Making a Career Change from HR to TV

Making a career change into TV is a subject that often comes up in Q&As about getting into the media. The good news is that I’ve heard several stories of people doing it very successfully. One of our gang the wonderful Wonder of a Weazel, otherwise known as Lou Gallagher, told us her story on this site some time ago and is now not only a glowing light in TV but passing on advice and information herself about TV jobs (check out her blog).

Television thrives on new ideas and a variety of expertise. A lot of television production is sound common sense matched with good organisational skills and a huge dollop of personal skills. There’s no magical mystery to it. So if you have skills that have done you proud in one area of your life there’s no reason why they shouldn’t do you proud in TV.

The trick, of course  is to work out what your transferable skills are, how they match the needs of an employer in TV and then highlight them when applying for TV jobs. Sometimes you’ll need professional CV help to work that out but otherwise do your research by finding out what particular skills different TV jobs entail and highlight your relevant skills in your application

Anyway, today’s blog post comes from Nicole Fairfield who decided to change her career from HR management to make up.

Tell us why you decided on a career change from HR to Make Up in Film & TV.

I always craved to work in a creative environment and after having my children I thought I would try to change my career direction so I signed up for a 2 year course in Beauty Therapy and Make Up which I loved. I also wanted a career that offered more flexibility in terms of when and how often I worked, just whilst my children where smaller anyway.


What was the hardest part of making a career change?

Starting from scratch again and also doing work experience after years of working in HR  management roles for big companies. Before I had my 2 children I had always been successful with job interviews and work wise I was definitely on the career ladder and starting all over again has been challenging BUT I’m determined to work in this industry and do believe that with hard work a career change is possible at any age.


We often talk about ‘transferable skills’ when making a career change? Did your HR background help you to identify those?

Definitely! I also believe that it is not just enough to be a mua (make up artist), you have to be able to communicate with a variety of people and work professionally as well as discreetly at times. My experience within HR involved working with colleagues from a variety of departments as wells as heads of departments and company directors, I also had to be very pro-active in these roles and the skills I have learnt and developed from that have been invaluable.


One of the biggest blocks to people coming from another profession is the lack of contacts. How did you find jobs in your new career?

I was very lucky and was offered work on a feature film as a mua, I emailed the production co-ordinator every day until I was offered a role! I quickly learned new skills by working closely with the head of make up as well as with the prosthetics department.

Making contacts is hard however when you are trying to get into a new business, once you are ‘in’ it’s a lot easier to network and meeting people face to face is always better than via email or phone call. I have sent hundreds and hundreds of emails to various companies and producers and it’s a long process with often little response. That said, persistence does pay off.

I have joined a lot of film/tv recruitment websites and follow mua’s and other media people on Twitter and facebook. I have also approached presenters directly and asked if they need a make up artist.


What does the average day of a Make Up Artist in TV consist of?

I always think the mua’s day starts the day before! Preparing my kit the day before has become a ritual, I make sure I have all my brushes in order and all my make up is organised for the next day. I always read through the call sheet and make sure I know exactly where I’m going and who to ask for etc, my Sat Nav is always on charge!

Nicole Fairfield at work

On the day its always important to arrive on time and to look well groomed (very important!), I usually set up in the designated mua area and lay all my make up out. If I have worked with the presenter before I will usually gather the make up items such as foundations and powders that I have used previously and know look good.

Days do vary depending on what the production is, if it’s with the news and a live OB I also sit in on the production meeting so I am familiar with all the different shots and any outdoor work where I may need to be on standby and assist the presenters. I then will do make up on the presenters and also assist with wardrobe and hair etc. During the rehearsal any problems will be highlighted and I always check the monitors to see how the presenters look and make any minor adjustments if required using make up carried in my ‘ on set bag’. For the live broadcast I will carry a few basic make up/ hair products and be on standby for the presenters should they need any assistance.

Days can be long and you are on your feet a lot but just to see the end result is amazing! Other TV work can consist of doing numerous make up on extras for hours at a time. When I worked on a feature film last year I would start the day at 6am doing glamour make up at the cast accommodation and then work doing special effects make up, often for 12 hour days. When I have worked on TV/Cinema commercials I have had to research different looks and be part of conference calls prior to the shoot. It can be very varied – I love every aspect of it especially seeing the finished result.


What is your dream now?

I would love to continue working within TV/Film and Commercials, I’m still in early days in terms of contacts and networking as I only left college 18 months ago but I do feel I’m making progress! For me I just love the whole environment and working with different people and clients. I would love to work on a show like ‘This Morning’ or ‘the One Show’….. watch this space!


Any advice for others contemplating a career change or getting into TV later in life?

There are pro’s and con’s to every career, working in TV is for me the most exciting environment ever, the cons are that it is incredibly competitive and I often find myself working with younger women who don’t have children and can work every hour and at any location, it can be a juggle. It also is hard breaking into a business at any age, I spend a lot of my time sat in front of my lap top firing off emails and updating my details on various media sites or just looking for work opportunities.

Sometimes being a bit older and having some real life experience along with transferable skills can be a real bonus, I find a lot of work colleagues presume I have worked in the industry for years as I feel comfortable around people and have a confidence that I didn’t have when I was younger.


Anything you’d like to add?

As with anything in life, working hard and persistence really does pay off, also the ability to never stop learning and evolving.  A career change can be a scary thought but so many women are doing just that after having children. I may work long hours when I do work but I also can still go to my children’s school shows and help with their classes when I’m not working.


Thanks Nicole. And if you’d like more information about the role of a make up artist in TV and film then go here:


Nicole Make Up Artist on Facebook

Nicole on Twitter:


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