In the last week I’ve met two staff employees in the media industry. One is a staff writer at a News International publication and the other owns his own production company, having been the channel controller of a terrestrial British broadcaster. But both of them had similar things to say with regards to developing a career in creative industries, and several points came up in both that are worth repeating here:
- It’s a slog. You will spend a lot of time, especially at the beginning, feeling like you’re banging your head against a brick wall. Trying first to get experience and then contacts, trying to figure out what editors/commissioners want. The key is asking.
- But, you shouldn’t be working for free for too long. It helps to gain initial contacts and learn jargon or the structure of an industry, but do not undersell yourself: why would someone pay you for something if they know you can do it for free. It can help to get some experience on your CV and make a few contacts. But the key is applying for entry level jobs, or jobs appropriate to your ability and experience.
- Even for experienced people, there is little security. Media is fast moving and ruthless. People are not in posts for long, and they will move around regularly. Ratings and feedback are quick and unsympathetic. And the higher you go, the more accountability you have for failures (people don’t notice success as often!)
- When you work in freelance, start thinking about what you are doing next midway through what you are doing now. Time out of employment is just as important for your admin, networking and relaxation (it’s a stressful job at times).
- It’s hard to map out a career path. In many careers, such as accountancy or medicine, you can plan you direction several years in advance. But in media, you don’t know where your next assignment might lie – expertise is often learned quickly and you can become a specialist by accident. However, knowing this, you can try to specialise in certain areas or work for certain production companies.
- Be creative with your ideas and gain access to decision makers and those who will give you guidance and feedback. This is the advantage of a staff position. Offer up ideas and believe in them. It can be a lot of knockbacks and developments before something is taken up, but when it is, the reward is almost incomparable.
- Get to know as many people as possible. Impress at every opportunity and be honest about what you want. Ask more experienced people for advice – they are usually very willing to give you a hand up. Also, if you leave a good impression, you’ll be kept in mind when a job does come up.
- But enjoy what you do! Media work can be hugely rewarding, not to mention fun. This is essential if you are going to put up with the negative aspects of the industry. It is not secure, reliable or stable. But you will have phenomenal experiences and meet great people. It’s genuinely creative and enormously varied.
- Blog about what you do – record your experience to build a portfolio, demonstrate your interest and to use your time effectively: it will cause you to focus your thoughts.
- Be patient – the banging your head against a brick wall is making more progress than you think
- Don’t work for free if you should be getting paid for your level
- Be aware of the lack of stability
- Plan your next job
- Think about where you want to go and seek work in those areas
- Use meetings well to develop ideas and get feedback
- Network and ask for advice.
- Enjoy it!