Don’t be your own worst enemy

I often hear when speaking to people trying to break into the media, “I can’t” I hope that’s what they are saying otherwise I’d be mightily offended. Seriously though people think of a million excuses why they can’t or shouldn’t do something. It’s like a part of your brain wants to rationalise you out of doing something different. Something tells you, well if I do that then I might fail/ be made fun off/ get myself into debt/offend people, so I won’t and I’ll stick in my comfort zone.

I have been chatting at various events this week and one of the common things I hear is “what will I do when?” People have asked me “if I get a job for six months what happens after that?” I know I’m good but I’m not a blooming fortune teller I often tell them. Focus on the now, focus on what you can change now and the future will sort itself out. Too often when you are so focused on the coulda shoulda wouldas of the future you lose track of what you want now and why you want to work in the media. This often reflects in the interview process and people come across as if they are so focused on future roles that they don’t want to do the job they are being interviewed for. Whether that’s true or not that lack of focus often reads that way to the interviewer.

If you want to work or achieve something then first of all believe that you can. Then start planning how you are going to get there. Persevere with it. Take rejection and hurdles as lessons to learn and adapt. Focus on the stages and be grateful for all you’ve done and how far you’ve come. When you start panicking, you start to question yourself and then you focus on the things that can go wrong. Take a deep breath and make a note of what you want to do and what you’ve done so far. Sometimes by journaling your experiences you can truly appreciate how far you’ve come.

Don’t let yourself be your own worst enemy. When those inner voices tell you that you can’t, tell them to shut up and say yes I can!


Different is good…

I saw this picture and loved it, wanted to share and remind people that no matter how difficult it might seem embrace your individuality, your uniqueness and your difference.. We are all individuals let’s celebrate difference and be happy with who we are!

Oh and I love Taylor Swift!


Attitude of gratitude

The day can be so consumed with tasks and doing personal admin, running around getting stuff done. That can become the norm, we can worry about “oh i need to pay that bill” “oh I need to get milk” and of course we need to that stuff but how often do we take time out to enjoy life. I don’t mean knocking back pints I mean just being appreciative and grateful. Having an attitude of gratitude (blimey I’m a poet) can just make life easier, can make you happier and help with the mundane and daunting tasks!

When we truly look we can find joy everywhere. So go for a run, take a nice walk, call up an old friend, read a good book and make time for the things that make you happy.

When things get tough, make a list of all the stuff you are grateful of, even if it’s just had a great coffee today. It can really help to get you back to you. We are trained in society and through the media to look at the negative, to worry but actually we don’t have to. I’m not being flippant and saying life is easy and good all the time but the simple act of knowing what you are grateful for can truly help on your journey.


How to say No, without ruining your career

I remember being the last one in the office, colleagues had to dash off but before they did they’d say “do you mind just doing this I need to go” I was happy to help but when this became routine I felt a bit taken advantage of. My boss would say “oh you are just great at getting things done”. I loved being needed but my work load was spiralling out of control and people viewed as strategic rather than doers were being promoted above me. I came to the conclusion that I needed to learn to say No.

It’s easy at this stage to be all out agressive and be like “hell no” but you need to be mindful and take responsibility. I’d allowed myself to be taken advantage of, I’d agreed to all the extra work. I wanted to people please, to impress, to feel valued at work. When you’ve been that person it’s then difficult to turn around and say “hey I’m not doing that anymore”. You’ve already set up that expectation.

So how do you turn it around and set up new expectations, manage your work load and say no?

Firstly you need to be honest with yourself, take a step back and look at your work load. Do you need to be doing all that? Are there things you do because you like to do them rather than being part of your job?

Make a list and think what’s time sensitive, what’s urgent? Also look at how much time you spend emailing friends, chatting to your mum or watching cats doing the funniest things on YouTube. You can’t really say no if people have seen you all day doing non work tasks and generally faffing about. It doesn’t make you look very credible.

Refer up and be honest, tell your manager what you have to do, how long it takes and ask them “what do you think is a priority?” If someone very senior or another colleague is giving you work then tell your manager. Come armed with your own suggestions for priorities but check with them and ask for their opinion.

Don’t feel like you have to do everything right now. So often we feel like we have to drop everything and pick up a task because someone has just asked us to do something. Why can’t we say I have this to do but can look at that at 3pm. The odds are they’ll say that’s fine or they’ll ask someone else to do it. I think giving time frames back and explaining your work and asking them the real urgency of what they want you to do can be very helpful.

Learn to team work better, help out your colleagues but also ask them for help too. That can ease the burden particularly on busy days. Don’t throw your colleagues under the bus though, nobody likes someone who goes “Anna isn’t busy she can do it!”
Without Anna’s permission that can cause conflict, it may be true she isn’t busy but that is for your manager to determine.

