Talking again to Pendeford’s media studies department on the ways to encourage work experience makes me focus on how pupils get access to this precious resource and whether it’s the only way to hone and display your creative talents.
Sadly, for the most important and influential work experience, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Media work experience almost invariably is gifted to the children of the well-connected. So if you aren’t well-connected socially, you’ll have to be more proactive. Unfair, but true, so try and think about how you can overcome that issue. It is possible, even if you come from a background with no connections at all. You just have to be a bit more imaginative: A skill that will stand you in good stead as a creative person anyway. It worked for me.
It is one of the most important parts of your media CV. At my BBC interview in 1989 I was able to talk about my voluntary work as a DJ on local hospital radio and the short film my pupils made, which had recently come first in the Co-Op Let’s Make A Film’ Festival.
These things helped me to prove that I was committed to the media. I spent my free time on it, both on a personal level and with my pupils out of school. I had no idea when I started these activities that they would be so useful, but I felt the spark of interest and approval in the interview.
So if you want to be a media maker, it’s a good idea to make media, in any way you can. It has never been easier but a surprising number of media students don’t take advantage of the opportunity.
Work experience in any creative workplace is a dream, but you will rarely end up getting your hands on much of the creative output, so be aware that work experience may only be an opportunity to rub shoulders with those who might be able to help you. If that’s the case, do rub those shoulders. Ask them if they have time for a cup of coffee and to just tell you a bit about what their job entails and how they got it. The information will be useful but so will the opportunity for them to see you as an interested, pro-active and likeable worker.
But as well as, or instead of, work experience, make something. Create something. You can broadcast yourself in many ways, write, film, edit, podcast and vodcast, use free animation software like machinima to make a short animation, run the school magazine or its alternative underground magazine – any of these will give you an artefact to show, and a sense of a long-standing passion for creation.
We also talked at Pendeford about managing your online presence, for example how it’s important to avoid exposing things online to prospective employers. But Facebook, My Space and You Tube also offer you a forum for displaying your talent. Just as it can show that you’re a drunken waster, it can also show your films, audio recordings, photography and other creative output.
If you don’t have good online access at home, you may have to cultivate your media studies teacher, impress him or her with your seriousness and see if they can let you have time after school or at lunchtime or set up a digital media after-school club, to make films, newsletters and podcasts. It might not be easy to convince an adult to help you, but if you want a career in the media, it’s as well to get used to dealing with difficult people.