Telly Talk events helping people get into TV

Telly Talk are networking events for those trying to break into TV. With guest speakers and people in the industry there to network with, they are a great place to find out more, get some good contacts and potentially get that job.

I spoke at the last event and here’s a video to give you a taster of what the events are like. So enjoy!

Do you feel like you are a supporting role in someone else’s movie?

You’ve watched the movie with Sandra/Reece/Julia (take your pick) and in all of these movies there is the sassy best friend, the quirky one. The one who let’s the leading lady realise how amazing she is and how she can get that guy! There is a male equivalent too, the hilarious comedy sidekick who’s life revolves around the lead actor and who’s pivotal role is to make the lead actor look good. Well what happens to these characters when the lead actors they so dutifully support ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Do we remember them? Was there only purpose in the film to act as a plot device for the two main stars to meet? These sidekicks have been in theatre and film since it began but do you ever feel like you are living these roles in real life?

Are you the person who’s always there for your friends but never really there for yourself? You see it all the time, the designated driver on the night out, the one who because you don’t drink has to make sure everyone gets home. The person who is always there for everyone else’s problems, the good friend the counsellor but the one person everyone thinks is alright, the rock of the group. Maybe they are but maybe they’d appreciate someone asking how they are doing?

Have you found yourself being that person? I know I have at times. Sometimes we take on the role that people expect of us and then in some ways we feel safe in that role, but it can also be quite limiting particularly when circumstances change. I’ve been the “fun” one “the good listener”, “the nurturer” and yes I am all of those things and am proud I am all of those things, but sometimes I might not feel like being those things and might want someone to be those things for me. Do you know what I mean? In my twenties for my good female friends I’d be the confidente, the one that put the pieces back together after a break up. The one that was always organising something fun to make sure everyone was great. Nothing wrong with that on the surface but when you start to live your life pleasing others then that’s not healthy. I had one best friend who I would do that all for and didn’t mind it, until I was heartbroken and the response was “your so strong, you’ll be fine” I wasn’t so strong and she couldn’t see it, so look at your friends even the strongest and most confident ones and treat them in the way that they have treated you. Don’t be complacent about people’s kindness and dismissive of their own needs and support.

Don’t surround yourself with people who don’t appreciate you. We all change and grow that’s a fact. Some people however feel comfortable with keeping you at 18 year old you. Have you been in those social situations meeting new people when a friend regales embarrassing stories from your past? You laugh it off but in your head you thinks shut up I’m not that person anymore. Or have you got a job/applied for a course and a friend has been dismissive of it, well you know what that is, jealousy pure and simple.

In my twenties I had friends that would tell me I was too fat, or you’d be really hot if you spent more time in the gym, to those that would call me ice maiden because I didn’t sleep with everyone I said hello to. That was about them not me. I know that. Friends, good friends will embrace the things that are different about each other, be supportive and will know when someone is not themselves. We can stick with people because we have a shared history but sometimes that can drift and sometimes it’s best to acknowledge that. Sometimes we move somewhere and we need to grab friends out of necessity who might not be the ordinary people we’d hang out with. That can be amazing but if it’s not then just think of it as a journey to get to the people that truly appreciate you.

Have you been that person that’s flirted with someone who’s really into you only to back off because your friend fancies them. Or the one at a club who’s left dancing round the bags to some club anthem while your mate is snogging in the corner. You not only think “why don’t they play something I can sing along to” but also “why is it always me.. Why can’t I be the one snogging in the corner”.. Maybe you don’t but you get the idea. Do you have that friend that can’t hold their liquor? Or the one with aggressive tendencies after a few beers. Are you the mediator, the one that calms things down, the one that makes sure she gets home without vomiting in the taxi..? Well you know what you don’t have to be that person.. Remember that. Those qualities are admirable but if you know every time you go out with Tracy that come 2am you’ll be in the bag of a cab as she cries with the windows down so she gets some air and doesn’t vomit then that’s not good.

Start to do things that you want to do. Mix your circles up. You can still be friends with Tracy but you don’t have to be her nanny/carer. It’s ok to do what makes you happy! It doesn’t make you selfish, you’ve probably been selfless for too long anyway so let that hair down and do whatever makes you smile (as long as it’s legal of course) .


How to deal with being bullied at work

The media industry is a wonderful creative place to work. It can be fun, you can make great friends and despite the long hours and some of the mundane tasks, it still has an air of glamour. This competitive world brings with it egos, insecurities and bullying.

