I graduated from Lincoln in 2008 and everything I was told before leaving about the media being a very tricky industry to get a job in has turned out to be absolutely true!!
Bit of luck number 1.
I was very lucky when I left as I’d be keeping an eye out for any graduate schemes or internships which might be available from around Christmas time and found that SkillSet were running a pilot of an industry based radio course in my area, starting literally 3 weeks after I got back from Uni.
The course included 6 ‘learning days’ with industry pro’s talking about what they do and where the industry is going – I thought these would be a waste of time as I’d just graduated, however with hindsight, until you experience the industry first hand and hear about it from the people that make the decisions, you don’t know jack. The days were not just informative but I met the head of every station in my area – and of course grabbed a business card for future reference.
Bit of luck number 2.
The main benefit of the scheme as I saw it was a 3 month unpaid working apprenticeship in a local station. I was very lucky to be placed at Invicta FM, the biggest commercial station in Kent, on the strength of my skills from Uni as they needed someone who could fit straight into the team there and as the others weren’t as qualified, they picked me.
I combined working on the breakfast show with my day job, who were very understanding about me switching days etc., which I suppose they really didn’t need to be. Working in the breakfast team was a real blast and I learnt a hell of a lot in a very short space of time. At Uni I was used to planning projects in over say, a 4 week schedule, here it was like “this promo needs doing by the end of the show, you got an hour, here’s a PC…Go!” – an entirely different kettle of fish, but really great experience.
Bit of luck number 3.
When my internship came to an official end the station asked me to stay on, once again unpaid, but as my day job were now not being quite so accommodating I had to leave. However, instead of leaving it at that, I called and emailed the Head of Invicta’s main rival, KMFM, and asked if they had anything going (mentioning the fact I’d already met him on a learning day). It just so happened they had a new evening show starting and needed a phone op.
I went in for a chat and got the job, though once again, unpaid. I worked on the evening show there for 3 months, until their show format changed and they no longer needed me. That happens a lot in Radio, especially commercial stations, if costs can be cut, they will be.
Bit of luck number 4.
That left me out in the cold a bit, so once again it was a case of finding a gig. I saw a poster for a local community station in my area, so thought I’d give them a go. I’d done work on Siren FM and had a right laugh, so if I couldn’t be in a station with a job to aim at, I might as well have fun doing some community stuff. Phoned the place up, told them about my degree and experience at Invicta and KMFM and they pretty much begged me to go in for their annual meeting the next week.
If you can get some big names on your CV, community stations love you! Went along and got given a weekly show slot and made Head of Production. This was all very small scale of course, but I’m sure the experience of working with potential advertisers and meeting their requirements will be really useful in the future. I did that for a couple of months when the producer I’d worked with at Invicta rang me asking if I was free to go back to do some work for them…this time paid!
I jumped at it and since then have worked 1 day a week between sales and production doing ‘Records of Transmission’ – the bread and butter stuff for any commercial station, as well as the odd bit of station production as well.
However, the station (now part of the Heart network) is part of a massive group of stations owned by Global Media. I asked the managers at Invicta for contacts higher up in the group and since then have worked at Capital and in the podcasting team at the headquarters in Leicester Square doing bits and bobs as necessary.
I’m currently working on ‘getting in’ full time using the contacts I have higher up, but am awaiting a response from the BBC for a job I applied for there, so fingers crossed!
My top tips for starting out in the industry:
• Look out for potential courses that you can do after Uni. SkillSet ones are good, but anything with professional CURRENT industry speakers I’m sure would do the job.
• Find out the names of every Station Manager in your area and contact them! A good method is to ask to come in for “advice” or any guidance they can give you – a bit of flattery never hurts, but don’t be a suck up!
• NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!! Once you get into a station, there will always be people passing through or already there who can help or will know someone who can – if someone offers you their email address – USE IT!
• Keep in touch with any contacts you have, say every couple of months, nothing too OTT, but keep yourself top of the pile.
• If you get to do work experience, make the most of it, and do everything you can do there – and more besides. Always offer to do more and try not to leave until your boss says it’s ok.
• And finally…if you don’t succeed first time…just try harder! Because you can be sure that someone else will be…
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