THE VALUE OF WORK EXPERIENCE
January 2017 | Georgie McGahey
There is simply no getting away from the fact that experience is highly valued in the film industry, and a CV with relevant work experience in a professional environment - even for a week - can stand a significantly greater chance of success than one without. This is because future employers can deduce from the placement that:
You have been proactive, taking the time to apply for positions off your own back.
If the work experience is in the field you wish to enter, you are proactively looking for information about your future career to demonstrate career focus within your CV.
You can find the weaknesses in your CV and demonstrate you’re willing to make the extra effort to address them.
You understand the working environment and have gained knowledge of how to conduct yourself professionally.
Most important of all, you will have an industry reference who can vouch for your work ethic.
So let’s define what work experience is, and how it differs from an internship. Creative Skillset guidelines state, work experience should not exceed 160 hours taken over a month (full time) or a three month period (part time). Work experience is not actually classed as ‘work’ per se. Placements have an emphasis on learning and observation, rather than being delegated a set of tasks that should fall to the junior members of staff. You will be afforded the opportunity to ask questions and obtain an understanding of the nuts and bolts of the industry.
We here at MFJF believe in the value of work experience, and we cannot stress enough that you should be taking work experience placements to complement your studies. Whether that’s A-levels, a degree or MA; make the most of your holiday time by getting your CV ready for employment.
All too often graduates enter the job market without planning how to tackle it and it’s no wonder they feel frustrated when they can’t find paid work as their experience is limited to university. Unless you wish to follow a route in academia, your academic qualifications will rarely translate entirely into the working world; what employers want to see is relevant experience on your CV.
“Relevant work experience in a production company was the decider, but also they had a good, clean CV that demonstrated she could communicate well.”
It’s well known, there is an element of training to most jobs in the film industry and production companies or HoD’s understand that providing new entrants with a look into their world can have far-reaching positive effects. Companies are aware their survival depends on new energy being brought into the team, so fostering talent and making sure it's accessible to them when the opportunity arise is of paramount importance.
Companies who offer work experience will be assessing CVs and cover letters on different criteria to that of a paid role. So what do they want to see when they open your PDF?
They’re on the lookout for an emerging understanding of their business, be that distribution, post-production, production company, etc. One of the most received pieces of feedback from recruiters is that applicants don’t display any understanding of the area of business they apply for. It’s also common to receive feedback stating that candidates have vastly inflated their job title, which is rarely relevant to the role. You don’t need experience - that is what the placement will give you - you simply need to let them know have a desire to further an existing knowledge, and have a passion for pursuing your career in that field.
Your research into that specific area of industry, and more importantly into the company, should be clear in your CV and cover letter. Do they specialise in a specific genre? What are their major accomplishments? Google them, do they appear in the trade papers like Screen Daily? Whilst you’ll never be successful with every application, the discipline of researching the company beforehand will only add to your industry knowledge and confidence, which will become tangible in future interviews.
This might be the time when you create your first CV, congratulations. Firstly, read our CV advice and implement the suggestions we make. You can also look at the Stage 1 example CVs in the resources section. In your first CV, you will be drawing heavily on your studies, part time work and any voluntary activity you have been involved with. If you are studying at A-level or degree level, are you involved in any societies? Have you volunteered at local film festivals?
With your CV and cover letter, companies will be assessing your interests and how committed you are to furthering them professionally. Let's face it, the CV might be quite bare initially. Don’t feel you should embellish, or try to make your student productions sound like commercial work. You are applying for work experience, so be humble, ask for an opportunity to further your understanding of how the professional world works.
What skills do you think the company will be looking for from a work experience candidate? Diligence, time keeping, communication, confidence in dealing with clients and senior staff, polite, mature - the list goes on, and all of these things can be conveyed cleverly into your CV. You don’t need industry experience have these skills and qualities, working in a bar, shop, any part-time job can give you these important transferable soft skills.
In these early stages, you want to plug the skills gaps and build up relevant experience. There’s that word again ‘relevant’. If you are ever looking to have a motivational plaque made for the wall about your desk it should read just that, ‘is it relevant?’. When you create future CVs, with the addition of work experience and internships, always keep in mind what is relevant and what is not. Don’t be afraid to chop out sections to make way for other pertinent information.
In conclusion, we here at MFJF feel there is immeasurable value in work experience. It can get you where you want to go, and it can let you know quite quickly if an area of the business is not for you. Work experience expands your knowledge, builds your contacts and grows your CV. If you’re smart and take these placements during your holiday from college or university, you enter the jobs market better prepared than your competitors.
Would you like to share your set stories, write reviews or blog about your journey into the industry? MFJF would love to hear from you!