Follow by Email

Sunday, 11 May 2014

HOW TO GET A JOB IN TV... AND KEEP IT!

ALL  MY OWN OPINION.... DOESN'T MEAN IT'S RIGHT, JUST MY EXPERIENCE!!! :)

#TVMINGLING

A BRIEF GUIDE TO THE DO’S AND DON’T OF TV!

  1. The TV Cover Letter
  2. Making sure your CV counts
  3. Networking
  4. Making yourself invaluable when you get that foot in the door…


  1. THE TV COVER LETTER

Hello, my name is Lou and I am obsessed with excellent cover letters (and CVs).

I often wonder if I am only obsessed with a strong and well thought out cover letter because I did not start out on my 'job journey' in the TV sector. In the commercial world a 'stand out' but 'by the book' (i.e. Dear Sir/Madam, Your Sincerely/Faithfully etc.) cover letter is imperative - anything less generally goes in the bin. TV however *appears* to be more forgiving. Don't get me wrong, an email along the lines of Mrs Doubtfire's famous 'I. Am. Job' probably won't get you very far in TV - but, I have found that my media peers are a lot more forgiving about formalities when it comes to what they deem acceptable in a cover letter.

That isn't to say that a good cover letter isn't sought in TV - but I think it is fair to say that generally, the rules surrounding one are a little more fluid than in the corporate sector.

Even so, TV is a notoriously competitive industry to both get into and progress within. Passion on its own is not always enough to get you by - and there will be times those amazing contacts just don't have a role for you, and you have to start sending out your CV. Here is where an excellent cover letter will serve you well.

I personally think that courtesy and manners are key - even if you are applying for a role with someone you already know. I also think that an introduction to how you are applying is a good measure too i.e. where did you see the job advertised, or how did you come about attaining their contact details. I am a big fan of:

'I am writing to apply for the role of XXX as advertised on XXX, and attach my CV for your consideration'.

A cover letter should sell you in a nutshell - about 60 - 70% of a sheet of A4 is a good size. No longer or they might stop reading. A cover letter should never be too long or too over packed: we (as recruiters) generally don't need your life story, and we don't need a summary of the contents of your CV - that's what we will look at next.

A cover letter should not be a blanket copy... nothing bores me more (personally) than reading a generic cover letter. Having a good template is fine - but take 5 minutes to personalise it to the job/company/person. It will make a difference - IMO. I think social media is an excellent way to suss out a person or company's 'personality' - then you can then tailor your cover letter accordingly.

An area often lacking in a cover letter is personality/a human side: this doesn't mean you should start telling jokes but do talk feelings. Cover Letter's often list skills - but don't make example of them. Don't just state that you 'possess excellent communication skills' - evidence how and whilst doing so, show something about yourself:

'I believe I have excellent communication skills - developed whilst volunteering as a radio presenter at my local hospital on their in-house radio station. I hosted weekly phone in sessions - and received good feedback about my ability to develop relationships with our callers.'

Every word in your cover letter should be there for a reason... use them, don't abuse them!

OK - it is time to start writing your cover letter - what do you include having noted the above?

If the name of the person you are writing to is obvious or can be readily found, address them by that name! If not, then Dear Sir/Madam is appropriate.

Kick-start with an introduction to who you are, and where you saw the advert/got their details/heard about the job.

Refer to the specifics of the job advert/inside info your friend gave you - keep it succinct but do briefly evidence/provide example to any statements of fact.

Never talk generally about interests and hobbies in your cover letter unless absolutely relevant to the job or the programme content - even then, rarely will we need to know that you have been an active horse rider for 17 years and what your favourite breed of horse is.

Please don't make jokes/try to be funny/behave in an over familiar way when sending a cover letter - there is nothing more insulting than someone you have given your card to then writing to you and saying 'Alright babes, sooooo lols meeting you last night. Really up for that job you mentioned - sounds wicked'.

Please don't copy and paste your CV into your cover letter - neither should emulate the other.

End your cover letter with your availability for both interview and work - and state best method of daytime contact:

'I am generally available for interview at all times, and would be in a  position to start with you, if successful, on XXX. I am available on my mobile number at most times/I am currently working so cannot readily take calls, but check email regularly/etc'

SPELL CHECK SPELL CHECK SPELL CHECK!

