Hundreds of you attended the Faculty of Arts Careers Series, where alumni shared their fascinating journeys from their Arts degree to their current career.
The pandemic has impacted so much, including the world of work. The ongoing uncertainty can feel de-motivating; it may feel easier to avoid thinking about careers right now and to put it off until later. However, it could be an ideal time for career thinking and looking at what the Faculty of Arts Careers Series has to offer, (more…)
Are you looking for the holy grail?
We’re often asked for a list of graduate vacancies in the media. The problem is it doesn’t really exist. At least not in one place. But the good news is that with determination and creativity you can hunt down hidden opportunities.
Iona describes her experience of the SME Internship Schemes during her final year at the University of Bristol. If you’re inspired by her story, you can find out more about the schemes and how to get involved here.
Hi, I’m Iona. I graduated with a degree in Cellular and Molecular Medicine in July, and from March to June interned as an Assistant Editor at the leading events website in the city – 365bristol.com – through the Santander scheme. (more…)
The first three days of the Faculty of Arts Careers Week took place from 26th-28th February. Students heard from over 27 alumni and professionals on their respective careers, as speakers shared their experiences of how they have progressed through their career from graduation, and how to forge a successful career. Tips and advice were given, and students were able to hear about the positives and negatives of a variety of roles and sectors.
Last week, more than 15 industry experts – most of whom are Bristol alumni – came in to give talks, workshops and present case studies about all things media and creative. Film, TV, radio, publishing, the art world and the importance of having great ideas were all covered – for a list of speakers and their organisations, see our in-depth summary on mycareer.
Aside from things you’d expect to hear from creative professionals (expect a varied workload, the importance of getting your foot in the door, be innovative, don’t forget ab
out small to medium enterprises and how there’s no one definitive career path), there were a number of themes which youmight not have expected. This blog post will explore those and hopefully give you the opportunity to stand out in these competitive industries.
Watch, listen, read
Not just the people, shows or books you’re interested in or would like to work for – go bigger, immerse yourself! Watch TED talks (recommended by Laura from Speed Communications, highlighting the one on Airbnb), watch shorts and first feature films (tip from Kate O’Hara, Creative England), go to art fairs (Adriana, IESA) and think carefully about audiences (Rob from BBC History magazine had students in his workshop working out who their perfect reader was).
There are no excuses!
Many of our speakers said this exact phrase, multiple times and they’re right. With the amount of free technology, apps and programmes available, there’s no reason not to make your own content, building a portfolio of your work to take to interview or when shadowing somebody. Make your
own demo (that was a top tip from Paris Troy, Heart radio), get some videos online (Will Wilkin, Lead Creative and producer for BBC radio) and practise responding to briefs (Gavin from Perfect Storm).
The funniest comedians and presenters have actually spent a very long time preparing their content. So, not only should you be preparing for applications, interviews and meeting industry experts, you should be developing it as a skill. Paris Troy was the guest speaker who spoke most about this and to do so, said you should make sure your organisation, time management and planning s kills are
up to scratch. Finally, a number of speakers including Will Wilkin, BBC Talent Managers Gaynor, Sas and Helen, and Julian Burrett also said be prepared to keep trying, be prepared to develop resilience and be prepared to do anything!
Tell a story
It’s not just about creating ideas – although the ability to do so helps – it’s about standing out and standing up for who you are (Paris Troy and Laura from Speed Communications). When Will Wilkin was talking about the need to tell a story, especially in applications, he said that you should literally tell a story (see his LinkedIn profile for a
n example) and that everyday life is suitable content. Other tips included create an emotional connection (Gavin from Perfect Storm, Laura from Speed Communications) and don’t be generic (Paris). Alongside this, Julian Burrett said it’s good to be open to creativity from others too.
On one hand, you should be an expert in what you do (Julian Burrett) but on the other hand, you need to be versatile (Will Wilkin). You might be generating ideas for multiple platforms (a magazine with an accompanying app, writing cricket news but cutting film about a match too) but you might also be working in a specialist area within the sector. For example, Laura talked about how Speed cover three main divisions: business and corporate, sports and wellbeing, consumer and lifestyle. Similarly, Adriana from the IESA described how the art world, sitting within the creative industries, has sub-sectors which include the dealers, contemporary art, art fairs, insurance and law, investment and client services.
