Tuesday, 5 October 2021

A guide to work experience in corporate media production


Disclaimer: This guide comes mainly from the perspective of the corporate video industry, but don’t dismiss it entirely if you don’t think it’s relevant to your career aspirations. A lot of the principles are the same, whatever sector you start out in. This article is intended to help those who have just started out and want to know how best to get a ‘foot in the door’. I was there once, and wish I’d had someone giving me a bit of advice and guidance at the start.

First and foremost, remember the film, TV and media industry is fiercely competitive. There are loads of young and enthusiastic wannabes out there just like you and you need to do all you can to stand out from the crowd. Volunteering or internships are invaluable in terms of giving you good experience and making contacts, but crucially it can also lead to paid work.

Spend some time researching local companies and contacts, compiling a list of phone numbers, web addresses and emails. Familiarise yourself with their content, so that they are not just an entry on a list of names. See if you can identify a gap in their staff team or the way they work that you might be able to help them with.

When getting in touch with contacts, it’s likely that they won’t have anything to offer you. If that’s the case, make sure you keep a note and get in touch with them again sometime in the future. Don’t do it too often (that will come across as desperate or annoying) but it just helps to keep you at the forefront of their mind, in case something does come up. Follow up with a message to show what you’ve been up to with links etc. Treat it as something like a newsletter.

The reality is, you need to be a bit tenacious in what you are doing. The people you are contacting don’t usually have a lot of free time and are dealing with a million things all at once so you have to get their attention and make them sit up and take notice. You need to demonstrate that it’s worth their time to take you on.

It’s pretty much a given that you need to be on social media. At the very least, have a YouTube channel and keep it up to date. Even if it’s about your cats, it shows that you know how these things work. You don’t need to rely on expensive camera equipment or fancy lighting. Most modern smartphones can shoot footage that’s decent enough for social media. Bear in mind that social media is your public profile and that anyone can access it (unless you’ve set everything to private). Make sure you don’t have any embarrassing content you don’t want a prospective employer to see!

It almost goes without saying, but turn up on time. Punctuality is enormously important, so if you struggle to get out of bed in the morning get plenty of alarm clocks and avoid staying up until 3am every night. Turning up early is even better, but being an hour early is probably too much. If you can’t avoid being late (e.g. the trains have been cancelled last-minute), text or phone ahead and explain giving an estimated time of arrival (ETA).

Be friendly and positive when doing your work, so avoid moaning or complaining about things. Do what is asked of you within the time frame expected, but if you are struggling ask for help. Don’t talk too much or say too little - this might be where a bit of self-awareness is needed. If you are an extrovert, practice keeping quiet for short periods. Similarly, if you are shy, make an effort to be a bit more talkative that you are used to. We all have to do things that are outside of our comfort zones so it’s good practice - eventually you will get used to it!

Show an interest in what you are doing and don’t be afraid to ask questions, but make sure you aren’t getting in the way or slowing things down during a production. Always keep an eye out for opportunities to step in and help.

Finally, be aware that some people might end up taking advantage of you. Having someone working for free is an attractive prospect, so establish what you are committing to before you start and stick to it. The main thing is don’t leave things open ended so that after six months you are still working full time with no pay. That’s exploitation and should not be tolerated, no matter how cool the company might appear to be.

What do you think? Was that helpful? If you have any comments or questions please feel free to write below!

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