Sign off formally - cheers, ta, see ya later, etc is not acceptable.

So - that's what I think. I have shared this advice and supported creation of a 'new, formal' cover letter to several people I have worked with of late - and the feedback has been great. One example - an amazing chap with a good CV was not getting any work. A new cover letter and a quick tidy up of said CV and now he is solidly booked for the next 8 weeks. Coincidence? Maybe. I however, am all for the power of a top cover letter...

  1. MAKING SURE YOUR CV COUNTS

There are some very basic, simple but (mostly) generally agreed upon rules here for those you starting out:
  • 1 page maximum
  • A clear header with your name and title/aspiring title i.e. Sally Jones, Runner
  • No photo required
  • Do not include DOB, address, bank details or NI number on your CV. If these are required for hiring purposes they will be discussed when relevant. Protect your data!
  • A succinct career goal/profile is acceptable
  • Key skills, bulleted often work
  • Relevant experience should be credited over paid non relevant experience. For example, under your contact details and key skills, place Media/TV Work Experience as a header over Employment if you have volunteered for the student radio station whilst working in Maccy Ds on the weekend
  • Academic qualifications should be short and accurate – 10 GCSEs at grades A – C is fine. We don’t need to know every subject
  • The referee. If you choose to include one, please make sure they are aware of that fact!

  1. NETWORKING
Networking in any industry is key. In television it is essential.

The world of TV is like one big extended family - everyone is connected in some way, and that is often due to excellent networking.

Almost every job you take, someone will know someone else you know or have worked with before. Try it out - look around you now and do some sneaky googling. You will be amazed how many friends in common you have on Facebook with the rest of the group!

Now - I am not saying that knowing someone is how to get a job (although it can help) but having mutual connections can help bond you with people offering jobs.

I am not going to tell you how to network - I am not an expert (although I do have a lot of excellent contacts so must be doing something right!)... What I can share rather are the boundaries around behaviour via email and at a networking event IMO. Having sent and received a lot of emails re. networking, and attended lots/hosted my own events, I feel this is an area I can safely comment on!

So - with networking at an event, we have two main scenarios: you are either at a network specific event in which networking is actively encouraged, or you are at a non networking event full to the brim with the type of people you long to network with. How do you behave?

SCENARIO 1 - THE NETWORKING EVENT
Clue's in the title... get networking! These events are held for a purpose - and that purpose is to enable you to meet relevant people in the industry. My tips for networking at a designated event are as follows:

1. Approach people with a smile and confidence - nobody remembers a wallflower. Be energetic, outgoing and positive. Make someone want to connect with you again.

2. Listen with focus - if you do introduce yourself to someone, really listen to what they are saying. There is nothing more unattractive than someone staring blankly, whilst waiting to sing his or her own praises and then thrust their CV at you.

3. Listen some more. When networking it is imperative to hear what the other party is looking for. What are their needs? Find which ones you have and are wishing to pursue, and match yourself to those needs. By networking, you are trying to develop a relationship. A relationship has two parties in it - and thus along with selling your own requirements, you must take on board those of others.

4. Give - do not just take. Use a networking event as an opportunity to introduce people you already know to someone they don't. Be seen as a 'connector' - people will migrate to you and your social capital will snowball. Plus, it is good manners. It can be very overwhelming for someone who knows not a soul at a networking event - help a peer out. Equally - it can be daunting if you are the person people want to meet, and time consuming; meaning that you don't actually get to meet anyone yourself that you may have desired to. If you see a 'key person' at a networking event drowning in networkers, offer to take them over to meet someone you think they might find useful to meet.

5. Network wisely - go for quality not quantity. It is the wise networker who leaves an event with 5 solid contacts who are happy to help/be helped, over 500 names and numbers at random. I say this with experience - when I am thrusted business cards with no proper introduction or conversation, I generally dispose of those cards as I struggle to recall what relationship I would have with that person. So the key here is to build an efficient network - not a massive one.

