Most of the questions I get are concerned with getting that first job in television. Getting your foot in the door of a television career is hard – very hard. Unfortunately having a media degree is no guarantee that it will be any easier for you so this advice applies to anyone trying to get work experience or running jobs in TV.
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Make sure you know what you are applying for. Do research on what a runner does in TV and be sure that you are capable and willing to do it. There are a number of articles on this site you can read, including this very frank account from a TV runner: http://wanttoworkintelevision.com/2011/03/22/the-real-life-of-a-television-runner/.
Get as much practical information about the TV workplace as you can – the main employers, the different roles and different genres of programming-making. There are many resources to help you do this. This site has a number of first-hand accounts of different roles in TV but you can also checkout sites such as Skillset.
Write your CV to highlight ANY kind of media experience you have, whether contributing to university radio or writing the in-house college newsletter. Make your passion for TV obvious but don’t be self-obsessed. Explain how your talents and skills can help an employer rather than bang on about how brilliant you. They want to know that you are willing, enthusiastic, friendly and not afraid of menial hard work!
Media graduates will have to accept that, even with an obvious talent and a fabulous showreel of your films, you will still have to start at the bottom. But once you prove yourself there is an opportunity to work your way up quite quickly. In your applications you may need to make it clear you are willing to do anything to help a production. Some people are afraid that media graduates will be unwilling to do the menial tasks like making the tea and racing out to buy props!
How to Find the Work:
As Jaime via Twitter (@ShuRichmond) pointed out, not all runner jobs are advertised so how do you find them?
Sign up to as many free jobs site related to the media as you can and apply for every job you qualify for. There are a number of useful links on this site to check out, such as and http://www.theunitlist.com/
Join TV freelance forums where you can not only ask questions and share information but gain some valuable advice. TV Watercooler, for example, has a great thread for runners: http://www.tvwatercooler.org/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=126&sid=7090ebf95b44949e5c83247584bca2bd
Often companies don’t need to advertise because they have a pile of CV’s already in-house so make sure yours is in the pile. There is a page of Useful Links (top of the page) on this site identifying a number of the main TV production companies. No harm in dropping them an email – short, concise, passionate and clear about what you are looking for, ie work experience or running jobs. However it is easy to ignore an unsolicited email so if that doesn’t work, try finding a name and telephone number and make a call. Or drop in to their offices to and hand-deliver your CV. Why not ask if you can meet the production manager while you are there? May sound scary but if you want to stand out from the crowd and prove you are capable of taking the initiative then that is one way to do it.
Contacts are still one of the best ways to get an in. Unfair maybe but so is life! If you know anyone that knows anyone in the TV business ask them for a contact, a name, a mention. Even being able to say in an email or call that “so-and-so (TV contact) suggested I get in touch…” will help.
If you manage to get a name and get a reply but there are no jobs available, keep in touch with that person in case something comes up in the future. Don’t stalk them but drop them a line a few weeks later to see if the situation has changed. Be friendly and enthusiastic. Employers don’t mind you keeping in touch as long as you don’t overdo it.
Coming Up Next: Advice from the employers themselves on how to apply (and how NOT to apply!); what to do when you finally get that coveted job so that you can keep it or get another one, and a personal account of how one graduate managed to find work experience after leaving university.
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