Could a career in one of the many media jobs be your career choice?
So you want to work in media? It’s a fast moving, interesting and often glamorous field, there are plenty of good reasons for choosing it as your future career direction. But it is also highly competitive, difficult to get into, and hard to sustain a career. So, if you are looking at media jobs there are some things you need to think about before you start.
First of all, whatever branch of the media you are looking at, you will be starting right at the bottom, as a runner or intern. That in itself is not a handicap, it’s the same in most industries. The problem with media is that the percentage of people who progress from an entry role to something more senior is very low. Competition for media jobs is so high that many people drop out without ever having risen above the first level.
Secondly, there is very little job security. Most jobs, particularly in film or TV, are short term contracts, often just six months. No sooner have you started one contract than it feels as if it is time to look for another.
So, with those caveats in mind, how do you construct a successful media career?
It really comes down to three things, two of which you have control over and one of which you do not. The quality that have little control over is talent. You may have a media degree, or extensive media training, but because the field is so competitive, unless you have that indefinable spark of talent, that innate quality that you can’t quite put your finger on, the chances of your media career progressing smoothly are slim. Talent comes in many forms; probably the best way to assess whether you have the edge you need is to ask yourself what difference your presence in a company would make to that company. If you can define that, honestly, then you have begun to identify where your talents lie, and you can work on developing them.
An essential area, in which you do have greater control, is in developing and maintaining your networks. The media industries are fuelled by networks, who you know is far more important than in almost any other field of work. To succeed in media it is important to be sociable, to connect with others, to be fun at work and to be seen in places where your colleagues congregate. Networking is a skill, it doesn’t come naturally to everyone but it can be learnt, and once you are a confident networker you will find it both easy and comfortable.
The other essential area is persistence. Many people embark on media careers, few sustain them because it’s not easy to persist in a career when you frequently move from one contract to another. There will be times when you have no work at all, and are uncertain of where the next contract is coming from. There will be other times when you love your career so much you could never imagine doing anything else. So stick with it and let the others drop out. As time goes by you will have fewer and fewer competitors for the media jobs you really want. Good luck!