Media Jobs and Careers
Few industries can offer such a wealth of attractive careers as the broadcast media industry. Film, TV and radio continue to generate more competition for limited jobs than almost any other sector. The careers are desirable, but the competition is tough.
Before heading down this route, it's vital to understand what is looked for in media recruitment and what makes candidates successful, as you simply will not get anywhere unless you do.
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The explosion in digital media means that there are now more job opportunities than ever before, with many media companies producing cross-platform products - e.g. TV programmes are accompanied by websites or games, and broadcast media is available online as well as via TV station broadcasts.
Television production companies are more numerous now than ever before, with a growing number of cable, satellite and digital stations commissioning programmes. A huge amount of programming is sold on internationally, so demand is increasingly driven by a global marketplace. The BBC and Sky TV are the dominant players. Radio broadcasting is also increasingly fragmented, with the BBC far outnumbered by commercial and community stations.
The film industry is strong but not large, with most companies working on TV programmes as well as movies. Funding for production is a constant issue. However, the animation sector has grown in recent years. Less glamorous yet strong areas of the industry are commercial production and documentary film-making, as well as the production of digital media (CD-ROMs and DVDs).
Types of Media Careers
There are numerous positions in broadcast media companies. As it isn't possible to provide detail on them all here, we focus instead on a selection of roles.
Researchers work throughout the broadcast industry, assisting in the development of programme ideas, researching content detail, fact checking and briefing producers and presenters. Researchers identify contributors, locations, material such as archive footage or stills, data, etc, ensuring that the content is of the quality and nature required for the programme in question. They also schedule appearances and make appropriate arrangements.
Type of person: As well as being resourceful, researchers need to present findings verbally and in writing to decision-makers. Attention to detail is important in fact-checking and adhering to all legal requirements. Interpersonal skills are vital in liaising with contributors or information providers. A good understanding of how a programme is produced is also important, together with a journalistic instinct. Diplomacy is frequently required, plus a willingness to work hard in what is sometimes a thankless role.
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Producers' roles vary enormously, but producers usually oversee the entire production, and bring together every aspect of the filming process and the people undertaking it in one location. The producer is frequently responsible for the concept and, in film, for raising finance. In television, producers often have a specialist type of programming, such as science documentaries, music shows or radio news. Alternatively, a producer/director will be given an idea by an editor or series producer, which they then take away to produce a programme within time and budgetary deadlines.
Type of person: A producer usually has experienced working as a researcher or assistant producer. Some are even former presenters. Essential skills are organisational skills blended with creativity, an understanding of budgets and strong editorial judgement. As well as technical skills, they need to have strong negotiation and communication skills, plus the ability to head a small but diverse team.
These journalists work primarily on television news, documentaries and current affairs programmes, preparing pre-recorded or delivering live items. They research the subjects in depth and present them in a meaningful way, working as part of a team while bringing in new ideas. The journalists write scripts and usually present the items themselves, conducting interviews and reporting from locations.
Type of person: With journalistic training, this role requires strong editorial judgement and solid organisational abilities, coupled with a good presentation style. Despite being a largely unsupervised self-starter, the reporter needs to work in a team. Communication skills are needed in the team context as well as in reporting. An understanding of and passion for broadcasting, as well as production and broadcast equipment, is essential.
Editors work in film or programme production, cutting and reworking rushes so that the maximum impact is achieved. This involves putting the scenes into the right sequence and changing between shots so that the narrative is effectively conveyed, whether it is fictional or a documentary film. The 'rough cut' that results is then reworked over a longer period of time, with the director and senior producer. Radio editors work in a similar way, but with sound recordings only.
Type of person: This role requires a great deal of patience. The editor needs to not only be able to achieve great results, but to be able to explain and justify changes to other team members. A calm disposition is essential, as is the ability to work under pressure.
Working in film or TV, camera operators work on studio recordings and outdoor locations and broadcasts. Operators work in teams, filming scenes from different angles for film and drama productions, or work singly, for instance on news reports. Technical expertise is a must, as well as sufficient creativity to frame a shot and contribute to the director with ideas for improvements.
Type of person: the ability to multitask - judging visual angles while listening to headset instructions and reacting to the unexpected - is essential. Good technical skills are vital. The ability to work in a team is essential. The work can be intense due to the pressure. Being able to get along with other team members is therefore important, as the role involves liaising with crew members, performers, the public and production staff.
How to Get Started
Whichever kind of role you're interested in, whether it's a TV job or radio job, it is important to be prepared for hard work, competition, lengthy hours and (very likely) the ups and downs of being a freelancer working on short contracts. Very few jobs or contracts are advertised, so networking skills are extremely useful.
Due to the competition, it's vital that you work hard to get into the industry, usually without expecting any pay. Graduates definitely have the advantage in this industry, so recognise that you'll have to work harder if you don't have a degree behind you. If you're studying, use your holidays, or part of them, to gain voluntary experience that you can use on your CV. Your CV needs to be targeted at the role you're seeking.
If you decide to do some media training, opt for a course with a practical focus rather than theoretical. Don't do a course that doesn't offer you a placement. These courses may help you get a job, but there's no guarantee and many graduates find work without media studies training.
Ultimately, it's more important to be somebody who has the required skills and fits into the team, being able to hit the ground running. This is why unpaid experience is an excellent introduction to potential employers and frequently counts for more than studies in media subjects. For this reason, many people start out as runners, making themselves useful and becoming familiar with the broadcast media environment.
Media Jobs Sites:
- News and jobs - www.broadcastnow.co.uk
- Jobs in the media industry trade journal - www.campaignlive.co.uk
- Information on careers at the BBC - www.bbc.co.uk/careers/home
- Blog with advice and information for students - wanttoworkintelevision.com
- Information on radio careers - www.radiotalent.co.uk
- More information on careers in broadcast, film and video, with details of courses - creativeskillset.org
- More broadcasting information and a forum - www.theknowledgeonline.com