Keep your boss regularly informed off what you are doing so it doesn’t come as a shock that you are over worked. Ask for their advice in terms of planning as well as coming up with your own suggestions.

Choose your battles carefully , things might not be in your job description but think some of these new tasks may help your career or get you to network with influential people. They might not and you might be being asked to make tea but even then think well who am I making tea for, this is my chance for them to notice me.

Be assertive and positive when saying no at work. Rationalise why you can’t do something or set time frames for when you can. Come up with solutions and don’t wallow in a martyr mentality. Yeah you’ll feel needed but people need to say you say no otherwise they won’t know there is a problem!


Know your truth

We can focus our current truth on things that have happened in the past and particularly things that people have said to us. We’ve all said “oh I’m not very good at that” or “I was really bad at sports/maths/science/take your pick at school. If we have a negative experience of doing something then we can make assumptions that we are never going to be good at it. But is that true? Sometimes you need to remember who you are now, what you’ve achieved rather than who you were then. The same applies to dating, “I’m always attracted to bad guys” “none of my relationships last”. We can create a self fulfilling prophecy based on negative experiences from the past. This can cloud our judgement and make our truth become skewed.

I was not great at sports at school, often the last to be picked in team sports. As an adult though I captained a work soccer team, now I’m never going to be Beckham but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how good I was, it mattered that I enjoyed it and I was improving. I took up running 7 years ago and when I started I could barely run a mile, but through practice and routine I’ve now ran two marathons and running is just part of my routine it’s become the norm.

People often surprise themselves when later in life they face the thing that they always thought they were rubbish at. It’s good to mix things up and not be defined by your truth from the past. I meet lots of talented people who say they can’t work in tv, or they can’t do this and that. A lot of that stems from being told that and taking that as their own truth. We remember so much more frequently the negative things people have said to you. Why do we dwell on them rather than on praise!

Make a list of things that you think you’re not good at and want to be. There’s no point focusing on things you’re not interested in, but there’s always something people secretly want to do. Be it singing, dancing, or learning a language. Ask yourself do I know that to be true that I’m not good at this? If I did do this then how would I feel? What am I worries about? Most people will be most concerned about failing or worrying what people will think, so ask yourself, do you care? What’s the worst that can happen?

Start to make notes of compliments and praise. Now don’t go crazy and totally believe the hype and become a narcissistic diva but sometimes when feeling a bit low it’s good to look at these and remind yourself “hell yeah I’m pretty great!”

Happiness is now

Sometimes it can be exhausting trying to please everyone. You play a part that’s kinda like you but not really, you adapt who you are in order to validate and seek approval. Well you know what you don’t need to. Those that love you for you and are meant to be with you will be and those that aren’t will slip away. We so often find fault in ourselves and make excuses for others bad behaviour towards us. Or we put restrictions and limitations on ourselves which delay our happiness. A friend of mine was on a train and a group of early 20 something girls were talking near him. They were talking about all the places that they wanted to visit in the world. After each place they’d say “oh I’m going to wait until I’m in a relationship to go there”. We put benchmarks on our happiness and limitations often relating to I’ll be happy when… Well what happens is when people get that then they defer the boundaries and say I’ll be happy when again. Our happiness is not dependent on a husband, new house, flash car, fancy pair of shoes. Yep they can make life pleasurable and easier but why can’t we be happy now. Just now right in the moment and appreciate what we have! Sometimes we are scared to be happy, to truly appreciate ourselves. It doesn’t feel very British, we’d rather moan or be self deprecating than to simply say you know what I am doing really good! Social media makes us feel that everyone else has more, is thinner/ more attractive and is generally having a great time, but that’s just the smoke screen that people want you to see.

So appreciate all that is good about you today. Laugh and be silly. Ring that good friend, go for coffee and chat and have fun! It’s a lovely sunny day!

Covering letters and emails

Your cv looks great, you’ve got your lists of contacts to send it to, you’ve seen that fantastic job on LinkedIn that requires a covering letter and cv. Then you think, blooming heck what am I going to say?

So often people rush the covering letter or email so it reads as “hi here’s my cv , I’m available for work ta!” Now I know that you wouldn’t write those exact words but the impression left is the same. THINK about what you are going to write it’s important. I know that you need to send your cv off to many contacts but tailor each email and cv to the individual you are sending it off too.

DON’T CUT AND PASTE we can tell when you’ve done this. A friend at channel four received an amazing cover letter which was ruined at the end by the line “I’m really keen to work at the BBC”. Now that’s just sloppy, so proof read and tailor accordingly. Don’t scatter gun your cv and cc an email to a whole group of contacts as it looks lazy and like you are rushing and quite frankly a bit desperate. I know it takes time to do individual emails and letters but it is worth it.

