A job in the media production industry is very cool – there’s no doubt about it. It isn’t just a fun part of the job that you get to try out new things, it’s an obligatory prerequisite. You’ll travel, meet tons of new people, mess around with a bunch of cool tech, and get some really useful credits on your CV.
People in charge of recruitment at production companies are often inundated with requests – not just for employment but also work experience. So, we thought we’d share some handy do’s and don’ts to give you a leg up if you want a job in the media production industry.
DON’T send out copy-and-pasted emails devoid of any personality to every business within 30 miles to try and get yourself seen. The people reading your poorly put together efforts will spot such a failing from a mile off. “Dear sir or Madam” isn’t a great way to start an email. Additionally, speaking in vague-isms such as “I would appreciate the opportunity to be involved with your company and work in your sector” isn’t going to impress anyone.
DO personalise your emails. Go on the company’s website, and have a look at some of the things that they’ve done. Mention how much you liked it in your email, and then see how else you can cater to them specifically. If you’re e-mailing a small business, chances are you’ll be able to find out the name of the person receiving the email pretty easily.
Emailing the ‘decision makers’ is also a great thing to do, as it means you won’t get lost in an an inbox full of spammy marketing emails and forgotten about. People like to feel like you’re making an effort for them, and if you don’t, they’re far more likely to switch off from you completely.
A little sub-don’t: Avoid trying to be overly funny and accidentally insulting people in your correspondence. For example, if someone’s looking for a copywriter, going through their website and pulling out every graphical error to prove your skills and crack a joke isn’t going to impress anyone. You risk looking like a know-it-all, and you’ll make yourself stand out for all the wrong reasons.
2. Be selective
DON’T apply everywhere in a mad panic. Your emails will sound insincere, and you’ll find yourself writing twenty different CV’s to suit every possible industry. As a result, you’ll likely end up in a job you don’t enjoy.
DO go out on a limb and chase the job you’re after. Look around your area and see what media production companies there are (there’s often more than you think!). Target these people first before you apply anywhere else – they deserve your full attention. And, by all means, tailor your CV to certain jobs. By mindful though that if you’ve got more than four or five versions, you’re probably applying too widely.
3. Fibbing vs expanding
DON’T pull a Joey and pretend you can speak French when you clearly can’t. If you say you can operate a camera, and on your first day you’re required to do just that… You’ll be found out pretty quickly and blacklisted in the industry. Nobody wants to work with a person who’s prepared to make up credits and skills to get a job.
DO beef up your experience. Everyone will do this, so don’t feel guilty when you do it. You’re not lying, you’re just making the data entry you did sound a lot better than it actually was.
A little tip for this one: if your previous roles are few and far between or you fear they seem a little too ‘junior’ to be taken seriously, emphasise the importance your role had with helping those in more senior positions. As a camera assistant, you helped to “maintain the smooth operation of the camera department”. As a runner, you “aided the production team and ensured that all departments were looked after”. You may have made cups of tea and ran around like a headless chicken to find camera tape, but you played the role nonetheless. People like to see how you can help them, not how they can help you.
Another little sub-don’t: Getting too wordy and silly when trying to make your previous roles sound more appealing will not work. Changing your job title to ‘Director of First Impressions’ when you were really ‘Receptionist’ will make you sound slightly deranged. Unless you worked for one of those strange companies that has titles like “Master of Innovation” and “Ambassador of Buzz”. If so, then mentioning the silliness of the whole thing in your cover letter or CV may get a laugh from the more rational companies reading it.
4. In my spare time, I…
DON’T bother putting on your cover letter that you love horses and campaign for green energy. These qualities may be admirable… But they’ll not help you persuading employers that they want to have an angel like you working for them.
DO mentioned hobbies/talents if it pertains to the job at hand. For example, if you’re applying for an admin role at a production company, but you’re quite handy with a Canon 5D, mention that you’re “interested in developing skills in the camera department, and would be grateful for any opportunity to shown the ropes”. Execs like to know that everyone they hire is capable of a multitude of things. Therefore, you’ll go far if you train yourself up in all aspects of production. “A jack of all trades, but a master of none” comes to mind, but having at least basic knowledge of most departments and an in-depth knowledge of your chosen speciality will go far to impress potential employers.