6. On that note, it is important to focus on finding the right people for you at a networking event. Do you want to work in editing? Focus on edit contacts - both at senior and junior level. The casting researcher is probably lovely - but not hugely relevant to your career path. Equally, whilst you will want to network with contacts that could prove useful in the future - a more senior person in your field, a supplier or a potential new recruit, do not forget the power of networking with your peers. Since my last #tvmingling event, I have been delighted to see how many of the runners have kept in touch and are helping each other to find work.

7. Time - do not abuse it. if someone gives you their time at an event you should firstly, ensure you have planned ahead and know how you are going to use it (wisely). It is also polite to thank them at the end of the conversation - and if you want to impress, ensure you end it. It will be noticed if you are considerate of others and say something along the lines of 'I would love to stay and talk - however I can see there are lots of people here wishing to talk with you. I very much hope we get to speak again in the future. Thank you'. This is really important - you can leave someone feeling very uncomfortable if you overstay your welcome.

8. Whilst you should exude confidence - do not blur the lines of the relationship and act with over-familiarity. I speak only for myself here - I often offer a polite hug or a kiss on the cheek to someone I have communicated with previously, but do not wish to be otherwise touched by a stranger. Equally, following someone into the toilet to continue a conversation is not the done thing at a professional event.

9. Be prepared. OK, so you know general rules... you are ready to network. Do so with a plan in mind, a wallet full of business cards and a clear marketing message. In networking you are marketing a product - you (or your supply/company). Be clear about why you are a useful person to know.

10. Don't flirt. Ever. It is weird and uncomfortable.

SCENARIO 2 - THE NON NETWORKING EVENT
OK - lets create a potential scenario: the wrap party. An occasion like this can be one at which you may meet some of the staff face to face for the first time. You want to make an impression - to be remembered and hopefully invited back. Equally, there may be someone there moving onto a great new project you are dying to get involved with - what do you do?

1.Remember that the primary purpose of this event is not networking. People may be there purely to celebrate, booze, chat about non work things, etc. It isn't the right time to try and do all of the above - however you should still take heed of the tips.

2. Be remembered - for the right reasons. Want to impress and remain in the important folks minds? Be funny. Be sociable. Talk to everyone without coming across as desperate for a new job. Be polite and have good manners. Don't be remembered for being the girl/boy who brought their CV to the wrap party... or got tiddly and fell down the stairs...

3. Have fun - and at the end of the night, when you are leaving, casually hand your card to those you want to keep in touch with and say 'it was great working with you - do think of me if anything else comes up'.

4. Follow up the non networking 'do' with a polite email - keep it light-hearted and say that you would love to have an informal chat about potential future work etc - and that you didn't think it was the right time at the party but do want to follow up.

That’s it – simple but imperative. NOW GO NETWORK!

  1. MAKING YOURSELF INVALUABLE

CONGRATULATIONS. THANKS T YOUR ACE COVER LETTER, WELL PRESENTED CV AND WONDERFUL NETOWKRING SKILLS YOU HAVE A PLACEMENT/JOB!

So here is the situation once you get that foot in the door:

In my experience - YES, PERSONAL EXPERIENCE - I find that when a member of staff is required (at any level), the conversation tends to go like this...

A. PE/SP/PD/PM/PC etc: 'Anyone know a really good xxx available soon?' or 'What was the name of that xxx we used at xxx - he/she was great'. Answer - yes = job filled.

B. Answer no = ask immediate circle (cue Facebook/Twitter/email/network posts). Often = job filled.

C. Nobody is available that is a. already known or b. recommended = advertise

So - generally - the roles you may be seeking are filled before you even get to hear of them. How can you throw yourself into that pool of initial names and be considered? Firstly, network (see previous post) - make people aware that you are looking for work. Often, your name may be passed by as people will assume you are busy. Secondly, become invaluable/liked/preferred/respected or however you would like to think of it.

Not many people will admit it but staff will often recruit from their pool of preferred freelancers/employees. I hold my hands up - I often book or recommend staff that are part of what I cheekily refer to as my 'A-Team'. Now, don't get me wrong - I balance this with always providing opportunity to those who have impressed elsewhere (i.e. through networking, social media, word of mouth, great CV, etc); but sometimes you just need to know that the mark will be hit. Here, a reliable contact will usually deliver.

