My friend and colleague, the very talented Graham Albans (here he is) just posed this question online:
Radio folk! Most common question I’m asked is “how do I get work experience?” How do YOU answer it?
Here’s my answer: email people. If you meet anyone in the radio industry, ask them if you might be able to come and see what they do*. Ask EVERYONE. Find out who to email and email them. Be shameless. Ask people whose job you aren’t even interested in.
This bit of advice is based on this fact: most people looking for work experience in radio don’t email most radio people they meet to ask for work experience, most of the time. Which means if you do, you stand a better chance of getting somewhere.
For example: take the Student Radio Conference (brilliant by the way – go to it!). This is what happens:
- Someone from a radio station does a talk to a room full of 100 people.
- They put their contact details on the screen at the end and say “let me know if you have any questions or come and see me at the end”.
- Of those hundred attendees, maybe five or ten will say hello at the end of the talk.
- Of those five or ten, perhaps two or three will email afterwards.
- Of those two or three, only one or two will say “could I come in to your work to see what you do?*”.
It’s an incredibly easy thing to be one of those two or three out of a hundred, and that gives you a much better chance of getting work experience*.
There’s no doubt that emailing lots of people all the time will help get you PROPER FULL ON work experience. But, here’s some small print. This is also a bonus (and perhaps even better) top tip:
* It’s better to ask people if you can “come in to see what they do”, rather than ask for ‘work experience’. Big organisations – especially the BBC – have strict rules and application procedures for work experience. If you ask for it, you may be referred to the official website. But if, in your email, you ask to simply come and see what someone does, it’s much, much more likely to be within their power to invite you along for a day or an afternoon. It’s not OFFICIAL work experience, but it most certainly is experience of their work, and you can most certainly put it on your CV.
So who do I email?
Everyone. No-one in radio minds you emailing for advice, with a question, or to ask to come in and see what they do. Even if they’re too busy to reply, they certainly won’t mind you asking. If you want to be a presenter on Capital, but you’re also just super-keen generally to work in the radio industry, then why not email producers on programmes at BBC Radio 3 to see if they’ll let you visit? Look up their programmes before you email and at least pretend you are interested in their network!
And how do you find people to email? Trawl Twitter. Browse LinkedIn. Do they work for the BBC? Their address is almost definitely firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to your favourite BBC programmes and if you hear the full name of a producer or presenter or reporter just give that a go and try to email them. If you think you want to work on Radio 4 but meet someone who’s got a junior role in sports journalism – why not ask them? Go to Radio Academy events. Student radio conferences. Anyone you meet – ask them!
In my personal experience there’s a very direct correlation between people who proactively ask everyone they can for more experience, and those who have successful careers (it’s a positive correlation, by the way…).