DON’T turn up at a business premises with a basket of cheese and jam and request a meeting with the CEO. This is too immediate and assuming. In fact, you risk becoming a nightmare office fable that pops up at parties and post-work drinks.
DO send a quirky/comical/related gift to grab attention. If you’ve got a bit of a sparse CV, send in a box of chocolates with a note saying something like “I know my CV is a little empty, so here’s some chocolate to fill you up”. It’ll get a half chuckle at least, and you stand a much higher chance of being remembered even if they don’t have any immediate work for you.
6. Applying for positions vs asking for experience
DON’T be scared to state your interest. Just because the company hasn’t posted a job advert, it doesn’t mean that they’re not thinking of doing it or won’t create a position for the right person.
If you’re looking for a full time job and not just work experience, make sure to state this clearly. You don’t want people thinking you’re fishing for experience if you’re after a full time job. However, it’s often beneficial to start off as work experience, and slowly weasel your way in using your undeniable talent and lovely personality. You never know, you might strike with just the right skills and expertise at a time when the business is looking to invest in someone just like you, but hasn’t quite made the decision yet. Don’t be scared to at least ask.
DO pester for work experience. If you’re at school, university or a recent graduate, you’ll find it handy to wrack up some experience on your CV. Asking companies if they’d like you to come in and get stuck in really only leads to positive results. Businesses love people willing to do a bit of free work, so offering your services is a great avenue to try.
7. We’ve talked about experience, but let’s talk about it again…
DON’T fall into the trap of thinking that unpaid work is beneath you. The creative industry doesn’t exactly ignore qualifications, but it doesn’t solely trade on them either. It’s all about experience and attitude, with an emphasis on attitude and experience.
This one is mainly for the young guns who have just moved back home after graduating. Or, those who’ve decided to forgo university and go straight to a job in the media production industry (not a bad idea, actually): work experience is something you absolutely should do.
If you get to the age of 21 and you’ve already been a runner on three productions, assistant directed on another, and helped co-produce a short film or two, you’re laughing. Really. There’s nothing more attractive than someone who’s eager to learn and already knows (some of) the ropes.
Businesses often aren’t keen on hiring complete newbies. Therefore soothing them with the notion that you actually have a clue what you’re doing will lead to more successful applications in the future.
DO find work experience. We seriously cannot emphasise that enough. Do it. DO IT NOW.
Of course we understand that people aren’t always in a position to not have a stable income. Ways around this are:
– Work experience that doesn’t require you to be in an office. Copywriting, blogging and editing for example can be done at home around your normal work hours.
– Instead of doing work experience with a proper company, invent your own. Shoot a short film, or help a friend produce one in your spare time. Explaining why will impress employers too. “I have to hold down a full time job, but I can’t ignore my passion for film making” is a very enticing thing to read. It shows that you’re responsible, but also passionate and deeply motivated.
8. It’s about who you know
DON’T underestimate the power of making connections. Even if it’s through Twitter, LinkedIn, or agreeing to be an unpaid runner on a short film for a day, it’s likely that some of the people that you meet or check in with will be able to help you out in getting a job. A lot of jobs in the creative industry are passed around via word of mouth or connections. Everyone in our office is here because someone knew someone who knew someone who’d be good for the job.
DO check out the job websites. You’ve got your massive sites like Indeed.co.uk and Reed.co.uk , but don’t forget the sites that cater specifically to the creative sector like Artsjobs.org.uk and Mandy.com. When you find a job that you like the look of, do some research on the company. Maybe follow them on Twitter and friend them on Facebook, and start making yourself known to them. You want to get as much of a leg up on the competition as you possibly can.
DON’T give up. The worst thing you can do is apply for a couple of jobs, be rejected, and then get down on yourself. It’s very rare that people just walk into jobs – it’s all about hard work!
DO stay positive and focussed. Think about applying for jobs as a journey that you’ll get to look back at fondly when you actually do have a job. The tears and interviews will have all been worth it! Get out there and assist on some productions, make connections with people and build up your skills. You’ll soon find your home within a company that is just right for you.