10 DON’Ts of working in TV

YSTV alumna Sarah Pickles gives 10 vital tips on what NOT to do when starting out in the telly business

1. Don’t be afraid of work experience.

… But don’t be taken advantage of! I started out hearing how new entrants can be exploited, and that it was unreasonable for a production to ask you to work for nothing.

That’s not wrong, but nor is it entirely accurate – you just have to be careful. Work experience is the only way I managed to make contacts and start getting the paid work.

2. Don’t make too much tea.

That’s not to say you should avoid making tea in general – it really can be the lifeblood of a production! But pick your moment.

If you’re at a loss for things to do, you’ll impress more by asking for another task and you’ll gain a lot more from placements that way too. Always utilise your skills for the better, and judge a situation accordingly.


3. Don’t panic about networking events.

Although I’ve never got a job directly from a networking event I’ve had work from uni friends, online databases, colleagues of colleagues of colleagues, and the odd mysterious phone call from people I’ve never met.

Network via work experience; send speculative emails; use social media for your job search; and make the most of your time at uni by joining societies.

For current students I recommend YSTV – it really is a weird little world which mirrors real TV, just on a smaller scale.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Your boss, your team-mate, other departments, would rather you ask if you don’t know what you’re doing and do it right, than guess and get it completely wrong!

It’s always better to ask or double check, just so long as you learn and don’t constantly pester people. If someone gives you an instruction, repeat it back to them so both of you know what you’re meant to be doing.

Sarah Pickles at YSTV
5. Don’t accept that people being rude is just part of the job.

It happens, but it really shouldn’t be the norm. The best jobs are the ones where everyone looks out for one another.

If something happens that you’re not happy with, tell a fellow team member. If it’s your boss who’s the problem, then look to other teams for support.

If it feels like a major thing, then let the Line Producer know. Part of their job is to look out for the welfare of people on the production.

Similarly, if you’re struggling with your workload, say something rather than unintentionally taking it out on someone else.

6. Don’t panic if you don’t get the job/on the scheme.

Schemes, talent pools, jobs: there’s always something in the pipeline, and if you’re not right for the job, then the job’s not right for you.

You can learn a lot about yourself by trawling through applications, by not getting jobs, and of course by that eventual buzz of getting something! Just keep trying.


7. Don’t put off learning to drive.

Just don’t. Especially if you want to work outside of London, driving is a must. It’s handy to be able to get around to meet contributors, get to locations, etc.

If you’ve had your licence for over a year, sometimes companies can be convinced to insure you – so the sooner you get the licence the better!

8. Don’t think all of the work is in London.

At Media City in Salford there is a lot more of a buzz up North than there used to be.

Similarly with thanks to the likes of Creative England there’s a lot of filming outside of London – and Yorkshire definitely has its fair share.

I even worked on a film in Hes East at the University of York!

Don’t feel a pressure to move to London the moment you graduate in order to find a job. To me it’s rather overrated, and most of my work has been up North anyway.


9. Don’t have your address or date of birth on your CV

Including your age is never necessary or advantageous. And unless you firmly believe your local base/knowledge is beneficial, don’t mention that either.

I’ve seen people’s CV’s disregarded solely because of their location. When recruiters have a lot to go through, sometimes it’s the quickest way to whittle them down.

If someone asks you about your location at interview, then of course tell the truth, but hopefully impressed them enough by then to be hired regardless of geography.

10. Don’t worry about planning holidays/booking events in advance.

If you do, you’ll never do anything.  In your first year or so, you don’t want to turn down work particularly, as you’re still building your contact base up. However, a year or so down the line – just book it!

If you’ve booked a holiday in advance and it clashes with a production, then the company should honour it, although you should help to find cover.

If it clashes with a short term job/daily, it’s a shame you missed out – but let them know your availability and other jobs will come your way.