This is just an overview of the key themes but if you want more, check out our in-depth summary on mycareer. There’s a list of speakers on there too, as well as lots of information about the different areas of the media industry and creative sector.
Guest post by Liz Bell
Bristol is a great place to be if you want a career in television production. It’s renowned for the wildlife and factual programmes made by the BBC and the many independent companies based here, and with its close-knit professional community it’s an excellent alternative to the sometimes cut-throat London scene.
But if you’ve done your research, you’ll know that it’s not easy to get your foot in the door. Competition is fierce, jobs are rarely advertised and everybody wants someone with tons of experience (which you haven’t got because no one will give you a chance).
As a former TV producer, I get a lot of questions from people wanting to break into the TV industry. So here are my top tips to answer that perennial question: as a recent or soon-to-be Bristol graduate, how can you make yourself stand out from the crowd and get a job?
- Ask for work experience
It’s extremely unusual to get a job in a TV company without having done some work experience first. This usually takes the form of a week or so of unpaid work with an independent production company (a company that gets commissioned by broadcasters to make programmes).
Do your research online to find what companies are out there, and send them a CV and cover letter explaining that you want to do work experience with them.
- Show, don’t tell
It’s an old TV cliché – don’t tell your audience something if you can show it instead. TV companies get countless letters and emails from graduates who are “truly passionate about wildlife” and who have “loved wildlife documentaries from a young age.”
If you are as passionate as you say you are, get out there and volunteer with a wildlife trust, create a wildlife blog, make your own short films with your phone. The important thing is to show initiative, and a willingness to put some effort in.
- Edit your CV
If you’ve had the same CV since secondary school, it’s time to change it. No one is going to care what GCSEs you got, or whether you worked part-time in a shoe shop during school.
Give your CV a title – your name, and ‘Entry-level Runner/Researcher’ will do. Then start with a short, factual paragraph summarising who you are, including anything that makes you unique, eg: “Recent Zoology graduate with [strong writing skills / an interest in marine life / a keen interest in British wildlife] looking for work experience to start a career in wildlife TV production.”
Next put any relevant skills and experience – like making your own films, ability to take photographs well, being able to use Photoshop or any editing software, any PADI (diving) qualifications, driving licence, etc.
If you have any relevant work experience already, put that next, and only then put your academic qualifications. You don’t need anything before A Levels, and you don’t need much detail about your degree unless your honours project involved a specialist area you might want to expand on.
Finally, include two references – if you haven’t got a TV-related one, a university tutor/lecturer who knows you well, or someone you have volunteered for, are both fine.
- Make the most of opportunities
Jobs in TV, and opportunities for work experience, rarely fall into your lap. You have to go out there and look for them, which involves networking with people and keeping yourself in the front of their minds for the next time an opportunity arises.
Go to relevant events, meet people, email producers of TV programmes you’ve enjoyed. If someone offers you advice, always follow up and keep in touch, as it will make them more likely to think of you when they need a runner.
Once you get offered some work experience, or even land your first job, don’t sit back and think you’ve made it! TV work is almost all contract-based, and jobs are given largely based on recommendations. So make yourself useful, be polite and remember that even if you’re doing a week of work experience for free, you need the company far more than they need you.
- Be prepared for a career in TV
TV production is hard to get into mainly because so many people want to do it – and with good reason – it can be exciting, rewarding and very interesting. But as anyone who has worked in the industry for any length of time will tell you, it can also be stressful, frustrating and often mundane.
Short contracts mean no long-term job security, it’s hard to keep a work-life balance, and the majority of the time it takes to make a programme is spent in the office rather than filming animals in exotic locations.
In other words, keep your expectations realistic, and don’t expect it to be a dream job all of the time. If you know what you’re letting yourself in for and you follow some of these tips, you stand a great chance of getting started in a successful and fulfilling TV career.
Liz Bell is a Bristol graduate (Biology BSc) and former TV Development producer (working on and pitching ideas for new programmes). She worked in Bristol at the BBC Natural History Unit and at various independent production companies, as well as in Melbourne, Australia. She now lives in Birmingham and works as a communications consultant and writer for the charity sector.
