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Case Study: Hannah

Personal details
Degree:Zoology Profile picture
School(s): School of Biology
Year of Graduation:Jun-2008
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: Big Earth
Job title: PA to the Directors
Occupational Sector: Media / Television
What has been your route to getting your current position?

In the month in between finishing my exams and graduating I signed up to recruitment agencies in London that specialised in media recruitment as well as joining websites such as Production Base and Secs in the City where you can showcase your CV and people searching to fill vacancies can find you.

What does your job involve ?

My main role is working as a personal assistant to the team of Directors at the company which can include personal tasks as well as looking after business correspondence. However, the production company itself is very small and so I often help with the development of new ideas and researching facts for productions which means that I also get a production team credit on our TV shows which unusual for most TV PAs. I am also involved with the commercial development of our new website which has recently launched. This means that I help to find sponsorship as well as liaising with existing partners and sponsors to make sure that all parties are making the most of the relationship. I work for a very small production company and therefore we tend to have an ‘all hands on deck’ sort of approach and so my job varies hugely day to day which I really enjoy.

What are the best bits of your job ?

The best bit is seeing the final product when it airs on TV with your name credited. It’s a very proud moment when you see the product of months of hard work finally there for everyone to see. The best bit about my day to day job is talking to so many people. Communication is a key part of my role, I am often the messenger between the Directors and the other staff and I am also a main point of contact for external people trying to get in touch. As someone just starting out in the industry, being a PA can be a really useful position as you need to know as many people as your boss knows!

Why were you successful?
Whilst at University I was involved with STAR FM which was relevant for a career in media and I was also on the committee for several other University clubs. I don’t think it really matters what the club is, but I do think it is important to get involved in extracurricular activities because you can use these activities as examples of how you work when you are being interviewed.

I also started looking for jobs as soon as I had completed my exams. As graduates we can sometimes feel that we are well qualified and it will be easy to get a job but it can still take months to find the right thing. Out of my friendship group those who started looking early on in June were all employed in really good jobs by September if not earlier. Those who didn’t start looking until after the summer found the market hugely saturated with new graduates and so were taking less challenging jobs or had to wait many more months to find anything. Going to University in Scotland and finishing earlier than the English Universities is a real advantage!

What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
I often have to make presentations to the rest of the team and so the presentations I did in tutorials in my 3rd and 4th years really helped to prepare me for this. Although a large portion of my work is completed as an individual there are undoubtedly times when working as part of a team is essential, particularly in crisis moments and so being able to work with others on projects whilst at University is an important part of learning how to work alongside colleagues.

Also, the research students are used to doing for essays and their dissertation is much the same as researching facts for a programme. You need to use a reliable source and you must have supporting evidence to prove that you are providing real facts otherwise the show will not get commissioned or broadcast. Finally, I think that the logical and methodical processes you are taught in your approach to your work as a science student can be of huge benefit in a creative industry and can make you a really valuable member of the team. In boardroom meetings you sometimes need a practical voice of reason to make a creative idea actually into something that works.

What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
TV is really competitive and often to begin with, it can involve long hours and low pay. If you can stick it out and prove your commitment to working in this field the rewards later on are well worth it. Working for a small independent company is certainly a good way for you to progress more quickly as it is easier for you to get noticed and you are often required to take on extra responsibilities. Large companies unless you are on a specific graduate training programme tend to promote much more slowly. This is not necessarily because you have not had the chance to prove yourself but more often because if you do your job well and everything runs smoothly for an example in a reception area, some companies are reluctant to make changes because everything works so well.

Socially media tends to be a really fun environment. I often attend events with work colleagues and the environment is much more relaxed with people wearing jeans to work rather than suits.