People sometimes ask me 'how do I make the A-Team'? i.e. get hired again. Everyone/every company/etc will have their own criteria - here are a few tips of mine to ensure I (remember this is personal advice) hire you again:
  • Deliver - do what you said you could. Never lie. It can be tempting to 'over hype' yourself either on your CV or in person but there is a fine line with being dishonest. I know an excellent Prod. Sec - she is fab - very capable of stepping up. She has never however undertaken any form of PASC whatsoever, and this has often prevented her from meeting PC role requirements. I advised that she apply specifically for a short-term post PS role to get the basic knack - and then it should be plain sailing to PC heaven; she decided to lie. She was taken on and did really well as a PC throughout shoots. It got to TX time and deliverables were due - she had not a clue. The PM was off sick and she was expected to complete the paperwork. It ended with her in tears in the toilet, a confession to the fib and a justified telling off from the LP (who had to go through the processes with her, despite her own very heavy schedule).
  • On that vein, I once met a guy who told me he had done 'tons' of work on a well-known show. My other half works on said show. Never heard of the chap in question - turns out he had done 1 day a very long time ago... awkward.
  • Be personable - by that I mean smile, be polite and be someone that another member of staff is happy to approach. I get a strange sense of pleasure from learning and when I sense that someone else does, I will create opportunities for him or her as much as I can. As a result they get to experience things outside of their role (in a beneficial way). Equally, if someone is tasked with a rather mundane workload, but does it with a smile and a sense of pride, I will find more interesting/challenging activities for them where I can. The member of staff who moans, is sullen, looks annoyed about what they are doing and is generally demonstrating no desire to succeed or no interest in the task in hand, rarely gets an invite to do more.
  • Don't be too personable i.e. grin like a Cheshire cat or be over-familiar too quickly - I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but it happens ok? There is a young lady who works in the industry - I don't know who she is or what she does, other than that she is trying to climb the ladder and is keen to make an impression. I see her a lot at events, and whenever I do she grins inanely at me. She never says a word. Just grins. I am going to put it out there - with risk of criticism - she scares me. Had she said hello or responded to my initial waves (I don't wave anymore - she scares me remember), then the grinning wouldn't be so unacceptable. As it stands, she grins in my direction until I turn away (and even when I take a peek back she is still grinning...).
  • Over familiarity is a tough one. We work in an industry where we are thrown into very tight relationships with people - often spending up to 15 hours a day with them. It is very easy to form close bonds with your peers. There are only three things relevant to my story today (joining the A Team - or its equivalent elsewhere): 1. If those bonds are justified (i.e. you are together non stop, long hours, etc) then restrict them to work. Give each other space away from work. It isn't appropriate at the end of a long day to invite yourself to a more senior persons social activity. if you are invited, by all means go along. Don't invite yourself though - it can be really uncomfortable. Be known as a great, hard and fun worker - not a social invader. 2. If those bonds aren't justified - i.e. it’s the end of your first day/you haven't yet started/you are awaiting response to an application, do not act as though there is a bond. it isn't appropriate to try and add someone who had just interviewed you as a friend on Facebook, or to turn up at an event you have heard they will be at on your own, with the sole intention of remaining at their side. 3. Don't have sex with the talent/crew/runners/etc. Post wrap - do as you will (I still wouldn't). Whilst on my watch, the team member who makes it uncomfortable for everyone else, doesn't come back.
  • Be ambitious - people who have a career plan and are determined impress me. Arrogance and an overly high sense of self-importance do not. We all have to go through a period when we are doing things which a. may not challenge us and b. we are confident we are overly qualified to be doing. Those who get on with it and then use their excess time to be proactive and do more, tend to go far. Those who grumble or talk loudly about their degree in xxx do not (tend to). I say this with personal experience - both in that I have to often do things I know I can do with my eyes shut, and I often have to delegate junior work activities to people I know are capable of assisting with much more.
