Top Tips for finding work experience in the TV industry

Shona Galloway wants to share with Watercooler users her experiences looking for work experience in TV as a new starter. Here’s what she has to say, and if you’d like to write an article yourself  about your own experiences, you can send it via the contact page…

A quick guide to securing a work experience placement in the TV sector. All from the perspective of someone who has been through it and come out the other side, after gaining experience working with BBC1, CBBC, and Channel 5.

1. Do Your Research
When looking at companies to get work experience from, research the type of programmes each company makes in order to tailor your CV and covering letter accordingly. For example, Boomerang mainly produces factual entertainment documentaries. Knowing this, you can brush up on your knowledge on what type of content comes under the ‘factual entertainment’ category, and what that specific company has just finished making.
It is important to try and find work experience with a variety of TV production companies, who each produce different styles of television. An employer looking at a CV from someone with work experience in Live TV, Dramas, and Documentaries is more likely to employ you than someone who just has experience in TV News.

2. Be Persistent
It happens to everyone – rejection. You could contact 30+ production companies and have one response back. However, it only takes one yes to make it worth it. That work experience ‘yes’ could lead to your first job, or it could provide you with skills to put onto your CV that you wouldn’t be able to learn outside of industry.
There is also nothing wrong with a follow up email on a work experience query. If you still haven’t heard back from anyone a month after contacting them, a follow up email to the right person at the right time could not only secure you the work experience, but would show them that you are determined and focused on securing the work experience.

3. Your CV
TV Production Companies receive hundreds of CVs from people wanting to do work experience, which means your CV needs to make them want you to come in. Most employers will tell you that they only really read the first page of your CV. This is why it is vital that the first piece of paper they pick up clearly shows what skills you already have, what previous experience you have in TV or in work in general, and who exactly it is YOU are. It also goes without saying that your email address and contact number need to be correct and clear at the top of the page. If you are at university, make sure you don’t use your university email as employers could get in touch with you in the future after you have graduated. By that time, you may not have checked your email in weeks (or even at all.)
Name the document your CV is as ‘[YOUR NAME] CV for [NAME OF PRODUCTION COMPANY]. This way they can find your CV quickly and easily amongst other work experience CVs that are just literally named ‘CV’.

4. Your Cover Letter
This is where your research comes in. In your cover letter, talk to them about which programme they’ve recently made that you’ve enjoyed. Make sure you actually watch the programme you talk about to avoid any awkward situations in an interview.

It’s also important to talk about what can you do for them as oppose to what can they do for you. They will like that you are taking the initiative to stand out from the usual crowd of work experience cover letters, and they will certainly be more likely to take you on. Always try and identify who to address the cover letter to. It looks a lot more professional and personal for the receiver to see their name after ‘To’, rather than the name of the production company.

5. Think Outside the Box
Try and think of other non-conventional ways to get in contact about work experience opportunities. Networking events are a great way to meet people in the TV industry. RTS Futures hold an annual event for young people who want to kick- start their careers in TV in locations all over England. Dozens of representatives from production companies are on hand to give advice, exchange contact details and to promote themselves.
Don’t be afraid to contact an individual from a production company, express an interest in what they do, and ask to go for a coffee to talk about their job. If the meeting goes well, it effectively sets you up with a contact in that company for future reference. Having that contact will make it much easier to attain work experience, as they would have already met you and will already like you. [* but don’t make a nuisance of yourself or be surprised if you get no reply. The Cooler]

6. Call Don’t Email
Work experience emails can undoubtedly get lost in the daily burst of work related emails. Calling the production company will instantly make you memorable. It also shows to them that you are confident on the phone, and they will normally pass you on the email address of the most relevant person to help you.

By Shona Galloway

Thank you Shona. For further advice on preparing your CV take a look at our post CV Writing Tips