The Importance of WORK in Getting a Job in TV.

A few days I go I wrote about the Skillset survey on skills in journalism and TV and suggested that if you want to get a job in TV, or polish up on the necessary skills, that you should read it.  Did you? You are forgiven if you skimmed through it – it’s long and not all of it would be relevant to you.

If you are struggling to get work in TV however you should be doing as much research as possible on how to improve your chances in such a competitive working environment. If you can’t be bothered to do the research then are you really bothered about WORKing in TV?

Youth unemployment is making the headlines. In these recessionary times getting into television is even harder than it was before – and it was hard even in the ‘good old days’. So my question is – are you working hard enough? Are you directing your energy in the right direction? Has anyone actually bothered to tell you which direction that is?

Last weekend’s newspaper stories on youth unemployment suggested that some school and university leavers weren’t prepared to work hard. The reason given by some employers for taking on immigrant labour was that the British youth weren’t applying for low-grade jobs. There is a suggestion that our youth aren’t prepared to work hard – that they want to slip straight into the ideal job.

Now you can’t blame anyone with a dream of producing exciting TV shows for failing to get excited about serving pizzas to unappreciative customers but firstly you have to start earning an income, and secondly every experience is a useful one when you want to work in the creative industries.

But my discussion is not about whether you should be taking on jobs you don’t want whilst looking for the one you do want. It is easy to be distracted and end up on a path you never intended. What I do want to address is how you can help yourself, even while still looking for a job, to realise your dream.

You cannot afford to send out CVs, sit back and wait for an answer. If you really want to work in this industry you are going to have show initiative, be creative and work at it. Now I know most of you are doing just that – you’ve been surfing the net, doing research trying to find answers and ideas. You stumbled across my site as you did. And I’m so glad you did. I won’t be doing you any favours by waxing lyrical about the joys of TV when you are struggling to even get a foot in the door. This site has always been about telling it how it is so I hope you won’t mind if I administer a friendly and supportive slap to some of you!

You are all marvellous, talented people trying to do your best but SOME of you show signs of not wanting to put the WORK in.  I sense occasionally that some people want an easy answer. There isn’t one. A small minority of people who contact me have evidently not even bothered to read articles that already exist on the site relevant to their question. Why not?!

OK, hands up – it could be my fault. This site has grown quickly and there are a large variety of articles within it. Maybe I need to take time out to create some clear signposts. That’s my homework for this week!

So what practical things can you do to help yourself stand out in this crowded and unforgiving TV jobs market? What homework can you be doing?

In my previous article, which you can read here: (and that’s my other piece of homework – work out how to do those clever hypertext link thingies!) I made reference to the media revolution. These are exciting times. Revolution is, by its very nature, unsettling. It means an old order is changing and a new order, a new way of thinking, has arrived.  If you are blind, or resistant, to the new ways you could be left behind. Now is the time to learn what is changing, to find a way to be a part of the new order.

There is every chance that you are fighting tooth and nail to gain entry into that glamorous hall of fame that is British (or any other nationality) television. But if you’ve been turned away at the door, don’t worry. That well-established glittering mansion is actually starting to crumble. Has been for a while. It may still look big, monolithic and powerful but its foundations are being chipped away and it could collapse at any time – unless of course those in charge move with the times and adapt to the new ways.

As you continue to send out those CVs and emails (which you must – I’m not saying the TV giants are dying any time soon!) why not start developing your own creativity?

Are you writing? Are you making videos? Are you learning how people use the web? Are you blogging? Broadcasting podcasts? Are you developing ideas and writing up TV proposals? Are you part of a TV forum?

Here’s an example: a school leaver sent me his CV to look over. He’s had a few work experience placements and looking for that first running job. His CV is naturally sparse right now as he looks for those all important credits but what really stood out for me was the fact that he had set up a blog – about one of his passions, Formula One. This is a subject of no interest to me whatsoever but it is a clear sign that he is self-motivated.

It also tells me he is writing on a regular basis – which is an essential skill in most production jobs.  He can find information, organise it, write about it concisely, source stills, find relevant links. As far as I’m concerned he’s well qualified as a researcher, never mind runner.

I’m sure Jack won’t mind me giving you the link:

And full marks to James Fletcher who again has set up his own blog and tells us that he is currently working in retail while using his spare time to work on scripts and filming projects. That’s the attitude, James!

Jamie Riley is using every opportunity given her at York University to gain media experience. And she too is making her mark online:

Chris Dodd left a comment on that previous article and mentioned a  crowed sourcing tool for people with an interest in journalism (I’ve asked him to tell us more about that project). I am not that familiar with crowd sourcing tools but it sure sounds like something we need to learn about! (And thanks, by the way, to everyone who left a comment – your feedback and experience is all really useful to others in a similar position).

If you had read the Skillset report it will have told you how much employers need journalists with knowledge and experience of the modern media platform – the web. There are tools and resources out there to help all of us. We just need to find them and exploit them for our purposes or for our own education.

So my advice is take a leaf out of Jack, James, Chris and Jamie’s books. If you are not already, start demonstrating, polishing and exploring your skills via your own projects. The Internet is vast and yes, you may only be a small drop in that vast ocean but never has a generation had such a wonderful opportunity to say their thing, do their thing and broadcast their thing to the world without hindrance! And more importantly it helps tell potential employers that you have skills and that you are using them.

And don’t forget to add your projects onto your CV.  Jack had hidden the information about his blog right at the end of his CV under ‘Interests’.  While he looks for experience that blog is one of his biggest selling points – put that right near the top as one of your key skills.

What you do in your spare time could well be the thing that gets you a job in TV.

Good luck and do let us know if you are doing something interesting on the web or found a resource that is helping you develop suitable skills. There’ll be more articles along these lines and so do think about subscribing to get all updates sent directly to you as soon as they are published. We’ll dig out as much practical advice and ideas as we can to help us all surf the wave that is this media revolution!

Link to the Skillset Survey:


(PS: Are my blog posts too long?! Be honest. I can take it. I’m still learning too!)



  • Jaime Riley says:

    I am definitely no TV expert but doing student media things, freelance writing and other jobs has been a real eye opener at times. Creative jobs are such hard work (though rewarding and a lot of fun) and having some experience of how that feels could either fuel your excitement or really put you off! For me it’s very exciting, but others I know have changed their minds about working in the creative industries after getting involved at uni.

  • Dale Hornidge says:

    Great blog again Shu! Another piece of advise would be to help out at corporate production companies in your city (or nearest)whilst looking for tele work. Unlike TV companies, corporate companies have a presence in pretty much every city. Even as far north as Inverness!
    My first couple of CV credits were through corporate companies and I’m certain that without those I would not have gained any broadcast credits. The skills-set required is almost exactly the same, but a lot less competition!

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