18 FEBRUARY 2017

written by Mike




Work experience. Everyone talks about it, but no one saw one. How can you find no experience jobs? I want to mention modern paradox – work experience loop. Can’t work without experience, can’t get experience without work.

All jokes aside, yes it is still a valid subject. There is training available for graphic designers, photographers, audio editors. You just need to know how and where to look for it. I’m going to focus on the film industry as I have the most experience in that matter. But I did other work too, so you must remember that this advice can apply to any industry or profession you are in.

I know that people will say things like “starting out is hard, no one knows me…”

Yes, finding a nice, comfortable, nine-to-five position will be difficult. But with the power of the internet, there are other (better?) ways to, not find, but create your job. Anyway, we are getting off-topic here.

First of all, is work experience worth it and should you look for one?

Well, yes and no.

It depends on what you understand by experience. But I also want you to stop thinking about it one dimension.Getting an unpaid week in a legendary recording studio? Yes, that’s cool.

But it is also quite hard as there aren’t that many big recording studios around, and I doubt that they have a quick turnaround. By all means, try. Someone has to work there, right? In my opinion, it will be easier to try a smaller, independent studio.

Listen, there are many ways to get the ‘experience’. And thanks to the internet your opportunities are unlimited. You can work on projects from all around the world. And you don’t even need to leave your bedroom. Of course, there are some obstacles.

For example, film industry, games, and music are tight places to enter. It seems that everyone knows each other, so reputation is everything. And word travels fast, really fast. I had colleagues that liked to gossip and bad-mouth their managers. Don’t ever do that. It’s hard to get a gig when people know that you have a big mouth.

So yeah, it’s tough to get a foot in the door. But I got in and so can you.I want to give you a few general tips on what can you do starting right now. Also, I’m going to share with you a few stories. Stories of my friends and how they got their way. And believe me. Everybody’s journey is different.

Student and unpaid projects 

Yes, I know. Working for free sucks. But think of it as an investment in yourself. Take on different projects. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll learn a lot, and you will meet new people. You know that Danny Elfman, and Tim Burton started their relationship early? And look at them now. Spielberg and Hanks know each other for a few years now. These kinds of collaborations kick off early. Relationships take years to develop so don’t think it’s working with the best or nothing. Next “best” may be still going to school.

I’ve done my share of free work. Some of it was good, some not so much. Most of it didn’t lead to anything, but I still value the time. I learned more that I would in a class. It helped me to try different things. And I developed relationships. Easy example, a friend who I helped on some little project had a six weeks gig at a movie studio. When he moved to something different, he recommended me. From there I’ve agreed to do some free training. I worked there as a freelancer and then became a full-time employee for a couple of years. Without the small project we did together, my friend wouldn’t know if I was any good. And would recommend someone else.

You can’t plan for everything.

I have friends who still take on free work. They are professionals in their field. They will come in on weekends when mixing theaters are empty. And they work on some low-budget projects. Some of it pays, some doesn’t. They still love it.

Festivals and unpaid studio work

I would say do it whenever you can. This one is a bit harder as you will need to know some people on the ‘inside.’ Your other projects can lead to these relationships. And if you don’t have that option then your determination will be your other chance. Look up email addresses, Facebook contacts or LinkedIn profiles of people in charge or people working in a venue of your interest. And contact them.

Perseverance is the key. Pester them. Wear them down. There are plenty of opportunities. Research areas near you. I know that everyone wants to work on the biggest festivals. But I’m sure there are lots of small events that you can do.

My unpaid work experience was on world music festival. All organised by charity.I worked on a smaller stage as a supervisor, greeting bands and setting them up These few days were tough. We slept on stage. It was cold and wet. I run the event from early morning to late evening. What did I gain? Experience in live music, decision making, teamwork, microphone techniques, authority and the list goes on and on.

What about studio internships? These are a bit harder to get. Why? Well, there are a lot of people who want it. And because everyone is at the same level it’s a matter of luck and knowing somebody. By all means, do apply. But this kind of offer should be another thing that you do, not the only one. 


What do you have to lose? Nothing. What can you gain? You don’t know. And that is why it’s exciting.There was a guy who contacted everyone in our department.

I think he got the info from LinkedIn or Facebook. He kept asking for training for months. We had to get him in. Just to stop the bloody emails. In the end, it didn’t work as he lacked technical skills. But he did get a week of training and opportunity for freelance work. At least now he knows the next step.

When my brother was seventeen, he was looking for work. At one restaurant, the manager said to him that he was going to call him the next day. I remember I was working behind the bar on that day when my brother showed up all sad and bitter.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“They didn’t call me. They meant to call me today. I’ll never find a job. Everything sucks!”

“Ok, it’s six pm now. Get up and see him now. The place is two minutes from here.” I made him do it.

What happened? He caught the manager as the guy was leaving the place. Turned out he forgot to contact my brother. The manager asked him to do a trial shift and hired him after that. Moral of the story? You guessed right, it’s perseverance.

Now you may say, “Oh well, good for him, but I’m still waiting for tips how I am going to get what I want.”

You must understand that everyone has a different story to tell.

Few other tips

My friend who was a sound designer at a big game design studio got one year long paid internship through university. He completed the contract and returned to finish his studies. After the graduation, the studio hired him back. A few years passed since then; he finished as a leader of people who were pioneering the art of sound on next-gen consoles. Why did they want him back? He is a good teammate; he is a hard worker and a likeable person.

It’s that simple.

My friend tweeted a manager from another department asking about vacancies. The tweet reached my boss who offered him a training opportunity. He got a full-time position after a couple of months. At the moment, he is a team leader, working with sound editors on big blockbusters. How did he get there? He is a smart, friendly person. And he took upon himself to deliver a challenging project when no one asked him to take this kind of responsibility. It’s important to recognise these moments.

Another one of my colleagues got a week long work experience through her father. He knew someone at the office. After her gig, she got a call from the boss asking if she wanted to do some freelance work. After a couple of weeks, she got a full-time contract. How did that happen? Relationships – her father knew the right people. Luck? Yes, she was at the right place at the right time. People just left the department, so there was an open position. Hard work? You bet. She learned fast and always delivered her best. When I started, she was a supervisor, only after about five months being there.

My story is entirely different too. I spent a couple of weeks at the studio shadowing my friend. I wasn’t expecting a job out of it, just some CV experience. For me, it was a perfect opportunity at that time. After a couple of weeks, I got asked to help out on one of the projects. I have also volunteered to train for free during their downtime. After six months of both free training and paid freelance, I was offered a full-time position with the company. How did I get there? Relationships and luck? Yes, it was my friend who recommended me. But I made my success. After a week of shadowing him, I realised this could be bigger. I resigned from my bartending job, and I quit doing stage setup at local clubs. Hard work and the risk paid off in the end.

It is important to recognise opportunities. You never know who can help you and how the events of the present will affect your future. Work experience is a great thing. Don’t think about it in black and white terms. You may not get a job afterwards. But you may learn your real passion, your likes, and dislikes, your character.

Remember, it’s not only about your goals, it’s the journey that matters.

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