What do I have to do to get work experience?!

It’s a question we’re always getting asked.  Radio is tough enough to get into at the best of times – and in a recession it’s harder than ever – so we asked some Sound Women how they got their foot in the door…

Veena V is a radio & TV presenter 

Research – Immerse yourself in radio!  Constantly listen, go on station websites, follow the presenters on twitter, and find out who the programme controllers are.

Apply – Don’t send generic emails; tailor it to the company you are applying to.  Make sure you’ve listened to the radio station pre-contact and done your research!  Most companies have information on their websites about how to apply.

Stay Determined – Be prepared for A LOT of knock backs even when applying for work experience. I’ve applied for several placements at the BBC and Channel 4 and didn’t get any of them!  Stay positive, keep working hard and putting yourself out there. I thought of a new quote the other day ‘If you want it, you’ve got to be on it’ If you really want to work in the media industry, you’ve got to be listening to the radio all the time, know what’s going on and constantly be doing things to further your career.

Marsha Shandur is a music supervisor, radio presenter, voice-over artist and band manager.  Anya Hastwell is a jack-of-all-trades editor and writer.  

If you’re going to uni or college, find out whether the course has a student radio station affiliated to it. Or a student magazine if you want to get into print – it could be good to get experience in different areas of communication. Get involved in hospital radio. Look into community radio as well  and local radio stations – if you want to be a presenter, you need as much on air experience as possible. Then start trying to get as much work experience in professional stations as you can. Approach the producer/editor directly, by telephone first to check you have the correct email and so they know to expect your email.  You can approach presenters direct too. Tell them you want to do work experience on their particular show and what it is about that show you like.

Every single time you meet anyone in the industry (I’d say even in the music industry – you never know who’s friends with whom), chase them up with a “nice to meet you” email (email addresses are either obvious or easy to find on google). Every time you get an excuse to email them after that (their station is in the paper with something positive; they got nominated for a Sony; you loved a particular programme or feature), drop them an unobtrusive, “just wanted to say well done. Since we last spoke, I’ve had some more experience doing XXX”.  This is so that, when they need help with something, you’ll be a name they think of and your contact details (put your number after your name on the email) will be easy to read.

Then if you hear nothing, pester them about once every couple of weeks with a “just wanted to check you got my email” type email. Do this by hitting reply all to your original email (so they can scroll down and remember who you are).  Apply to as many stations as you can – although it’s better to do more work at fewer stations, than to do less work at more stations.  When a job comes up, they’re more likely to give it to the person who has been around a lot, than someone who’s just been there one day.

People in the media tend to be so overstretched that they don’t always have time to consider every CV they’re sent. They make gut decisions on whether or not someone is employable – but only when they meet them in the flesh.  So whenever you can, ask people in the industry out for a cup of coffee. Phrase it as something like, “I just wondered if you had 20 minutes free one afternoon when I could buy you a coffee and pick your brains?”.  They’ll almost always pay for the coffee, but you should offer to.

If you’re still a student, go to as many student radio conferences as you can. If you’re not, go the Radio Academy and go to as many talks as you can. Make friends with your peers as well as your superiors – they’ll be the ones in the future who’ll be open to helping you because you were in the same boat at the same time. Also keep yourself informed with what’s going on in the media by reading the trade media sites Media Week, Press Gazette, Journalism.co.uk and Media Digest to keep you in the know about the world of media.

Anna Bertmark is a Sound Supervisor/Designer and Co-Director at Attic Sound and Music Ltd

Personality is as important (if not more) as having suitable skills when applying for work experience. It’s important that your potential employer feels like you can slot into the team and will get along well with your co-workers.

Make sure that you show that you WANT to work for the company. Always do a bit of research of the company and employees of the company that you’re meeting/contacting. Keep your application relevant; contacting a sound facility and saying you want to work with music isn’t going to get you in. They are usually looking for someone who can quickly learn the ropes and who want to be good at the tasks that are given to you. If you are turned town – call back and find out why. It’s the only way to develop and you’ll have a better chance next time.  Don’t be afraid to be persistent with the company you really want to work for – they will give you a chance in the end if you keep at it. Don’t give up and stay positive!

One Sound Woman sounds a cautionary note, and has asked not to be named.

I’ve done two work experiences. Both required hard work, determination, a constant smile and willingness to do anything thrown at me. Those are all givens. Both work experiences were wonderful, and I have nothing negative to say about either one of them. They could not have been better. Years of free work on college radio and community radio never got me the opportunities that a few weeks of work experience have afforded.

However, my story of getting the work experiences in the first place is not, I’m afraid, very encouraging. I did what the careers services and media clubs recommended. At CV workshops, my CV was held up as a model of an excellent CV. I sent emails to production companies. I called them. I got on LinkedIn and I went to networking sessions.

In the end, I got one of my work experience placements by paying £70 to attend an exclusive conference, where I happened to meet the super-friendly, kind, and encouraging ED of a production company. So, that was luck and money. And I got my other work experience because a friend flagged my name. That was luck and knowing people. Now, when friends ask me what advice I have for them trying to get work experience, I don’t have anything really useful to say. Spend £70 out of your Jobseeker’s Allowance to go to a conference, where you just *might* meet someone?

But even once you’ve gotten the work experience, of course, you have to prove know you know you’re doing and be awesome. As all you Sound Women, I’m sure of this, already are.

Many thanks to all our work experience whistleblowers.  We’d also just flag up opportunities in  the indie sector.  Many people working in the industry started by doing work experience with an independent radio production company, somehow managed to make themselves indispensible, and ended up being hired. Look out for the right indie for you – most specialise in a particular area like music radio, documentaries, sport, drama or comedy  – then approach them direct to persuade them why you’re so very right for them.

Best of luck – and if you have any other tips please let us know!

Posted on April 2, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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