Media work experience information
The arrival of digital technology has blurred the boundaries between broadcast, film and interactive media. The need to have an understanding of areas across the industry as well as some technical and multimedia awareness are important: work experience is an ideal way to start. Media is hugely competitive with most employees gaining work through word of mouth recommendations. Think about creating your own media to gain valuable experience.
Make the most of your time at the LSE and get involved in as many relevant activities and events as possible. LSE is an ideal opportunity to begin to build useful networks so consider joining a relevant student society, or even start your own!
Getting your first job in the industry is undoubtedly the toughest step. Do not wait until you graduate; you can start building knowledge and experience while studying. For example, consider gaining experience at PuLSE FM, LSE’s Student Union radio station, or consider Loose TV or The Beaver. Find out more on the Student Union Media site.
Also consider hospital radio stations in London and the hundreds of small media companies you can approach. Take advantage of LSE’s prime location in central London, with the media world on the doorstep and apply for work placements to fill up your long holidays. If you know about something going on in your local area, why not approach your local newspaper and see if they’d like a story on it?
There are very few formal graduate recruitment or internship schemes in media. The industry is hugely popular with graduates and the proliferation of small companies with a need for cheap, flexible and enthusiastic assistants to work on short term projects means that informal work placements are the norm.
What will I do?
Placements can last anything from a week to several months and there may be opportunity to find part time work experience during term time. Hours may vary depending on the needs of the organisation, but placements in broadcast or film can mean long hours and hard work. Typically, you will be undertaking junior tasks, assisting with projects or administration or acting as a ‘runner’, which means being available to help with any odd jobs. Companies are likely to be very busy and you are unlikely to receive much formal training or guidance.
Pay is a murky area, with low- or un-paid work experience being fairly commonplace across the industry. UK Law states that anyone, including students, must be paid the minimum wage for any work undertaken, unless the work is part of their course of study. Try to ensure your placement is providing you with some opportunities to develop new knowledge or experience and if in doubt, come and speak to an adviser. See the National Union of Journalists’ work experience guidelines guidelines for employers for useful information about what you should be able to negotiate with your work placement employer.
Work experience is commonly accepted as the way in to the highly competitive media industry. Placements are a vital first step in your media career and even though they may be informal and unstructured, it is up to you to make the most of the opportunity. Use your placement as a means of observing what the industry is really like and think carefully about whether you want to pursue a career in media.
Take any opportunity to gain new experiences or be involved with projects and show enthusiasm and willing even if the task is menial; employers are always looking for dedicated, hard working recruits. Network! Gather contacts, ask questions about people’s roles, offer help where possible and listen out for news of any forthcoming projects where you may be able to gain further placements.
Normally, you will need to find placements by making speculative applications. Devise a shortlist of companies to approach, bearing in mind which aspects of the industry you would like to learn more about and where you may be able to make useful contacts. Try to obtain a named contact in the organisation, preferably someone who will be able to make the decision about whether to offer you work, but not anyone too senior who will be very busy. There are many media directories where you can find contact information. If you don’t hear back after a week, you can follow up with a very polite phone call.
When to apply?
Don’t wait until graduation; make the most of the opportunities available at LSE as a student including The Beaver and PuLSE FM and stay aware of any opportunities to make useful contacts. Keep up to date with POLIS and Media@LSE and look out for the Marketing, media and communications careers fair in February.
LSE’s location in central London means you may be able to organise work around your studies at LSE during term time (max 15 hours per week).
Converting work experience into permanent work
Obtaining your first job in media is notoriously difficult. You may have to undertake several work placements before your skills, experience and contacts help you find your first position. As much of the work in media is project based, you may also find that your interests and experience develop into freelance work where you work on projects, for example film or television productions, or obtain commissions for your own work, for example news articles.
Resilience, dedication and perseverance are essential qualities in this industry, but once you’ve made a good set of contacts, you are on your way, people tend to recruit who they know they can rely on. if you need advice about the direction your career plans are taking, come and speak with an adviser.