  • Ambition must not be blurred with snobbery. I remember my first job in TV - I started as a Coordinator. I had done my research and had set in my mind what my role was likely to entail. I also had visions of what the Secretary and Runner's role might entail. The show I worked on had no budget and thus there was just little old me. 12 weeks previously (pre career change) I had my own office, a team of PAs and admin staff and a fairly important job title - which meant that I rarely had to lift a finger (fab for a lazy bones like me). Now, here I was, surrounded by paperwork which needed scanning in. What did I do? I kept my mouth shut and I scanned. The snob in my head was daring me to make a surly comment - but the brains overruled, and I realised it had to be done. So I did it. I quickly realised that I could demonstrate my ambition whilst doing the 'dirty work' too. Whilst waiting for 100s of pages to scan I would sink my head in figures etc and come up with innovative ways to save (remember, we had no budget). Fast forward three weeks and the savings totalled a shiny new Production Secretary at my side - and an elevated position for me. The Prod Sec was amazing BTW... I felt bad giving her the 'dull' stuff and ended up doing it all myself anyway!
  • If you are capable it will be noticed no matter what. Two guys really stand out in my mind. I won't name them here - it wouldn't be fair. Let's refer to them as 'Married with a Kid' and 'Nando's' (I am hoping they will recognise themselves...). 'Married with a kid' was working as a runner on a show I used to work on. I didn't know anything about him - nor did I get opportunity to see if he made the grade. He was already contracted when I started. It quickly became apparent he was older than your average runner; however I did not know how that had come to be. He was an absolute pleasure to work with (all of the points above and below) - and as such, he started to stand out. I quickly realised he was entirely wasted in his role as a location runner - and could give the production so much more than we were able to offer him. I didn't notice this because he strayed from the boundaries of his job - he was there, without fail, making the tea/coffee, printing and bundling docs, setting up rig, packing down rig - but because he did everything with such a sense of pride and a real humbleness that I made it my busy to spend my free time during the day with him - and from there discussions re. why he was running, what he hoped to do next, etc stemmed; thus it became apparent he was ready to do more. I wasn't the only one who noticed and almost immediately after contract end he was snapped up as a researcher on a great prime time show. I will always work with him whenever there is opportunity.
  • Nando's is definitely in the A Team. He was also working in a junior role on a show when I started (logging). Now here the situation was a little different - he didn't just log. By virtue of being a technological whizz kid and having great organisation, he was able to fly through his logging and do bits outside of the realm of his role. Due to being largely confined to the logging room or edit areas, these 'things' tended to be of an editorially helpful way. Either way - he got noticed for being extremely useful - and stood out for being capable of more. I liked him (he drank shots with me and danced like a fool on a rare night out of a locations tour and we bonded). It intrigued me that whenever people praised him and pimped him out for the 'next step' (researcher) he didn't bite their hands off. Turns out he was deeply committed to going down the Production Route (nobody had ever asked him) - but worried about being unemployed so went along with the logging life! I planted some seeds, made it known to those in the know of his aims and generally ensured I shared as many tips with him as I could. He is now a Production Coordinator on an awesome prime time show - and doing swimmingly by all accounts.
  • Ambition you see is essential - 'Married with kids' was determined to re-carve a career in TV and did what it took to make it happen. 'Nando's' took a role he didn't necessarily see as the path for him - but still delivered with pride and went outside the box. Neither ever complained - and both remain in my A List forever my virtue of their exceedingly good manners, commitment to doing the best job possible (no matter how small the job) and happiness to muck in. Even though they were able to deliver so much more.
  • Keep busy and be proactive - just because you aren't drowning in work, doesn't mean others aren't. When you find yourself in a quiet time, look outside the window of your immediate tasks and see what else you can do to assist. Be wary not to hassle people though - and remember the golden rule for making it into the A Team (!) - don't just offer help to those you deem important (and therefore likely to help you in the future), help your peers too. I know a young chap who was very speedy (yet efficient) and would often finish his workload before his peers. He didn't run straight to the top shouting 'look at me - I am great', he quietly offered his support to his peers and helped them get the job done. I noticed him (I observe - a lot), and I will always welcome him to the team whenever there is opportunity.
  • Have good manners - be polite. Nobody likes ill-mannered people. That is all.
