by Micaela Papa
That was the single word in my head after learning I had gotten into my desired masters programme in the UK.
The next few words were “oh no.”
I had not received confirmation on my scholarship yet and I knew that even if I got it, it might not be enough. London is notorious for being the most expensive country in the world to live in, and the meager few pesos I’ve saved up from years of being a news reporter wouldn’t buy a lot of fish and chips after conversion to the almighty pound sterling. I knew I had to get a job to augment my savings – but how?
Media is one elitist beast. To get “in,” you usually have to know someone, or at least know someone who knows someone who knows someone.
My employment at GMA was one of those freak accidents where they actually hired a fresh graduate who had absolutely no ties to the company. In fact, despite my day job, networking still scares the living daylights out of me. Imagine then, my anxiety of living in a country where I hardly even knew which side of the road cars were coming from, let alone knew people that could help me land a job.
What is a bagong salta to do in this brave new world called Great Britain?
As it turns out – a lot. The educational system, nay, the media industry and even the greater social setup do much to aid the awkward transition from schoolroom to workplace. While it’s still not perfect, and the industry here makes it much easier for new entrants to penetrate and flourish in the industry without having magical networking powers. The following are just a few examples of how the British system not only helped me get jobs to stay afloat during my studies – it also granted me amazing opportunities which will help my career in the long run.
1. University Careers Service
A Tier 4 UK Visa (which is what we international students generally receive) allows you to work 20 hours a week during term time, and 40 hours a week off term. You’ll likely find those first 20 hours of work thanks to one of the many employment initiatives of your own university’s careers service.
In the Philippines, job fairs may be held by corporate entities or well-meaning student organizations at the end of the academic year, but in Britain, there is a dedicated department working all year long to help students join the labor force. This department will regularly hold careers fairs both for part-time work during holidays, and for internships or even full-time employment after graduation. It will also assist you in choosing the field suited to your interests, writing your CV and preparing for an interview.
A Tier 4 UK Visa (which is what we international students generally receive) allows you to work 20 hours a week during term time, and 40 hours a week off term.
The advantage in subscribing to your uni’s careers service first is that the jobs recommended have been specially curated to ensure you don’t get abused by your employer whether in wages or working hours. The first jobs I held were either directly under the university – a space surveyor and campaign caller – or found through one of the abovementioned careers fairs. I have that to thank for my very fulfilling role teaching photography to young people under NCS’s The Challenge.
2. Apprenticeships, Mentoring Schemes and free Extracurricular Training
Even outside the university, there is an insane amount of support to help you land a job. In my field alone, top networks such as the BBC and Channel 4 launch apprenticeship programmes several times a year. I myself am about to undertake an exciting professional placement with the BBC starting September.
Countless organizations like the Production Guild holds free Film Production Workshops for 18-24 year olds looking to kickstart a career in media. Festivals such as Edinburgh International TV Festival and Sheffield Docfest have schemes for young people (The Network and Future Producers, respectively) to receive bespoke training and mentorship from the best in the industry.
These are all free. The best part is, you don’t need a college degree or (in most cases) previous experience to avail of these opportunities.
The logic behind this is that experience trumps academic credentials. In a Channel 4 Open Door event that I attended, the network head even said that going to university may be unnecessary, and that he preferred to permanently hire someone who’s done an apprenticeship over someone who just graduated from a media course in uni.
3. Grants to support Student Work, Pitching Sessions
Even as a student, there are grants and bursaries you could get to support your projects. One World Media is a wonderful foundation that gives a grant to create journalistic pieces about the developing world. While the grant is primarily designed to give early to mid-career professional journalists the financial boost to cover their dream stories, the fund is also open to students doing a relevant dissertation film. I was selected for the 2016 batch of grantees for this purpose.
Couple that with the fact that your uni would usually give you free software such as Microsoft Office 365 and Sophos Antivirus and you’re ready to get cracking.
It doesn’t just end at giving you the money. Many of these organizations also provide mentorship and networking opportunities with the industry players who can turn your student project into an actual commissioned documentary for a major media outfit. Through Sheffield DocFest, the UK’s biggest documentary festival, I have been given the opportunity to pitch my planned documentary to TV execs and had face time with commissioning editors from BBC, Al Jazeera and National Geographic to understand what they’re looking for.