On the 30th and 31st of March, over 90 students gathered in the Arts Complex for the Media Careers Conference. Over the course of the two day event, various media insiders (including Bristol alumni) came to meet students and deliver talks, providing students with an all-important insight into the world of media. Here two students, a fresher and a final year share their experiences of the event.
Emily Faint, First Year
As a fresher, I initially questioned the value of attending a careers conference. My career plans were hazy, and I certainly wasn’t looking to secure graduate placements given that graduation is still a mercifully distant future for me. By the end of the event, however, I was startled by how much the talks allowed me to clarify my thoughts regarding which career paths did, and didn’t, suit me. Each speaker had a wealth of information and advice to share, which included everything from the obvious suggestion of opening a LinkedIn account to dispelling myths about the perceived glamour of media careers.
Alex Ayling, a Bristol graduate who now works at BBC Worldwide, was a particularly notable speaker. He spoke of the importance of humility and resilience for those seeking a media career. I was startled to learn that companies such as the BBC rarely hire full-time staff, instead opting to recruit employees on a short-term basis depending on current projects. Patrick Ayree, a wildlife filmmaker and presenter, was also a delight to listen to. One of the most encouraging messages I received from Ayree was for young people to remember their value; young people are essential to the media and it is important to guard against feeling undervalued because of your inexperience at the beginning of your career.
For someone on the first rung of what I hope will be an interesting and varied career ladder, I’m certain the guidance I received at the conference will continue to benefit me for years to come.
Emily hard at work at the conference!
Niamh Callaghan, Final Year
As a final year English undergraduate, I came to the conference looking for some careers advice and some tips on how to get into the media industry. On the first day, I went to sessions about digital television, copywriting in advertising, multi-platform production, and radio presentation. The networking sessions with previous graduates were really encouraging and gave some great advice. The careers service discussion about using resources (other than Google) to research careers was also useful, particularly as that is what I am currently doing after Graduation!
On the second day I went to two different workshops, one from Cardiff School of Journalism and another from Immediate Media. The journalism discussion encouraged everyone to find how they personally stand out from the crowd – learning technological skills is, apparently, very advantageous. The magazine publishers from Immediate Media spoke about identifying audiences and product pertinence. I also attended a talk from BBC Talent Management about routes into the BBC. It was interesting to learn about career-specific skills and I was inspired to start learning some more.
One thing that seemed to come up a lot from every speaker was that, in order to work in the media, you should be creating a portfolio: filming videos, writing scripts, and building blogs. The general consensus was to make things! The whole conference gave me some great advice for me to really begin my careers search. I left a lot more certain about my future career, with a handful of new connections on LinkedIn to get me started!
Every year the Careers Service puts on an event dedicated to finding out about careers within the media industry. So if you think you’re the next Jon Snow, Arianna Huffington, or even Don Draper (see Mad Men!) then this is the conference for you. Last year the conference took place at the beginning of Easter and all students could choose two pathways and attend workshops linked to those pathways. These were: Journalism Publishing Advertising, marketing and PR Creative industries Broadcast (TV and radio) Film and production The speakers at the conference ranged from recent alumni now working in film production through to the former Director of BBC World Service and Global News. The conference gave students the opportunity to talk with employers and alumni and find out more about different areas of the media industry. Last year speakers included representatives from
- Dorling Kingsley
- McCann Erikson
- The Sun on Sunday
- Cardiff School of Journalism
- Heart FM
- Immediate Media and many more
What did the participants have to say about the conference? “I went into the Media Conference not knowing much about the Media Industry; I came out knowing more about the ins-and-outs of what a job in media entails. We heard from a wide range of people within the industry, covering journalism, social media and documentaries. They described what it takes to work in the industry, what experience you need, and what to expect from a job in media. This conference helped me understand what I do and don’t want from a career, finding out more about any job you’re considering is definitely worth doing to help point your future in the right direction for you” Madeleine (Current UoB student) How else did the course help the participants?
