This is a tale I often tell media students, not only to provide some encouragement but also to show how the right approach as a work experience or runner in television production can help you get ahead.
Back in the days when ‘This Morning’, ITV’s daytime series, broadcast from the Albert Dock in Liverpool we often had work experience people turn up to get an idea of how the show operated. They were usually invited to stay for a week or two weeks at the most – the average length of placement for work experience.
We generally considered work experience to be more of a drain on our already stretched resources than an asset. This is because someone turning up in the office with no experience of television, let alone of any kind of employment, would usually entail extra work – you’d have to look after them, show them around, explain what happens when and so on. Chances are you could have done a job faster than you could explain what it was to a work experience person.
Sometimes we were surprised – and delighted – to get people coming to learn the ropes who actually made our lives easier.
One such person turned up for a week’s experience. He was young, charming, intelligent and enthusiastic. During his week with us he made himself indispensable, quick to work out what was required, eager to help out and, better still, often anticipated what needed doing. He was never too proud to do menial tasks and was prepared to take responsibility for his work. When his week was over the management said thanks and goodbye. But he didn’t leave.
This young man continued to come in every day and continued to make himself useful and indispensable. Management said nothing. What’s to complain about free help around the office? Those of us on the production team, however, started to feel aggrieved on his behalf. We made our views known and suggested he should be given paid employment.
“But there aren’t any vacancies available on the team,” management would accurately reply.
“But we need him and he deserves to be paid,” we countered.
Eventually they gave in and gave him a job as a runner. Before long he was a researcher. He briefly left to work in his family business but was soon back and promoted to a producer. To cut a not very long story short, he eventually took over the reins of ‘This Morning’ as Editor. He eventually left to set up his own independent television company.
He is now Managing Director of that company and doing an excellent job of bringing entertaining television to the screen.
Getting into television is not easy. It is a highly competitive business and jobs are scarce. If you do get that golden opportunity – a foot in the door – take a lesson from this story and make every moment count!
The ex-work experience person in question is Nick Bullen, MD of Spun Gold – and I do hope he doesn’t mind me quoting him as an inspirational story for aspiring work experience and runners everywhere! (But every story is different and tomorrow’s blog is written by a runner who battled the hard way. Look out for the post called, The Real Life of a Runner).