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Work experience advice

Gary Lineker

Ian Stringer interviewing Gary Lineker in 2008.

I’m a lucky man, I am paid to do a job which I adore. Some people say I have the greatest job in the world. There’s a few out there which may trump mine but I have to say, I count my blessings.

I was offered some advice in 2002 when I was trying to break into the industry as a 21 year old. That advice stood me in good stead over the years and allowed me to enjoy the opportunities which have come my way now.

Here’s some advice from me, I hope it is of use to anybody trying to break into the broadcast industry.

Thank you to those who bent over backwards for me:-

Mark Chapman

Carol Abercrombie

Simon Oxley

Geoff Doyle

Rob Nothaman

Jason Bourne

Kate Squire

Let’s get the BBC work experience one sorted first shall we. I’m contacted every week by people wanting to come to the BBC for work experience – just as I contacted Carol in 2002 at BBC Three Counties Radio – well here is the BBC process you will need to follow.

Firstly you will HAVE to register here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/careers/work-experience – the BBC’s work experience page. It will talk you through the rules and regulations which govern the BBC in taking in, often young, talent for a period of time. It isn’t a case of individuals being able to get you in for a few days on a whim.

When you’re first starting out it’s easy to think you can throw your scuba kit on a jump straight in, oh no, there’s a PADI course to complete first and rightly so.

The BBC is built on certain fundamentals (as well as our values which I’d suggest you research, they’re vitally important to the very fibre of the organisation and understanding them will assist you) you will need to adhere to the rules in place, such as age etc and then your application will be processed.

Following that you may want to make a friend in the newsroom or industry you want to get into. I’d  suggest you remember the following:-

  1. Social media won’t always work although it’s worth a try. Reporters do put their phones down sometimes and have many notifications to catch up on, they’re not being rude if you’re ignored.
  2. Speak to a friend of a friend. If you want to get hold of me then I’m quite easy but if you want to get hold of a big hitter then find one of their friends and seek advice. A very helpful man in my career, Jon Holmes, once told me of an old reporter test. You have three phone calls to get the telephone number of somebody, could be anybody, an athlete, celebrity etc. Three phone calls. You don’t need to know the person directly or even indirectly but do you know somebody three connections away who could get you a number? We sometimes play this on the sport desk. The famous ones are the easy ones, it’s the obscure ones which are tough. Matt Goss from Bros for example………..*thinking how would I get his number, I have an idea*
  3. Write to or email the boss (a hand written letter often goes down well) but never start a letter or email ‘to whom it may concern’ it’s likely to find it’s way straight into the deleted folder I’m afraid. Think about it, you want to be a reporter/journalist, if you can’t use the internet, social media or contacts to discover the name of the person you want to speak to then what does that say about your skills? Or work ethic to simply do 10 minutes of research? Find their name, maybe even find a little more and make it a personal e-mail, if they’ve tweeted a picture of a newborn baby, ask how the baby is getting on? Comment on a recent game they covered, it’ll tell them you’re smart and aware of the value of contacts.

When you’ve made your friend, be nice and not needy, not too many questions, ask for help but don’t throw question after question.

Next, get a website if you can. They can be pretty cheap and so useful to showcase your work. They can provide a blog section for you to maybe even interview your media friend (above) it shows them some love, allows you to get some useful information and gets you in front of them.

Remember that broadcasting these days is all about multi platform content and creating shareable content. Demonstrate you’re aware of this. That means having a social media strategy, does a story fit into TV, would a Facebook live work around it etc.

Be willing to start from the bottom and work your way up. That’s how many reporters got into the industry. I made the tea at BBC Three Counties Radio for a season before I was allowed to press any significant buttons. That allowed me to get to know the influential people in the building and start to progress from there.

Build relationships with other people within the wider industry. In my part of the industry it’s written journalists and TV reporters, not necessarily to share information but to create relationships, they can be beneficial to everybody, you’d be surprised.

When the work experience is over, that’s when the test begins. It’s a flooded industry with lots of people leaving Uni wanting to get jobs (you don’t have to have been to Uni for the record, I didn’t).

Relationships are key, network with people without being a kiss ass. Judge their character, have fun with them whilst working hard, build their trust and make sure you’re valuable to the team, when word gets back to the boss that you’ve done well then things can happen quickly.

Remember progress doesn’t happen overnight, it’ll be a long road to establish yourself but that’s part of the test. I vividly remember sitting in my terraced house in Luton after I’d had knee surgery and any athletic career I wanted was clearly dead. I wondered how long it would take me to be in a position to report on a game which Leicester were involved in – thinking I’d be reporting on the opposition given the area I was in and at that time I wasn’t even making the tea.

That was in 2001. To date I’ve reported on Leicester City in League 1, The Championship, The Premier League, The Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, League Cup Trophy, International Champions Cup, and Asia Trophy but I’m still learning so forgive me.

That thought was my starting point, what’s yours?


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