These were the questions I posed some experienced and influential employers in television:
What is your best piece of advice for people looking for work experience or running jobs in TV? Tell the truth – what puts you off a work experience? What qualities do you look for in a runner? What kind of CVs put you off and which make you interested?
And here are the answers:
From a very senior executive: ‘Always and still a sucker for keeness’.
This is a common theme – employers are less concerned about the kind of degree you have and more concerned to see someone enthusiastic, keen and helpful.
A Production Executive at ITV, someone I have worked extensively with over the years, has provided some very detailed and helpful advice. She has employed very many runners over the years and managed various work experience schemes so this advice is worth its weight in gold!
In sending your CV (usually via email) be really honest and lovely in the covering letter or message. I received one email from a northern lass who was just so passionate about telly and willing to do anything thrown her way to get a chance to do a work placement. She was funny and refreshing and stood out so I offered her a placement and she has a job at ITV now.
Be persistent but not irritating so send a reminder every month or so if you’re not hearing back just letting people know you’re still around and wanting work placements. Sometimes hand delivering your letter to reception, that impresses me showing you are ensuring you get the letter through and I do read them. When on the placement, be incredibly committed, keen and hardworking, willing to do any tasks thrown your way with a smile on your face.
Be proactive and seek out opportunities and whilst you’re on a placement always be offering your help or asking how you can get more involved. Being grateful is good as well, sending a card or something after the placement shows you really appreciated the chance and you will stick out in the mind of the manager as someone with a good attitude.
Don’t stalk people; call their office or mobile asking why they haven’t replied to your email or letter. Don’t send those little sparkly confetti things in with your CV so when you open it they sprinkle all over you and have glitter stuck to you for days afterwards, really annoying!! Don’t send Kit Kats or sweets in with the letter, it just is a bit scary.
Don’t put big cheesy pictures of yourself on the CV, I dunno maybe it’s just me but it feels a bit- well – vain, I don’t care what you look like!
When on the placement don’t have an attitude, complain if you don’t get an hour lunch break, moan if you have to work past 6pm, complain you’re tired, chat on your mobile to your friends during the day, surf Facebook and don’t keep coming into the manager’s office who offered you the placement every day to tell them how it’s going; a hello and welcome at the start and a thank you at the end will do. If you’ve been assigned someone to look after you then speak to them about your daily tasks.
Don’t wear inappropriate attire, in the telly industry this is hard to judge given we’re all a bit kooky but I mean tarty clothing, ridiculous nail extensions or jewellery that might give the wrong impression and the same for boys. It’s good to have your own style and be fashionable but we just want to see appropriate wear that’s suitable for you attending shoots or meeting talent or management etc.
People that stand out to me are positive, smiley, honest, grateful and willing plus proactive!”
And from a very talented man who has worked in front of the camera as well as directing behind it:
“People notice if you make them tea and happily perform all kinds of humiliating tasks that have nothing [apparently] to do with the making of TV. But people notice that kind of personally useful help much more than they notice filing or the fact that you really, really want to do their job and probably consider yourself already better-qualified for it than them”.
This, I’m afraid, is true a lot of the time. The contacts you make are very important. Being noticed and appreciated by the production team will certainly help your cause. Sucking up to the boss can backfire so don’t overdo it – being unpopular with the rest of the team won’t help. Be yourself but make the effort to make a personal connection.
And there’s more where that came from coming up next. If you don’t want to miss such pearls of wisdom subscribe to the blog now. Also coming up a personal account from a graduate on the hunt for work experience and that first job in television.