“I learnt about the processes and differences between jobs and companies”
“Learnt that journalism is something I’d love and learnt what to do and how to get there”
“Realise that post production is something I would really enjoy doing”
“Found a company I am interested in contacting”
“Made contacts and have a clear idea of different career paths available to me”
“Have specific areas in marketing and PR I’m interested in”
“Understand that there isn’t one set way/importance of contacts and networking”
“Eliminated some career paths and became more interested in other areas”
Media Careers Conference 2015 This year’s conference is taking place on Monday 30th & Tuesday 31st March 2015. To book your place, go to the Careers Service website “I found the media conference really helpful, mostly as it let me know that what I was doing was the right thing, and I also got a few pointers on how to get work experience.” Max, UoB Graduate 2014, now working as a Sports Journalist
Sara, a 2005 English graduate from UCL, has spent the past year working as a freelance foreign correspondent in Cairo, Egypt. Below she tells us more about this and answers questions to help Bristol students and graduates considering a similar career.
After leaving university, I first completed a six month internship at the press office at UNICEF, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, where I helped to organise events and campaigns and worked to boost media coverage of the organisation’s work. After gaining work experience at The Sunday Times, I became a trainee at the paper and later gained a job on the world news desk where I worked as a reporter and researcher for four years.
In my current job, I am based in Cairo where I write news and feature articles for several UK newspapers and magazines. It has been an amazing experience to live abroad, learn more about Egyptian culture and follow the aftermath of the Arab Spring here, particularly witnessing the country’s first democratic elections and all the changes that has brought with it. Being a freelancer has given me the chance to work for many different organisations and develop new skills, such as getting into radio broadcasting. It also allows me more freedom to work on stories that I am interested in.
How did you get your job?
I realised that in order to progress within my chosen career I was going to have to take a risky move and quit a stable desk job in London to brave going it alone. I arrived in Cairo with very few Egyptian contacts or resources, it was a scary but invigorating experience and within a matter of weeks (to my relief!) I gained a fairly substantial amount of work.
How did your degree help?
Having a degree helped improve my writing style and my ability to analyse and use information I gained to form a coherent argument – both essential skills for my current job. I also feel I benefited from having read widely during the course of my literature degree both in terms of the greater overall cultural and historical awareness this has given me as well as learning about different styles of writing. I think that no one can really become a good writer without reading widely.
Did your time working for a newspaper help you to set yourself up as a freelance correspondent?
I think having worked at The Sunday Times before coming to Egypt helped me a great deal by ensuring I had a deep understanding of what news stories would be likely to interest the British press. I also built up relationships with journalists and foreign correspondents at the paper as well as freelancers that we used living abroad and I was lucky enough to be able to ask their advice about starting out and for tips on who to contact about freelance work opportunities at different publications.
Are language skills essential for foreign correspondents?
People often assume that language skills are a must if you want to be a foreign correspondent, but that’s far from true. Many people become successful overseas reporters without ever speaking much of the local language – the key is to find a proficient translator. I do speak Arabic as well as some intermediate Spanish and French and there’s no doubt this has helped immensely, particularly during my time in Cairo, if only in terms of cutting down on the cost of a translator but that means often working alone and often being accompanied by a local who is familiar with the area and regional customs can be a great advantage.
What advice would you give anyone else wanting to get into foreign journalism?
As getting into journalism is so competitive you need to make sure you get lots of work experience to prove your dedication to the profession. During a work placement pay close attention to the types of topics that interest that particular media outlet so that you can pitch ideas that will impress them. If you are thinking of going abroad, choose somewhere newsworthy, where there is likely to be a lot going on, investigate where most papers have staff correspondents and where they might be able to use a freelancer. It also helps to choose somewhere where the cost of living is low. Before choosing to go freelance, I set up meetings with editors at several newspapers and magazines to discuss what kind of stories they would be interested in taking from me. It also helps if they can put a face to a name when you call in from thousands of miles away!
Any work experience tips?
Many journalism work experience opportunities are advertised on websites such as journalism.co.uk and GorkanaJobs.com. It is also worth contacting newspapers and magazines directly by writing to the managing editor or editor of a particular section including details of why you’d be interested in working for that section. If you do not hear back, do follow up with a phone call, newspaper offices can often be somewhat erratic. While daily newspapers are often oversubscribed, Sunday newspapers and regional publications are sometimes less busy.
Final note from the Careers Service:
The Guardian Careers Blog has a number of useful posts with tips for aspiring journalists. See, for example, ‘Working in journalism: what I wish I’d learned at university’ and ‘Finding journalism work experience and opportunities on Twitter’.