The best covering letters and emails adopt the following techniques;

Talk about the company, their output, the show “I’m a huge fan of ITV, and in particular Coronation Street….” Etc etc

Talk about how your skills and experience tie in directly to the job. If there is no job advertised then talk about how your skills fit directly into the output of that company/department. “I’m an experienced researcher used to working on fast turnover studio shows, therefore my skills closely align with the one show….”

Ask for a meeting, advice, if there is no job to apply for. “I’m developing a number of ideas about xxx that would really fit in with in with the programming at xxxx, I’d really like to buy you a coffee to get your opinion

Flatter people with your knowledge of the output, in particularly if contacting producers or execs, the knowledge about programmes they have made. Don’t be creepy or stalkerish though, “oh I googled you and I saw you were at the Prince concert last week”. No that won’t go down well.

Be yourself most importantly, don’t speak in fancy business speak, focus on your achievements, don’t be too casual or flirty, definitely no lols or text talk. Also don’t be aggressive in your emails this is not the X factor auditions, we don’t need to hear a sob story. “I’m finding it so hard to break into TV” now that may be true but have some dignity, be positive and as I like to say “know yourself!” .

If you don’t hear from people and you want to get back in touch then don’t adopt the stalker ex girlfriend routine, “I emailed you two weeks ago and you still haven’t got back to me, why haven’t you got back to me”. People are busy and maybe they should have got back to you, but by whinging and pestering it just pisses them off. So if you want to get back in touch think of a positive reason to do so, talk about their show that was on last night, talk about how you’ve updated your skills after working on a programme or completing a course. If you are emailing them again and again make sure there is something new in there other than ” hi I’m still looking for work” .

Be positive when you write your letters and emails as it sounds silly but the negativity creeps through in the writing. If you are feeling rejected and a bit low, then write down all your achievements and be proud of them. Sometimes you have to just fake it until you make it!

Good luck and start getting those covering letters and cvs out!


Confidence tips for interviews

Interviewing is a scary business, we can build ourselves up into a frenzy of emotions and panic. It’s as if our whole future and life is dependent on a 45 minute chat. Sometimes it really really feels that way. So what can we do to allay our fears, calm our nerves and help us get through it?

Preparation is key when dealing with interview nerves. Knowing about the company, about the job and even about the interviewers can instil a confidence in you. Often we panic when faced with the unknown so the more that we do know then that can make things easier. Prepare as well about yourself and what you’ve achieved. For me I find it useful to list what I am proud of, my work achievements and to also look at the job that I am going for and see how they connect. If you can effortlessly weave them into a conversation then you are winning.

Also prepare your journey, know where you are supposed to be and leave yourself more than enough time to get there. Pre iPhones I went for an interview and walked 2 miles in the wrong direction, built myself up into a panic and was 45 minutes late, not good and understandably I didn’t get the job.

Make sure you have everything before you go, address, phone, wallet, tube pass. One candidate last year for me was 45 minutes late and their excuse was “I forgot my tube pass” when I asked why she didn’t just buy a ticket, she replied “I forgot my purse too”. These things happen but make sure they don’t happen when you are heading to an interview.

If it’s easier for you to refer to notes in an interview take a small pad with jotted headlines on it for you to refer to. Ask the interviewer if they are ok with this when you are introduced to them.

Know how you respond to nerves. I talk incessantly and laugh nervously (not always a good look), but by knowing how you react you can try and change accordingly.

Ask for water if you feel that your mouth is getting dried up, that’s perfectly acceptable. Don’t feel like it’s a race, that 5 second pause might feel like an hour to you but really to the interviewers it feels like no time at all. So many people just feel the pressure to talk that they just ramble and babble to feel in silence, you don’t need to do this.

If you don’t understand the question then ask, it’s fine to say “do you mean this?” Now if they have said the question ten times and you are still struggling then maybe there is an issue there.

Always remember this is a conversation for both of you. It’s about finding out whether both parties (and yes that includes you) are suitable to work together. Try and banish thoughts of exams and tests and failure out of your head and imagine this is a professional chat between colleagues. So often people are amazingly confident and professional in their day to day jobs but panic in an interview, try to see the two as not being so different and hopefully that will help.

Smile and be open and friendly , the simple act of a smile can change your posture and naturally calm you down.

You might get the old good cop/ bad cop routine in an interview, go with this and try not to take it personally. No one is screaming out I hate you, what they are doing is trying to see how you react to pressure. Something you’ve done well a million times in your career so go with it.. Don’t be defensive, take your time, clarify and be professional.

I find practice makes perfect with interviews, so get yourself to many, practice with friends and colleagues, and you know what it becomes routine and you find that the thing you were most panicked about actually doesn’t seem so bad after all. Good luck!


