This week Optomen TV’s Nicky Searle talks us through the trials and tribulations of being a newcomer to ‘The Industry’ and gives some sound advice on how you can stand out from the crowd.
So you think you would like to make a career in television? Where do you start? How do you get noticed from the many thousands of people trying to get into this industry? It’s a good question. As one of the many CVs that arrive in my email inbox every day, how do you get yours on my radar?
A well written cover letter is a great start, and of course making sure it’s addressed to the right individual, and also the correct company! You will be surprised how many emails I get at Optomen addressed to Objective or Endemol. It’s clear that spelling is an issue, spelling names of our key talent or the titles of our programmes incorrectly, is an instant faux pas. A badly laid out email just makes me think that you have no attention to detail, and haven’t thought through your application properly. The best cover letters are a couple of paragraphs, telling me a little bit about you, and why you think you could be a good fit for our company, and why I should meet you?
Showing that you have researched the company that you are approaching, and have a knowledge of the programmes that we make will get you a long way as well – giving some comments on why certain programmes have fired you up, or have tuned in to your personality, is a good indication to whoever is reading your application that you are a good fit for the company, and might have something to offer us.
The amount of times I have read that someone is ‘passionate’ about food – just doesn’t cut it for me…I need to see evidence of that interest. At entry level, I am interested in seeing applications from people who might have done a cooking course, or maybe worked in a restaurant and are really clear about following that area of interest into broadcasting. Of course we don’t only make food programmes but it is what we are best known for, and finding like-minded individuals with natural ability, that we can offer an opportunity to and fast track through the ranks is very rewarding for us as a company.
You will always get a better response if you speak the ‘language’ of the company you are applying to. When you are first starting out, it’s easy to approach everyone and simply send your CV out to all and sundry in the hope that something comes back – sometimes it works that way. There’s a lot to be said about being in the right place at the right time, but I would advise you to target the companies of the programmes you really love, and enjoy watching – what a great place to work and learn if the content of the programmes is indeed close to your heart – you will shine and get on quickly.
It goes without saying that Your CV presentation is paramount. Your CV needs to be clearly laid out, and no more than two pages. Include all the details of your education, any work experience you might have secured, your weekend job, and extra-curricular activities, including sport or travel – in fact anything that shows that you are a responsible, self starting, well rounded individual.
I am always more interested in people who have a solid degree under their belt. There are many media courses out there, some much better than others, but three years spent studying an academic subject is good for your head… and sorry to burst your bubble – you will have to start at the bottom anyway, so why spend your time at university learning about media – fill your head with interesting stuff first – it means you might have more to offer an employer at a later stage.
In the mean time getting some relevant work experience will do wonders for your CV. It will make you more attractive to companies and will give you a proper taster of what’s to come and might even inspire your career direction as there are many different routes up the ladder. Gaining some work experience also shows your commitment to your career path, and will make you stand out from the pile.
It’s great to be ambitious, but even with a brilliant Oxbridge degree – you will still be fighting for work experience placements with thousands of other people; and also for that all important first Office Runner job that might be the launch pad for your career. We have taken on Office Runners, who may have a 1st class degree from Oxbridge; some work really hard, but some get bored easily thinking that they can jump up quickly due to their blue chip education. What they fail to see is that the experience of working first hand in a production company, and the people they might meet will stand them in good stead in the future. It might be a little mundane at first, but it’s the first leg of hopefully a long and exciting career.
Once that cover letter and CV are in tip top shape, trying to get to meet as many people as you can is your best bet. Even if there isn’t an actual job on offer, just talking to people in the industry can often lead to other things at a later date. The Talent Managers in the industry are always in touch, often talking to each other about the great people they have recently met, but just can’t place at that moment. So the more people you meet the better results you will have. Just by meeting some of the Talent Managers, you might find that you could be a better fit at another company. They are often willing to give you advice, and may even facilitate an introduction to other companies if they think you have something special.
Best of luck.
Nicky Searle is Creative Resources Manager at Optomen TV