CV Tips

I think it’s fair to say that every industry has a preferred CV format. It’s the same with TV – but I’m sure that many of my friends who work in the Civil Service, for example, would baulk at how my CV is laid out, and I at theirs! But when the average employer spends 30 seconds looking at each CV, you need to make sure yours is one that grabs their attention, that tells them everything they need to know about you at one quick glance.

One genuine moment that changed my life was when a talent manager at the BBC gave my CV a brutal makeover. After that, I appeared far more professional – and felt it, too! So here are a few do and don’ts of how to write a ‘TV CV’:

  • DO put your name at the top. In big letters. So people can easily see whose CV they’re reading
  • DON’T put your picture on. It’s not your social media profile, and anyway this helps to prevent unconscious bias
  • DO put your industry level – and make it appropriate for the job that you’re applying for. So don’t put Sam Jones – Producer, if you’re applying for a Researcher job!
  • DO put a little mission statement – but only if it’s a good one. A bad mission statement is worse than no mission statement at all. This should just be a couple of sentences that’s like a trailer for your CV – highlighting your best credits and top skills. Maybe try asking a friend to write it for you – they may highlight things about you that you might have missed! You can then use this mission statement across other professional platforms, like LinkedIn and the Talent Manager
  • DO put your contact details – email address, website and phone number are fine
  • DON’T put your address. It might genuinely cost you a job, if for example you’re applying for something in south-west London but live in north London. That’s an hour-and-a-half commute, and a kindly production manager may well try to save you the trouble by rejecting your application
  • DO put your skills in a list or table right at the top of your CV. This can include things like self-shooting, editing programmes you can work with, a clean driving license, training courses you’ve been on etc
  • DO head up each credit with a straightforward top line: COMPANY, Production, Role, Date.
  • DO mention who you worked with on each production, or put them as references after your top line. Your potential employer will call them up if they know them and ask what you were like to work with. So logically –
  • DON’T put down anyone on your CV with whom you didn’t have a good professional relationship. If your potential employer knows them, they’ll ring them – and that person may not give the best recommendation for you
  • DON’T put your references at the end of your CV. Your potential employer probably won’t read all the way to the end
  • DON’T put every exam you’ve ever taken as your qualifications. No one cares whether or not you did Ceramics GCSE – unless it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for, in which case put it in your cover letter
  • DO save a copy as a pdf, to prevent the formatting from going weird on different operating systems

Your CV should enable employers to IDENTIFY, VERIFY and CONTACT you. Anything superfluous to that and it starts to become your life story – and that’s called an autobiography!

Advertisements
CV Tips

Networking

I’ve talked about networking a lot in this blog, but it really is the bread and butter of telly. To quote Sara Putt, TV has a soft skills security blanket: people want to work with other people who are easy to talk to, have good manners, are gracious and conscientious and hardworking.  Employers verify that by asking their colleagues, your references, people who have worked with you before.

As an employer or as a freelancer, your most important asset is your network. This should involve professional relationships at ALL levels. Keep a database of all the people you know, whether they’re people you’ve worked with, people you’d like to work with, or people you’ve met for coffee and advice. You can use your network not just to find new employers, but also to verify new employers – if you’ve just got a job at a new company, you can ask friends who have worked there before what it’s like. Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity – if you have a really good relationship with just a few industry contacts, they’ll work all the harder for you when you need their help.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you want to connect with – most people will be more than happy to help, remember they’ve been in your position before! But don’t jump straight in asking them for a job. Best to invite them for coffee to ask their advice on something – people always like to share their wisdom! Ask them something specific, so that they can focus their answers. I’ve made the mistake of asking too general a question, and that cost me the meeting with the Series Producer I was looking to befriend. And always thank them afterwards – be specific about why they were helpful. Try to get that new contact to suggest another two people that you should connect with – that way you’ll double your network with every coffee!

Try to update your network every three months, or every time you have something new to say. This could be a new credit to your CV, a new skill that you’ve learned, a new short film that you’ve published. That way you stay in your network’s recent memory, rather than buried in a pile of CVs somewhere in the office. Talent Managers often track the availability of their favourite people, so if they regularly see that you’re getting gradually more experienced and more qualified, you may well become one of their favourites too!

Networking

A Weekend at BAFTA

Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking part in the BAFTA Guru Labs, a scheme run by BAFTA for new entrants to the media industries: TV, Games and Film. As well as granting us free access to the talks, lectures and workshops at BAFTA HQ in Piccadilly, they also organised networking and advice sessions for us with industry experts. It’s only the second year that they’ve run this scheme, but so far it’s been a roaring success – and I certainly got a lot out of it!

On the first evening we had a networking party, which was a great opportunity to make a few new friends. The attendees were mostly new industry entrants, like me, so it took the pressure off having to impress any potential employers! That happened first thing the next day – but the new friends I had made on the Friday night made the intimidating prospect of a 15 minute one-to-one session with a top Production Exec slightly less scary! As all the participants were in the same boat, at roughly the same industry level, it created a lovely supportive atmosphere for the whole event.

One of the highlights of the afternoon sessions was our Round Table discussions with top execs from the TV industry. Groups of about six of us got together and were able to talk and ask questions about our experiences working in TV, what we should be doing to progress and what to look out for. I was very encouraged by how friendly and supportive everyone was – TV can be a difficult, cut-throat, competitive industry, but there’s a sense of solidarity that comes from being aware that it’s like that for everyone!

By far the most useful piece of advice that I got from the weekend was this: as a freelancer, you need to treat yourself like a business. And like a business, that means you need to:

  • Go to events to promote yourself
  • Build your brand: create a consistent message and image across your social media platforms and your CV
  • Train yourself
  • Be strategic about building your reputation: this means building up your CV by taking jobs that form you into what you ultimately want to be

This is a great way of thinking about life in a freelance industry. YOU are the product – you want to tell your employers that they need YOUR skills, and no one else’s. But unlike a business, with separate departments to look after marketing, finances, strategy, training and research, you have to do all that yourself. No one said working in telly was easy!

A Weekend at BAFTA