When I was 18, fresh from finishing my A levels, I had a dream. Not a Martin Luther King kind of dream but still a dream. I wanted to work in Music and TV.
When you decide to take GAP year, everyone says it’s crucial that you have a plan, for example many people tend to travel or have another employment opportunity lined up. I had no plan. I knew from the beginning of my A2 year I wasn’t going to head to straight to university, but still I planned nothing. I had my part time job at WHSmith and my dream. Once I started my GAP year, ishhhh started to get real. I woke up at 8am every day, left my house at 9, got to the internet café / library at 10 (never had my own laptop or computer until I started university, the stress, aghhhhh!) and would jump online to research job opportunities for all my favourite TV channels, networks, record labels (e.g. ITV, BBC, MTV, Sky, Universal, Sony, Warner Music etc.,). What I started to notice on all the websites, when it got the Job requirements section, was that you had to have a degree / be attending university already and have some experience. Well, I hadn’t even decided what university I was going to attend and whilst I could talk passionately about Grime, give a high level overview of the Gully Vs Gaza beef, I had zero experience, and nothing that demonstrated I was a serious candidate. I remember at 18 feeling frustrated because I honestly believed I was the best candidate for all the jobs I was applying to and given the chance, I would smash it. But I needed a chance. How can I get someone to give me a chance with zero experiences and zero university qualification? I had to show them I really wanted it and that I wouldn’t give up. I had to be unforgettable.
Taking a different approach
This next bit may seem a bit cray but I decided to bombard them. I selected roughly 10 of the TV companies and record labels I realllly wanted to work for and directly emailed my CV and cover letter to the HR team (Phase 1). Then for each of those companies, I found a direct contact for someone that worked there (via google) and would email them my CV and cover letter (phase 2). I then posted my CV and Cover letter directly to the organisations (phase 3). Phase four, was putting on my Primark suit and personally delivering my CV and cover letter to the reception desk of all these places (with the exception of Bad Boy records, Cash Money and Rostrum Records because seriously who had money to physically reach there *cries*). I remember the day I visited all the companies because it was the final day of my free travel, so I made sure I set out early, had all my journey’s planned and ticked each place off my notepad as I visited them.
Side Note: each phase was executed as a result of holding significant air from the last phase.
Having done all of this, between my job at WHSmith, and receiving no reply / rejections from everyone, it started to dawn on me that this little dream of mine may just be a dream. I fully underestimated how hard it would be to secure those kinds of opportunities and the amount of competition there would be. I didn’t meet with a careers advisor at 6th form / attend any sessions on making a good CV and cover letter, so I was really just freestyling for dear life.
The moment everything changed
I was on the bus on my way home from work and when I got an email notification on my phone. A guy called Glynn Ryland (I’ll never forget his name) emailed me. He was from the Channel 4 Talent team and to cut a long story short, he had read my numerous emails, admired my persistence and wanted to give me a chance. The 4Talent scheme had already closed, but if I submitted him an 800 word essay on my favourite Channel 4 show, he would take a look and invite me to the assessment day if it was good. I honestly wanted to cry. I had been trying for so long to get this opportunity and for someone to give me a chance meant everything. I dropped all plans that evening, and wrote my essay on Hollyoaks, incorporating all these fancy technical terms I’d learnt from my Media Studies A Level and sent it that night. He emailed me in the morning to say he was impressed and invited me to the assessment day that was two days later. The following week, I had received an email to confirm I had secured a Channel 4 Internship. Whilst it wasn’t in 4music, which was my initial choice I DID NOT CARRREEEEEE!!! I was just soooooo gassed that I actually had an internship and I was proud of the way I did it.
The actual internship
I worked within the Agency Sales Team. We were responsible for making the maximum amount of advertising revenue from Channel 4’s portfolio of products. Working in partnership with the Airtime Sales and Partnership team, we sold and administered advertising space across Channel 4, More4, Film 4 and 4Music. My boss was this lady called Michelle, and I found her quite intimidating at first because she never really spoke to me. However, when she realised I could learn quickly she started to give me more responsibility and me being able to deliver made her like me more. Within two weeks, I was liaising with big brands like Tropicana with regards to where we would be placing their adverts on our channels. This wasn’t an internship with a potential job offer guaranteed at the end, but in my final few days, she told me she believed I had a great future ahead as a media planner and she would happily keep me on full time if it’s what I wanted. She disapproved of me going to university, getting into debt when she believed I could start my career there and then. For a number of reasons, I didn’t take the offer, but it was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, I learnt so much and will forever be grateful for that opportunity.
What I learnt:
Take the unconventional route: The conventional ‘fill out the application and press submit button’ way of doing things didn’t work for me, so I had to think of another way to get the attention of those who could provide me an opportunity. Whatever you are trying to achieve, don’t be afraid to go about it in a different way to your peers or what the application process says. There is always an exception to the rule, and that can be you, if you’re bold and brave
Don’t give up: If I had stopped applying when I got air / rejections, I would never have secured this opportunity, so even when things are not going your way, keep persevering and pushing.
Plan Plan Plan!! : With anything you passionately want to achieve, plan. Create a step by step plan, with all the things you need to execute to reach your end goal. I learnt this the hard way, not planning in advance for my year out and although things did work out, I could’ve achieved way more if I had organised myself better.
Utilize the resources around you: Something I struggled with was showing that I had a real interest in Music and TV, because I had no experience. However now, in this digital and social media age there are various ways to demonstrate that you’re passionate about something for example setting up a blog or a YouTube channel (Whilst I could’ve done this a few years ago, it wasn’t so prominent). Even in terms of trying to connect with people, there is LinkedIn and for informal interactions, Twitter. Use the tools around you to really be the architect of your own dreams.