  • Don't be lazy - sometimes, there are things in our job we don't want to do out of sheer laziness - and passing the buck is a great way of escaping them. A completely mythical example - the researcher who hands a PM their receipts after a shoot. No reconciliation, no idea if the right amount of change is there, no desire to find out. Do they hand it and say 'Oh I just can't be arsed!' (generally - mythically of course) not. They hand it in and run away, and when asked 'do you not intend on typing up your float?' the response is often 'Oh, sorry. I assumed that was a production job'. Mythically, this works both ways of course (cue the story about the Production Secretary who although had nothing to do one day, didn't transcribe an IV that urgently needed doing - cos it's an editorial job, right?!). The situation is irrelevant - if you can do something, you have the time and you can see everyone else is busy, do it! I know it is petty but the staff that throw receipts and pennies at me get an invisible black cross.
  • Have respect - both for others and for yourself. Those who deliver with pride (as above) demonstrate respect for the job (and thus the employer) but also for themselves, as they are committed to doing a good job, which generally means they take pride in their work (meaning they have respect for themselves). People who respect themselves and others come across well -and will be welcome back.
  • Respect is not about obeying orders from power hungry folk. I worked with a Coord once - I was a Coord too - and she had no respect for anyone. She came across as being respectful of the Execs etc (brown nosing I like to call it) but actually was just plain rude to everyone else, and essentially believed in the old fashioned ugh of  'do it my way and when I say'. If you were equal or beneath her and she needed something done/didn't agree with the way you were doing it/ was simply in a bad mood, you knew about it. She made sure the more junior staff knew that 'they had to respect her - she had earned it' yet actually, in being so bloody rude, demanding and generally glory hunting, she actually herself respected nobody else. Did she think she was respecting the PM/Execs who had hired the junior staff by being nasty to them? She lost my respect very quickly. I think that by being so rude all the time she probably didn't think much of herself either (lack of self respect) - why else would you be so miserable? Disrespect and undermining others doesn't stand you in good stead. Nope - your invite to the A Team hasn't gone AWOL in the post. You never got one.
  • Neither did the poor runner who thought he had to jump through every hoop she held out - including the hoop of 'be rude to my peer - I have been here longer than her'. Sometimes it is obvious that someone is encouraging you to do something inappropriate - don't do it. You are not a sheep. He lacked self-respect. Not an A Team member.
  • Don't ask questions your call sheet can answer. Someone - usually with great research for content, and pride - has compiled a call sheet. Any shoot worth its salt has a call sheet. It is the job of everyone involved to read it. If (and only if) after reading it you cannot find your answer - or occasionally, if it is an emergency and the call sheet is dinosaur sized and a mess (not done by me...) - then absolutely ask away. I guess this links back to laziness. Example: two members of crew of equal grade received a call sheet. One replied later in the day, said thanks, and did what was required. One replied immediately saying thanks (no way it had even been opened in the speed of response) and then turned up at the wrong location. That person had assumed a shoot would occur in 'the usual place' and didn't even look at their call sheet. That failed shoot cost a fortune. 'Didn't read the call sheet and messed up' didn't make the grade.
  • Stop. I am talking to myself here. I could go on and on and on... about this one. This was supposed to be useful - not send you to sleep! I will therefore summarise and nutshell highlight how you make a good impression - and thus, create the opportunity to be asked back:

1. Smile. Be friendly. Have good manners. Show respect.
2. Always be punctual. Time equals money. Money equals a budget. A good budget delivery aids a recommission or future opportunity with the broadcaster.
3. Be confident and come across as capable. Do not fib about abilities.
4. Be prepared - have a contingency if your plan/method to do what is being asked fails. Don't walk away or give up at the first hurdle.
5. Be ambitious and have a career plan - but do not be afraid/consider yourself too important to muck in.
6. Be financially savvy - creativity balanced with budget = please come back soon.
7. Retain confidentiality - don't post pictures of your shoot on Twitter!
8. Be proactive - but respect role boundaries.
9. Be useful - become known as the person to turn to when things need fixing/go wrong/need an extra pair of hands. You will therefore become invaluable.
10. Balance social desire with social etiquette. Go to events when invited, toast the teams success, make the Exec laugh. Don't get pissed/be the last to leave/tweet drunken obscenities to the PM/shag the talent/compete with your peers for talk time/hassle people in their time off for advice or future opportunities.

So - there it is. Basically, do your job and do it well. Be fun to have around without becoming a space (personal) invader. Evidence that you are useful. You will suddenly find yourself in today's blogs opening scenarios of A. B. C. (obvs the A team is where it is at...).