12 ways to improve your career prospects

young man reading a laptop photo by Wes Hicks













Whether you're an established professional or just starting out here are some things you can do to take control and boost your media career

The first thing to say is we're not "reinventing the wheel" here. A lot of this is just common sense, but often the simplest things are easily forgotten especially when we're concentrating on what we "think" employers might be looking for. Yes, they will be looking for some practical skills and knowledge for some job roles, but often these can be learned or consolidated on the job and it's more important to present ourselves as "a good fit" or "easy to get on with" or "willing to learn".

This article will help you take stock of where you are now, where you want to be in the future and provide actionable steps to get you on the path to success.

So here are 12 "must have" attributes you can work through. Ask yourself the hard questions: "Can I really demonstrate that I have these qualities"? Then you can work on the ones you fall short of.

If you're applying for jobs, the next step is to work these skills into your CV. If you're already working, try to implement these positive attributes into your daily routine. Carry a checklist on your phone and remind your self from time to time. 

Confidence

You might be a naturally confident person, but most of us aren't. We all have some level of anxiety when it comes to completing a task or how well we're going to perform. The best way to overcome any anxiety is to make sure you're fully prepared for the task ahead. Whether that's a phone call to a potential employer or colleague or a day working in the production office, as long as you've done your research, you can face the task with confidence.

If you're not confident to perform a certain task, then say so. There's nothing wrong with asking for help. Better that than making a mess of it.

Communication

Good communication skills are essential in almost any job but especially relevant in the media industries. After all, it's a communication business. 

Learning to listen is important and by this, I mean "actively" listening. It's very easy to be thinking of your next response, or to cast your eyes down to your smartphone or screen whilst someone is talking to you. Someone once said "we have 2 ears and 1 mouth". If you do all the talking, you're simply telling them what you already know. If you listen, you might learn something new.

Meetings: Decide what you want the outcome to be and what information you need to come away with. If you need to give information, make sure you've done your research.

Emails: Think about the message you want to communicate. Be clear about any response you need or actions you'd like the recipient to take. Be polite (emails can often seem abrupt or blunt). Write clearly & concisely. Avoid copying in people who don't need to know.

Phone calls: Before calling someone, make a quick list of the answers you need, actions you want to take and what the outcome of the call should be. 

Organisation

Media jobs, especially those in the production office can be fast moving, needing you to respond effectively as situations change. Being properly organised is essential. How do you keep your contacts / diary / task list / deadlines. Do you use a CRM? Which one? Can you demonstrate being organised with an example?

Teamwork

Most of the time you'll be working as part of a team. On location this can be as few as 2 or 3 people: Camera operator, Producer / Director, Researcher for example. On big drama sets, you'll be working with many more people and in the office, you'll be working in a specific department.

As a team member, your primary goal is to help the team complete the task. Every member of the team is crucial and even if you take on a minor role, doing it well will support the team and is just as important as being team leader.

Problem solving

Can you take a logical & informed approach to solve a problem? Make sure you understand what the ideal outcome is. Then use your knowledge and creativity to work towards that ideal goal. Of course, there will be constraints in terms of budget, time & resources but having a good solution to aim for will focus your efforts and get a better outcome.

Working independently

Even when working in a team, it's really important to take on responsibility for your own tasks. By all means, ask for advice occasionally if you need it but avoid constantly seeking reassurance as you work. Be confident in your abilities.

Initiative

Be careful with this one, especially if you're just starting out. Everyone likes to see initiative but only when it's useful! Watch and learn before you make any big independent decisions.

Experience

You've probably already got more useful experience than you think. Think about what life skills you've learnt so far and give yourself credit for them. Think about times in your life when things have gone well or badly and work out what factors affected the outcome. Reflecting on these experiences can help you when faced with similar situations in the future.

Relevant skills & knowledge

Here, we mean specific skills that allow you to do your job such as operating a piece of equipment, understanding a procedure or system or how to perform specific tasks required of you. These are things you will already know or need to learn in order to progress your career.

It's worth doing a "skills audit". Take stock of what you know so far and write it all down. Don't just write broad headlines but drill down in to specific details. You'll be surprised at how much you know and it's very useful to see it written in one place.

Then map out your career path and compare yourself to people who are doing the job you want to be doing in 2 or 3 years time. Look at their skills & knowledge and add them to your skills audit. Now you can see where the gaps are, you can work towards improving your skill set either by additional training or study or moving to a different role to gain relevant experience.

Work under pressure

Looming production deadlines, last minute changes to the schedule, bad weather, transport disruptions, illness and many other factors can create a stressful working environment. Some of us see this as a challenge and thrive on the unpredictable nature of media production while others struggle to get through the day. Can you work effectively under this sort of pressure and still deliver what's needed?

Motivation & perseverance

This is something you'll want to demonstrate to employers but crucially it also applies to your desire to further your career. Are you willing to formulate a plan and stick to it even when it's not going well or are you the sort of person who gives up too easily?

Pleasant attitude

A career in media production means you'll be meeting people from all sorts of backgrounds. You'll be working in a team and you'll be talking to people every day. If you're out on location, you'll be spending days or sometimes weeks with people you've never met before. So it goes without saying that you need to get on with people. If you can do your job and still be a pleasant and helpful person to be around, you'll have an easier time and you'll find yourself being asked back for the next assignment.

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