Dealing with rejection

Dealing with rejection

If you want to work in the media or you already do, then you’ll know or soon realise that rejection is part and parcel of having a media career. It’s not all doom and gloom though so step away from that bottle of Pinot Grigio and some haunting Celine Dion ballads and realise that rejection can be a good thing.

Here are my tips on dealing with rejection, how to avoid conflict, and how not to take it personally.

Realise everyone faces rejection

There are very few people that sail through their Tv careers getting exactly the jobs they want, when they want them. It’s a tough, competitive business and can be very dog eat dog at times. There is often as well more people going for less roles. If you know people in the industry, talk to them and they will tell you stories of persistence and hard work.

They don’t hate you…

it’s really hard not to take rejection as a slur on who you are as a person. This is really hard not to do, I totally understand that. You’ve applied for your dream job, and haven’t heard back, or you got so close with a final interview and you didn’t get that job. It’s tough it really is, but the worst thing you can do is go into a vicious cycle of “I’m not good enough”. Instead try to think, “I did my best and this time it’s not meant to be”. Also don’t beat yourself up with coulda woulda shouldas, “if only I’d said this, if only I’d mentioned that” Well you know what you didn’t so get over it. You can’t change what’s done, only learn from it.

Ask for feedback and really listen

If feedback is available or even if no one has mentioned it but you have a contact then chase feedback. This can allay your fears and help stop that vicious cycle of “I’m just shit” or “was it because if the spinach in my teeth” or “did that dress show to much cleavage.was that it?” You can make 101 different stories in your head about why you didn’t get that job but unless you ask someone you won’t know if any of them are true. Sometimes people when giving feedback want to be polite and not offend but probe them and ask questions, in a friendly manner. Be open to listening about yourself and be unafraid of criticism. So often when delivering feedback I am met with either a wall of defensiveness or a wall of arrogance, both of which are unappealing. It’s no good saying “well I thought you would understand what I meant by that” well you know what I didn’t, and maybe you should have been clearer. I’ve also experienced “I just don’t understand why I didn’t get the job and she did” As an interviewer no one likes their judgement questioned or someone arrogantly assuming they did better than everyone else, when quite frankly they don’t know that. You may feel angry and that you deserve the role but by questioning and bad mouthing the interviewers and other candidates you are damaging potential future opportunities with that company. I’ve seen it a million times people say “oh she was so nice and dignified about not getting the job and said thank you for the opportunity” now that person is going to be offered something along the line much more so than the person who’s bitched and moaned about the outrage of not getting the job.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

When you are starting out, get your cv to as many places as possible, don’t be snobby about where you work but rather think about how that job will build up your skills and develop you. Everyone wants to work on big flagship programmes that’s understandable and great. However that small production will have less applicants and probably more opportunities for you. For me when looking for jobs I like to make lists and goals, for example contact 5 people this week, send cv to 10, get 4 meetings. That works for me and keeps me motivated. Also then you always have something to hear back from, rather than putting all your efforts into one thing and then when you don’t get it, feeling crushed, despaired and have to sort all over again.

Don’t go cray cray on social media or to colleagues

You need to think sometimes about how you come across, both in good situations and also under pressure or when things don’t go your way. No one likes someone who throws their toys out of the pram and throws a tantrum. It makes you look immature and affects your professional reputation. Of course you might be angry, but save that for a rant in the pub with friends or a long chat to your parents/loved one. You have to sometimes accept that you didn’t get the job and move on.

Also if you think that bitching with your colleagues about how unfair it all is doesn’t get back to your boss or talent manager then you are being stupid. People remember this stuff.

Keep your rants off social media as you never know who can see that, not only the people that interviewed you but also future employers. One candidate I interviewed that didn’t get a job, went on twitter proclaiming all sorts of injustice and publicly slagging me off. Now some of my contacts In the BBC and at independent production companies saw this and withdrew offers. Extreme but they thought I don’t want that kind of person working for me.

So get down the pub with your mates slag whoever off with all your might, but don’t put it on Social media and don’t burn your bridges with potential employers.

Develop a thicker skin but don’t lose yourself

It’s not about you, you are not a horrible person, you are just not right for that job. The person that got that job you might think isn’t right either, but that’s not your decision. Keep focused on you, your next move and you know what you can deal with rejection by crumbling and giving up or you can develop a f**k you mentality and think “I’ll show them”. If possible keep in touch with your interviewers/ talent managers update them on new skills, projects and jobs you’ve got, that’s really positive and works so much better than “hi, I’m still looking for a job..”

I think it’s essential that you see rejection for what it is, which is merely not your time, or a lesson to be learned. Don’t become hard faced or bitter or ruthless, focus on what you need to do but stay true to yourself. If someone doesn’t want to employ you based on who you are then you know what you don’t want to work there!