When I got my first job in the industry in my 20s, I was so excited, passionate, keen to learn, probably a little cocky but appreciative of where i was and how I’d got there. Within six months my confidence was chipped away, I second guessed myself and felt like I was doing a really bad job. My positive sunny disposition and can do attitude were seen as being arrogant and no matter how much I talked about what I achieved, my boss would find something to find fault with. In hindsight I knew my boss was insecure having worked there way up the ranks via the typing pool but there was a determination in her to break me, to reduce my confidence in order for her to assume control. I’ve seen this in many reincarnations across my career, not just for me but for a great deal of other people. My passion, my positivity and my charm which helped me in my career, for some people just used to rub them up the wrong way. I rarely showed weakness, I challenged when I thought something was wrong, and when I was contradicted and told off and I know that I wasn’t wrong then I proved it. What I couldn’t understand was I knew I was doing a great job other managers said so but this boss didn’t like that. I’m independent and I think those that are insecure in their own roles need to be needed and perhaps are threatened by someone coming up the ranks who knows what they want to do. I don’t know, but I do know, opening my mail, telling me I was shit at my job, trying to send me to two places at different ends of the country in the same day (I managed to do that) ,undermining me, excluding me from meetings, stealing my ideas and general nastiness were not how a boss should behave. On reflection maybe I fuelled the fire but I remained professional and remained the only member of the team not to cry in front of this person (blimey how awful is that).

I often was told “just play the game Simon” or ” just tell them you don’t know what you are doing, they just feel a bit put out that you do” I found that I needed to make excuses for my professional I do know what I’m doing and if I don’t then i will ask you attitude. I’d seen other people rise up the ranks using these tactics, feigning ignorance, being sycophantic, sharing tit bits of the lives in order to seek advice, be nurtured or simply just to be remembered. Now I’m a northerner and had worked I different industries , even sales before TV and my work was related to commercial success so it was evident when I was achieving and when I wasn’t, in TV I felt these areas become greyer and murkier. I’m rubbish at being fake and I have the worst poker face ever, so the idea of stealing someone’s ideas, only speaking to someone above a certain level, actively going for drinks with people that could further my career (it’s different if I liked them) didn’t sit too well with me. Marry that with being a doer and not shouting about everything I’d done every five minutes then I felt that maybe I did need to change to succeed. I didn’t though and I’m glad of it.

However I remained focused on the work, and maintaining relationships and I have had and still have a wonderful career.

The freelance and competitive nature of television can breed insecurity and this breeds bullies. Many a time I have seen a bully rewarded for their behaviour and a bullied person told that ” x is successful, they have earned the right to be like that” or ” that’s just the way x is?” They may make brilliant programmes but surely if half the team are depressed, confidence in shatters and scared at the end of it then was it worth it? There is the whole element of weakness, if I complain I’ll be seen as weak, or I may never work again. These are very real in the industry. So what do you do and how do you cope? There are no clear and definite steps but here are some things I’ve learnt in hindsight.

If someone says something personal or offensive to you then say something to them. Try not to do this in a crowded office even if you are hurt, humiliated and upset. Arrange a coffee with them and tell about how their words made you feel. No one can argue with how something made you feel. They may become defensive, dismiss their words as banter, call you over sensitive. Remember whatever they say this is your truth. If it upset you it upset you. I remember a boss making really derogatory comments about northerners and another telling me “I wouldn’t understand the conversation as I’d never have kids” I was offended by both these things and told them so. Make a note of what was said in the conversation afterwards and date it.

If this behaviour continues, be it personal comments, inappropriateness or exclusion (this is very common) make notes and dates of all these times. You may never need to use these notes but factual evidence always holds more sway. You may feel like crying, screaming, shouting and believe you me it’s difficult not too, but remember they are looking for fault in you so remain dignified. Bullies look for a reaction so try and remain as professional as you can, one boss was infuriated by my lack of reaction that all they could say was “I can’t read you”.

The easiest thing and I’ve done it is to tell everyone else, “you won’t believe what he said to me”. You’ll need an outlet of course you will, but choose who you talk to very carefully better to have one trusted friend or impartial hr person to speak to then slagging off the person everywhere (even though that’s very tempting)

If they are unfairly criticising your work or making unrealistic demands, the ask for objectives in writing for your personal development. When you meet these objectives you then have evidence of what was set and discussed.

Remember as hard as it may be, this is about them and their insecurities not you. After just being praised publicly by someone very senior in TV I was dragged into a meeting room by a former boss and told that all the other people in the team were performing at a much higher level than me and I could easily be replaced. As horrible as that was and it was horrible I knew this was a direct correlation to me getting praise and ultimately and manifestion if their insecurity.

