12 MARCH 2017

written by Mike



Work experience.

We all know the circle. You can’t get experience without work; you can’t get work without the experience. A modern day paradox. James Citrin lists a few strategies on how you can get around it.

You can also find hundreds of other helpful sites on that topic. And yes, stuff, like getting credentials or willing to start at the bottom, is useful. But I noticed that there aren’t many websites that talk about internship itself.

Finding an internship is one thing, but getting most out if it is something else. It’s time to get creative.

What is a work experience?

I see it more as I learning experience rather than work. So, for example, you want to work in a movie industry. You are doing some TV and Film College course with lectures in every aspect of the business. From writing to filming. After a while, you discovered that you liked the sound. And with a bit of luck, you scored a work experience.

I understand there are many different programs to choose from. But my focus here is going to be on a one week-long, unpaid studio runner position. In a sound post production department.

During this short time, you can see for yourself what the job is all about. And if it suits you.

So you want to be a mixer?

But are you comfortable with spending days in a dark room without windows?

Working on something that few people appreciate?

I know, I know. I am painting a bleak picture here. The point is, during your internship you can learn what you want to do. And yes I understand. Doing work for free is unfair. Big corporations are using loopholes in the law, it is unethical, it is wrong, etc. And?

What else would you be doing instead?

Use that time. Meet new people, talk to them, sell yourself.



Before I get to a patronising advice on how to behave in a workplace. I want to tell you a few stories. These are real anecdotes from my previous workplace. I want to show you how different people are, and what you could gain from work experience.

P. was a young man, around 18-year-old. Spent a week with us, helping out. Not many clients, not that much to do. He spent most of his time on the sofa in the corridor. Sleeping. Didn’t do much else. I don’t think I spoke to him besides a “You alright, man?”

M. was a girl in her teens. Enthusiastic and full of energy. Sat with us on some projects, asked questions. We could see she was interested and thrilled to be there. She wanted to make use of every minute she spent with us.

Another story is about two guys who did a week of work experience with us last year.

D. spent three days on the sofa. On his phone. He didn’t clean the kitchen when asked to; his attitude was poor. I asked him if he wanted to walk with me around the studios as there was a production going on that day.

“Nah…I’m alright. Thanks, man.” – he said to me.

“Ok, no problem. What did you say you were studying?” I asked.

“Media and Film, really into that, man.”

Yes, I could see the passion in his eyes.

T. was quite opposite. He cleaned and organised the kitchen after one day. He sorted taxis, drinks, and snacks for clients in the morning. He joked with us all day and walked around the studios during lunch hours.

“Good for them!” you may say, “But how is this going to help me?”

Think about it. All these people were given the same chance, same opportunities. But some of them used it and reaped the benefits later on. The other guys, well, I don’t remember them anyway. Life goes on.

Yes, it can be tough out there. And until I earned my reputation with hard work and dedication I worried too. I worried that there were hundreds of people just like me, hungry for my position. And most of them would do it for less money too.

How do you thrive in a competitive environment like that?

We will get to it at some point, but for now, let’s get back to the subject. If you worry at this moment, don’t. Well, a little bit of fear helps, but the point is to get what you want. I want to give you few tips on how you can get the most out of your work experience. I think these will help you not only to stand out but also to enjoy the internship.

We call it the ‘experience” for a reason.

Number one is:

Create your value, show what you are worth.

Sound cliché? Well, it is.

When I ask you to clean the kitchen, I want to see the cleanest kitchen on planet Earth. Time to make tea for clients?

You serve it with a smile, great attitude, and good manners. Arrive early; maybe there is something that you could do before people get in. You could empty a dishwasher of something. And don’t even think about being late.

People may not say anything to you, but they will notice it. See, a lot of people take these opportunities for granted. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is because they don’t get paid for it, perhaps because it doesn’t guarantee a job after. You need to understand that relationships you develop are something that counts. Networking and acquiring contacts are awesome, but how you connect with people makes all the difference.

I sat in a pub with a sound supervisor for a big video game companyonce, and he told me. “Look, when I’m seeking to hire someone I look for drive, passion and value. I ask you for a hamburger, and you bring me a three-course dinner. The skills I can teach, attitude is yours.”

“Look, I’m going to spend at least eight hours a day working with you. Why would I hire someone that I don’t like?”

Ok, so being likeable works. Unfortunately, you only have a week.

The question is, can you develop a meaningful relationship within a week?

I guess you could, but if you are like me, then it can be a hard job. I’m not shy, but it takes me a couple of weeks to come out of the shell. I know myself, so I don’t try to fake it. But some strategies can help you if you are a bit introverted.


Don’t be shy, ask questions!

I know it’s tough. People around you are experienced and smart. Some of them had won biggest awards in the industry.

How can you dare to speak to them at all?

Believe me; I’ve been there too. To tell you the truth, most of them are the kindest, most helpful people you will ever meet. Yes, you will meet the occasional jerk, but who cares? Ignore him.

Ask questions.

Be interested, talk to people.

Have an interest in what we do. If you look like you don’t care, we will not care about you too. And talk to people. Ask how was their morning, how was their work commute.

“Any big projects coming up?”

Interact, remember the names, introduce yourself. And try not to talk about yourself too much.

Be easy-going, easy to talk to.

I remember this guy who was with us for a few day. Nice guy but needy, to the point of awkwardness. He kept saying how much he wants a job in the industry, how awesome everything is. Enthusiasm is great, I agree. But boundaries are pretty good too. I was on my tea break when he came over and asked:

“So, tell me. Are you living your dream?”

“Uhm…I guess…it is a pretty good tea.”

I think it was a green tea with a hint of mint.

Lunch time!

Lunch break is significant. Lunch time is an hour when we’re friends. It’s a time when people don’t want to talk about work. It’s a time when you can get to know them. So don’t be a stranger, don’t sit in a corner by yourself. I know it can be intimidating. All these people know each other, they got inside jokes and stories.

Don’t worry about it.

Sit with them. Laugh when they laugh. Nod when they talk. And speak up when you feel like you can add something interesting to the conversation. I think a good advice is to sit with full-time employees rather than other interns. I mean, yes it may be easier to get to know other newcomers. You are in the same boat; it is simpler to connect.

But the truth is, this kind of strategy will not get you far. Yes, be friends with other trainees, but make your face memorable to people with influence too.

Few more quick points to add would be:

Say magical words “thank you” each time someone helps you out or teaches you something. Remember, they are taking their time to do that.

Maybe switch off your phone? Or put it on silence. And try not to use it. Talk to people, walk around, focus on your tasks. Your phone is not going anywhere, and fewer distractions are better for you.

Don’t gossip about other people.

Gossiping is the easiest way to “break ice”, but don’t do it. You wouldn’t want someone else to do that to you too. Studies show that when you say something negative about other people, your listeners will associate these negative traits with you.

It’s called Spontaneous Trait Transference

If you want to say something about someone, let it be a positive thing.

Work hard. Come in early, leave late, absorb everything and give your maximum effort.

It is that simple.

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