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Your career toolkit

Competition for roles in the Screen Industries is high, so how can you stand out? With a career toolkit, which we'll explore in this article.
A man sitting down works on his laptop
© University of York; Jade Gordon

You’ll need experience, contacts and persistence to establish a career working behind the scenes in TV, film and video, as well as talent and technical skills. We’ve explored skills and job roles but how do you actually get a job? As many roles within the screen industries are freelance, we are constantly selling ourselves, our experience and our expertise in order to secure work.

As freelancers, we’re often moving from contract to contract and looking for our next job. As well as coming across jobs to apply for, you’ll have to work hard to source your own opportunities. It’s a demanding industry where contracts can be short, hours can be long and duties can be challenging. Competition is high and your career is in your hands. Networking with industry contacts is essential and it’s important to use your toolkit to stand out! Your toolkit should include your CV, your cover note and, if relevant, a showreel, portfolio or website. You may wish to set up a LinkedIn profile too.

Your CV

An industry-tailored CV is extremely important. Ask yourself if your CV is showcasing your relevant experience and strengths. Even if you don’t yet have industry experience, do ensure your CV highlights your passion for the industry and your transferable skills.

There’s no need to mention university modules and your CV does not need to be fancy – keep it simple. You don’t need photographs, logos, colour or complicated design – it should be easy to read and entice employers with relevant keywords. There are so many people looking for the same role as you, so it’s important to make sure your CV stands out from the rest. Think about the past duties you’ve excelled in and what you have to offer a company. Aim to come across as confident.

The following details should be included on your CV:

  • Personal details: name, job title
  • Email, number, location: if you’re a driver mention this here
  • Profile: a few lines about you and your passion for the industry
  • Skills: these can be bullet-pointed and include your transferable skills
  • Industry Experience: add this section once you have industry experience
  • Additional Employment: this can be removed after a few months of working in the industry
  • Interests and Achievements: optional
  • Education
  • References: no need to add personal details here, you can say ‘references available on request’
  • GDPR statement: for example, ‘This CV may be kept on file and distributed for employment purposes’

Opinions on CVs vary greatly and many feel a new entrant’s CV should be one page. I believe a CV can go on to two pages as long as all content is relevant. If you feel your CV is too long, do think about condensing text and simplifying detail. Do update your CV regularly and remove what’s no longer relevant.

You can save your CV as a PDF ready to send to employers and label it: “Full Name – Job Title – Date.pdf”

Top tip: ask a trusted friend to check your CV before you submit.

Cover note

If you’re approaching companies directly, it’s not necessary to have a detailed cover letter attached to your email. The creative industries are more casual than other sectors, so a cover note in the body of an email is quite acceptable. Your cover note does not need to be long. It should be a few lines, highlighting why you are emailing, the type of role you are looking for, why you’d be suitable and when you are available for work.

Do personalise your cover note and reference the company and their projects or productions if relevant. Otherwise, it can look like a blanket email.

If you love watching one of their shows, tell them! They’ll be pleased! Be polite and professional. It’s ok to ask them if they’ve got time for a quick call so you can introduce yourself or whether they’d like to meet for a coffee. It’s a numbers game – the more people you reach out to, the more likely you are to schedule some meetings and interviews!

Do make sure you are contacting the right people though, as staff can get annoyed and frustrated when contacted out of the blue. If you aren’t sure who to contact, do get in touch with the company and ask who to contact regarding job opportunities. This is a great way to line up some work experience too!

When emailing, do remember to attach your CV and make sure your own email address is professional. Although a cover note is helpful, remember all useful information should be in your CV.

Showreel, portfolio or website

If you are technical, it’s a great idea to have a showreel and/or website to showcase your skills and impress employers. Your efforts in putting a showreel together will be well received by companies viewing your work, who will consider you proactive and creative.

A showreel can include personal or professional projects, or university projects – snippets of your work to highlight your key skills. If you’re artistic, you may wish to have a portfolio showcasing your work instead. If you are a writer, you may wish to showcase your writing on a website, with links to past projects.

Don’t feel you need a showreel, portfolio or website if this isn’t relevant! However, if it enhances your assets then go for it!

Over to you

  • What do you already have in your career toolkit?
  • Do you know where to look for work?
  • Would you feel confident in approaching employers?

Post your comments below and support your fellow learners in their career journey.

© University of York; Jade Gordon
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