Focus on the job in hand and if it is a contract role keep your focus on that end date. Don’t believe that you are rubbish at your job. A good manager will give you clear objectives and tasks and tell you where you need to develop and what you are doing wrong. I don’t mean to sound flippant as I know this can take over your life, but where possible try and see the good and make positive changes to make things feel better for you. There is nothing worse then waking up and dreading going into work. If that’s the case talk about it with a trusted colleague and take action, whether that means complaining, or looking for a new job, but if you can then try and get out of a bad situation if you truly believe you have no control in making it better.

TV is a wonderful place and I have had fantastic bosses and wonderful mentors, but I’ve also seen personally and through people chatting to me, many examples of bullying. If you feel like this then please talk to someone, don’t internalise those thoughts and believe them. When you move on to another job recognise that not all managers are the same and don’t expect that same treatment. I don’t profess to have all the answers and please don’t let this deter you from a wonderful tv career but I hope my thoughts and experiences can help. We need to open up the discussion on this so I no longer here things like “everyone cries in TV you just have to go to the loo to do it so nobody sees”.


Is social media affecting your self worth?

We live in a world where we can access what we want when we want it. We know more about our friends and peers lives and can connect with them across the world so easily. The world has truly shrunk in terms of connecting with people which is truly an amazing thing. However has our reliance on social media also given us a dependency? Are we living in a world where Validation on social media is taking over our lives?

In a world where we can see what everyone is doing via social media, our friends new car, house, lover, last meal they had today, is this enhancing the “keeping up with the Jones'” mentality, best personified in 1950s surbubia? How often do we scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and see someone on an exotic holiday, usually presided by “drinking champagne in the first class lounge” and we feel insignificant. Or even annoyed or jealous or scathing. You may think oh I wish I was there rather than watching Nashville with a cup of tea and a custard cream. Or friends and acquaintances post those gym photos and you think “oh I’m fat, I shouldn’t really have had those custard creams”. Or those loved up pics and you think “damn I’m getting old, I must really blitz tinder/grindr/eharmony/Christian singles (delete as appropriate). I think we’ve all been there at one time or another.

What we forget is that we are only seeing a perceived reality that people want to share. It is often what we don’t see that is more telling. I’m more than guilty than most of sharing a good pouty selfie on Instagram but if I am really honest with myself sometimes I do that for approval and validation. You’ve had a rubbish day, take a selfie, people tell you that your handsome, you feel better. The question really is why do you need others approval to feel good about yourself?

The art of being secure is having faith that everything will work out fine, and real love for oneself. The moment you stop basing your happiness on others approval is the moment you really start living. You’d be surprised the amount of great people head your way that accept you for you.

So next time you scroll through Facebook and have those feelings of “oh those abs”, “they got married and I’ve not dated in six months” or “how do they afford that holiday” have a word with yourself. Why do you care? That’s their path not yours. Remember the good things about you and you know what those abs can wait, have another custard cream and remember you are bloody brilliant.

Oh and rather than judging from afar, pick up the phone, ring that friend, chat away and realise what’s truly important , good times with good friends. Social media can’t make up for real relationships and great times with family and friends. So step away from the laptop, and go and drink a glass of Pinot Grigio with that good friend who always made you laugh and chat honestly and openly, and have fun.


Never apologise for who you are or your background!

Too often in television people like to put down and question people’s experience, “oh you’ve not got much experience?” “Oh if you had more of a background in this..” Or my favourite, “having worked in television for 25 years i know and you have only been in TV for 5 minutes”. It’s that power play game that equates to I have a better car than you, or back to primary school my dads stronger than your dad.. Why do people feel the need to constantly justify their career whilst putting down someone else?

First of all you can’t change the past! The path that you have taken is done. People may have taken a different path but they haven’t walked a mile in your shoes. They don’t know what you’ve dealt with, struggled with and overcome. So embrace your past and whatever someone says about it, it’s none of your business. Those are their issues being projected. Don’t hide from your past but don’t live in it and don’t let it be the only thing that defines you.

I have interviewed many a northerner with a cut glass posh English accent to rival princess Margaret and then they’ll say one word and I’ll be like “hey your a scouser” then they feel rumbled. I know sometimes changing everything about yourself might get you ahead but isn’t that tiring and inauthentic and just too much effort.

