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Executive producer at ITN Productions Derek Dyson shares advice for those keen to break into media production

Credit: jsawkins on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Getting work experience is becoming more common. Obviously some people cannot afford not to work; particularly if they have a nice lump of student debt after finishing a qualification.

However, with very few entry level jobs available, particularly in the major broadcasters, work experience is now effectively the first rung of the ladder at most places. It's a chance to network, add to your CV and most importantly spot the opportunities for work coming up.
The tendency can be just to apply for anything and everything but remember, if you are going to give up weeks of your time for free when you could be looking for other work, it needs to be worthwhile.
Standing out from the crowd
One person caught our attention by putting 'funeral director' as one of their previous jobs
The simple CVs are the best. Don't worry about buying any fancy templates online or using some wacky font. Just plain old Times New Roman will do just as well. Employers don't often have time to read through all of your CV so make sure you get them from the first line; sum up who you are and what you can do.
Try to stand out from the crowd. The old line of having 'a keen interest in news and current affairs' is a bit of given if you’re applying for a media job. I remember one person caught our attention by putting 'funeral director' as one of their previous jobs. She obviously had great production experience too but we were impressed with her candidness and her attitude to work. She turned out to be fantastic and now works on Coronation Street as a producer.

And in terms of your 'other interests' section, try to put things that are relevant to your career. I would be interested to hear if you make videos for a charity but less so in whether you like 'French cinema, going to the gym and socialising with friends'.

Knowing your worth
Placements are great for building your CV but it’s always worth being mindful of how much you’re getting out of it. Be realistic about what you will achieve by staying in a role unpaid. Sometimes it's best to say, 'thank you and goodbye', add the experience to your CV and move on.
Make sure you have regular conversations with your employer about future prospects at the business. If you feel like you've made yourself useful around the place it's worth asking the question and at least you know where you stand.
Where do you see yourself?

It’s never too early to get onto the right career path
The 'media' is a big beast. Most of us entered the media wanting to be journalists (any budding foreign correspondents anyone?) but as I discovered there are many more jobs and opportunities out there in the world of production and online.

It’s worth having some clarity of the type of job you’d like to end up getting – do you want to work in television, radio, film, online? Do you want to stay in journalism? Do you prefer being in front or behind the camera?

Saying that, I started life as a print journalist and ended up working in television. There was no real plan. It just happened. But in general it’s never too early to get onto the right career path.

Turning experience into work

As I look across the office now I can see two people who came in on work experience and now hold full time positions in ITN Productions. One of them was working in Tesco thinking a media career was beyond her capabilities.  

The aim should always be to make your services completely indispensable and always look for opportunities to show off your talents. It's worth getting to know the people that are in the position to commission work, so the production managers, the news editors ... you never know where a few cups of tea might get you!

Even if you do leave, stay in touch with updates on how you are getting on, any new jobs you've been doing and any new skills you have gained. You want to be on people's minds when that job opportunity comes up.

Skills to pay the bills

Why not meet some people in your field of interest?
Being out of work can be a pretty disheartening place. So it's important to make downtime productive. Why not make a showreel, become prolific in social media (quite a lot of jobs are advertised on Twitter feeds incidentally) or just go out and shoot some videos? You will be 'keeping your arm in' and it will also give you something to talk about and show off in any future job interview. You could also use the time to brush up on general skills – is it time to finally pass that driving test or finish that language course?
And of course you can use the time to network. Most people in the industry don't mind being bought a coffee so why not meet some people in your field of interest? Quite often a first job opportunity will come from these kinds of meetings and not from the job pages.
Persistence pays
If you send off any CV you should ring in advance to let them know your intentions. You could also find out more about the opportunities at that business.
If you're applying for a job online it's always worth phoning in advance to find out more about the position and any other information that could help your chances. What kind of person are they looking for? Once you've sent off your CV it might be worth ringing again to ensure they received it and if they have any questions on your application.
And if you didn't get an interview or haven't heard for a while it's worth touching base and, horrible as it may sound, find out why you weren't considered. Feedback is always important for the next time you apply.

Right place, right time
Your first placement (or indeed job), can just be down to being in the right place, at the right time. But by getting yourself in the right situations then an opportunity is bound to present itself at some point.  

My analogy for this is that of a striker in football. If you have the talent, keep making the runs, get yourself into the right areas and take a few gambles now and again you going to score at some point.

Derek Dyson is an executive producer at ITN Productions. Derek qualified from the University of Westminster with a Postgraduate Diploma in Print Journalism in 2006. Derek started off as a sports reporter before taking a junior producer position at ITN in 2007. He's been heavily involved setting up ITN’s new work experience scheme.

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