21st April 2021

Working in Entertainment and Media: Persistence is Key

Working in entertainment
Alexandra McLeod

“People can tell you no, but it’s up to you whether you listen to them.”

One subject few people talk about is the immediate situation after leaving university, especially for those who want to work in media. Yes, it is excellent if you get a place on a Graduate Scheme straight away in a large London based company, but this option is not for everyone (believe me, I’ve tried).

You can’t force yourself into a job you don’t want to do. But what if you don’t know what you want to do? I took inspiration from Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac, who I saw speaking at Teignmouth Pavilions in May 2016 as part of BBC Radio 1’s Academy.

Annie decided to list the three most important things to her to help her decide future job prospects. For her it was: Music, Friends and Creativity.

As a result, Annie has a successful radio career and additional music projects.

Mine are:

1. Languages
2. Travel
3. Media

They can be vague; they can be specific, as long as it gets you thinking!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to only apply for jobs I want and not to waste my time. But which advice should you follow? You don’t want to seem too desperate. Do more applications to the same company equate to more chance of being noticed? Below I have screenshotted all of my unsuccessful BBC applications (not sure I should be highlighting this!), but it shows my dedication and persistence.

Working in entertainment

Maybe it’s not meant to be. Maybe I haven’t figured out the system yet. Maybe I should start looking elsewhere.

It is essential to learn from each rejection. Every problem/rejection/failure is an opportunity. I have some friends who keep a “rejection” folder on their desktop.

I don’t (it would take up too much space/memory lol). I choose to move on, forget about it and find an alternative opportunity or make a note to apply again in the future, or apply to a different department or location.

There is conflicting advice about application forms. Some say quantity over quality, apply for as much as possible. Others will suggest spending time on making one perfect application. There are pros and cons to both. Find out which method you prefer. I always look for short application forms, a quick CV upload or a click on LinkedIn. It can get tiring when you hear nothing back for months. But something will stick. I was given this advice from a career mentor at the University of Exeter who had previous work experience at the BBC and YouTube.

I also somewhat believe that everything happens for a reason in some cases. One opportunity can lead to another. For example, during a week of CBBC TV Drama work experience, I was advised to join the Facebook page: ‘People looking for work in TV: Runners’. I applied for many opportunities on this page, one of which is a European placement in a creative industry. It was a job that would involve languages, travel, and media. Was it luck that I found it? Would I have found it anyway? I’ll never know.

Another important aspect of finding the perfect media job is networking. Whether that be via email and LinkedIn or in real life. I keep a handwritten book of contact details of people who have interviewed me, employers I’ve met at events, graduates I’ve spoken to at Careers Fairs and professionals I’ve been in touch with through mentoring programmes.

One piece of advice I have kept with me is: “BE GOOD AT EMAILS.”

I was told this by Tim Johns (BBC Radio 2 Producer) at the Student Radio Association Conference (SRACon) in April 2015. At first, I didn’t understand how you could be bad at emails, but this simple but practical and essential advice has led to opportunities such as interviewing artists and authors and working live music events.

Potential tips for good emails:

1. Add hyperlinks to your LinkedIn, Mixcloud, blog, etc. at the end of an email.

2. Keep it simple: who are you and what are you enquiring about.

3. Make sure you get the correct spelling of names, companies, and places.

4. Look up the recipient on LinkedIn, just in case you have something in common (University city, home town, etc.) and mention it if appropriate.

I also follow inspirational CEOs in various creative industries, from Steven Bartlett (Social Chain) to Zoe Sugg (Zoella). Whoever inspires you, it could be in an unrelated industry; it could be a cheesy Instagram account, it could be a friend – whoever it is, continue to be inspired by their online work.

It seems that millennials are reclaiming the word “hustle.” It’s not a word I had used before but have found myself saying it more recently when explaining stories of job applications.

Especially in media and freelance work, the word “hustle” is great to explain the process of finding a job.

I also think it is important to realise that some (not so great) short term jobs you do provide key skills that could be needed in the future. It’s hard to imagine, but many successful people look back at catering jobs, bar work and retail positions as the most important work they did in terms of learning, social skills, time management, and HARD WORK.


Article by SoundGirl: Alexandra McLeod

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Another great article by SoundGirls: Live Performance Mistakes: Pick Yourself Up and Move On

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The mission of SoundGirls.org is to inspire and empower the next generation of women in audio. Our mission is to create a supportive community for women in audio and music production, providing the tools, knowledge, and support to further their careers. SoundGirls.Org was formed in 2013 by veteran live sound engineers Karrie Keyes and Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato and operates under the Fiscal Sponsorship of The California Women’s Music Festival, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. In 2012, Karrie and Michelle participated in the “Women of Professional Concert Sound” panel at the AES Conference in San Francisco. The panel was hosted by the Women’s Audio Mission (WAM) and moderated by WAM founder Terri Winston. Terri brought together five women working in live and broadcast audio. The groundbreaking panel (which also included Jeri Palumbo, Claudia Engelhart and Deanne Franklin), provided young women and men a glimpse into life on the road, tips and advice, and a Q & A with the panelists. More importantly though, was how incredibly powerful the experience was for the panelists. We had all been in the business for 20 years or more, yet most of us had never met before that day and within minutes we bonded like long-lost sisters. We were struck by how similar our experiences, work ethics, and passions were and wondered why our paths had never crossed and how our careers would have been different had we been there to support each other through the years. Each of us are strong on our own, but together we were even stronger and a powerful force. We were empowered. Each of us had been asked hundreds of times in our careers: Are there other women doing sound? How did you get into sound? How would a young woman go about getting into sound? Through creating SoundGirls.Org, we hope to establish a place for women working in professional audio to come for support and advice, to share our success and failures, our joys and frustrations, and for empowerment and inspiration.

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