his CV that got him his ultimate job of currently working as a task researcher for Celebrity Big Brother – a show that he is very (very) fond of!
Sean explained that the experience he did at Media City in Manchester; the BBC Entertainment North department was vital to bulking out his CV and gaining as many skills as possible. No experience is too small, even if it is just as a day runner for a little TV show that no one has heard of, the skills that you would gain from that day would be vital. It also shows your possibly future employer that you are willing to do whatever job comes your way, and that you would be a vital addition to the team.
The best things about a career in TV.
We were also told why working in TV is so amazing, and what kinds of things we could expect if we were to work in this field. Below are a few of the main points that I picked up.
- You can do anything you want. The TV industry isn’t like any other industry, you can practically do anything you want. If you have an idea for a TV show and the producers like it then you’ll be given buckets (hopefully) of money and away you go. Sean gave us the example of the show The Plane Crash where Channel 4 put millions into a show where they literally crashed planes into the desert to see how the crash test dummies managed… madness!
- The hard work you do will be seen by millions. One of the best things about the long hours and amounts of hard work is that it will be seen by an audience. The audience might not be huge, but there will be a group of people that really appreciate the work you put in to a show and that is an awesome feeling. Though you will probably come across a few people who couldn’t care less that you worked 5am – 10pm for 4 weeks straight.
- You get to work with celebrities. Whilst this shouldn’t be the main reason you work in the TV industry, it certainly is a perk. The chance to work alongside those more famous than you is exciting and will probably make you feel a little starstruck – even if it is just making a cup of tea for Olivia Colman. Who we are told is absolutely lovely to work with!
The worst things about a career in TV…
Whilst there are definitely the upsides to working in TV, there are obviously downsides to working in such a demanding field. Below are just a few of the examples that you might need to know.
- You have to work with celebrities. Yes this was just on the “best things” list but this also deserves a spot on the worst things about a career in TV because some celebrities are notorious for being hard work, demanding and not very nice to runners and those who are making the tea and taking care of them – so don’t expect to become best friends with them straight away.
- Working in TV kind of ruins watching TV. Even as a Media student this point definitely applies to me because whenever I watch something now after 4 years of studying Media I can see how they filmed certain parts, pick up on every continuity error and know that even shows that are meant to not be scripted are almost entirely scripted… (Made In Chelsea i’m looking at you)
- Lots of rejection and rubbish hours. If you’re looking for a career in the TV industry then prepare yourselves for awful hours, most likely 8am starts and 10pm finishes, and lots of rejection. (and I mean lots) The people in the TV industry are busy people, so they probably don’t have the time to check every application that gets sent to their inbox. But when you do apply make sure your cover letter is short and snappy, and don’t ramble, employers like to be able to read everything about you by glances at a few sentences!
Last but not least, how to get in the TV industry – There are many different ways to look for experience and placement opportunities but these are the best ways that Sean told us:
- Get experience now
- Email around – you’ll probably have more luck emailing the production manager or executive producer
- use social networks to look for upcoming positions and opportunities – @theunitlist is a good one!
- Teach yourself as many skills whilst you’re at university – use the facilities available to you e.g. camera skills and editing skills are vital when trying to get anywhere in the media industry.
- Get a good CV and cover letter. Nothing too long, and don’t send a CV on a weekend! Chances are it’ll be forgotten about.