Never feel ashamed by your success. Don’t be apologetic for what you have achieved. You’ve achieved it, be proud! I remember one of my trainees ringing me up really upset after being offered their dream job. I asked why? She said “I can’t take this job as Barbara (not her real name) is really upset, she really wanted this job and she’s really upset with me, maybe I shouldn’t accept it as actually I think Barbara might be better”. Now I unleashed a whole lot of hell no on my trainee, I wanted her to realise that she got that job on her merits, she was the perfect person for the job. The rest was just peer pressure and sour grapes from Barbara! Don’t let other peoples jealousy stop you from being proud of how far you’ve come!

If you rise up the ranks quickly and move into a senior role at a young age you may be faced with more of that jealousy. A good friend of mine who did just that, has faced a barrage of “how did you get that job so young”, “why have you got that without as much experience as such and such”. This makes my blood boil, why can’t we be pleased for people? You may be disappointed you didn’t get the job
Or feel you could have done a better job, but karma’s a bitch so be grateful and be nice.

There is a British sensibility that makes us self deprecating and almost apologetic for success. It’s as if we say we are proud or even grateful for our success then we feel like we are being arrogant or simply too big for our boots. Forget that mentality and say you know what I achieved that I’m proud. I have lots to learn and I’m going to do a great job but hell yeah I’m really pleased!

You are working hard, ambitious and achieving be proud, grateful and humble about that!


How to get yourself noticed when you are the quiet one…

Have you ever sat in a meeting and felt seriously overwhelmed by the confidence, noise and pomposity of your colleagues? Each one trying to outdo the other, talking more loudly, disagreeing for the sake of it and talking with such conviction that no one actually knows the content of the speech but because of the delivery they think it must be good. I’ve been there many a time and the voices in my head would say “you aren’t making sense” or “I know that’s wrong we need to do it this way”. Yet something also told me to be quiet, what if I am wrong, I don’t want to make a fool of myself, I don’t want people to think I’m stupid.

In the workplace there is so much smoke and mirrors and role playing, people thinking that they need to act a certain way to succeed, and I don’t think that’s going to change. However you can change and you can get your points across. The quieter, just get on with it people, the doers are often stuck in roles because they are so good at them, and because of some ill perceived notion that these people won’t have gravitas (what does that even mean?)

Many managers presume that those that don’t shout the loudest are happy with where they are. I’ve witnessed it so many times when people say “oh I’m fine” when really they aren’t but then later to a colleague or a loved one will bemoan the fact that no one notices how hard they are working.

So how do you get yourself noticed?

Start making notes of what you’ve been doing, bosses love it when you can quantify what you’ve been doing, particularly if you can show how it can benefit them. If you can throw in figures or cost savings, or new ways of working and efficiencies that you’ve introduced then they will appreciate that. Email this information to your boss and ask for a meeting between the two of you to talk about what you’ve done.

In meeting with your boss, try and take the emotion out of it, in your head you could be screaming “you f***** why can’t you see how hard I’m working” or “why does Kelly get all the good jobs and promotions” . Now that all may be true and Kelly may well be sleeping with your boss but keep that in your head, focus on you, otherwise that looks like bitterness and sour grapes. Have a plan about what you want to get out of the meeting, is that an easier workload, a promotion, or simply feedback on what you’ve done. Talk factually about what you’ve done, focus on you, don’t be self depreciating and say “I helped” or “Sarah and I did this” say what you did. State clearly your ideas but keep it in a business context, “this would save money” ” this would reduce time”. Your boss may disagree with your points, that’s when you throw in evidence and try and negotiate a trial period.
If they brush you off and say no, then say can we meet again about this, or ask them why not, what would they want from you to ensure this works. Throw it back to them.

If you are having regular meetings with your boss, then don’t be shy to update them on the stuff you’ve done. Even just email them, keep them in the loop so that they know. Now don’t be emailing every five minutes then you look needy but don’t keep it all to yourself either.

Now back to those scary meetings, take in notes with things you want to say. If there is an agenda ask to be on the agenda so you can talk about what you need to talk about. Remember that a short simple sentence can have a much more powerful effect than a barrage of waffle so don’t full the need to bulls*** but when you do have something to say, say it calmly. If you have a good friend that knows you are shy and you are being talked over, make sure they say hey (insert name) made a great point there. If it’s really too loud and scary then email the meeting group afterwards and say “I’d like to add my points to the meeting and list them”. Don’t be responsible for silencing your own voice however shy and quiet that as is as it’s equally as important.

Listen to people, really listen to people,sometimes the confidence is a mask of insecurity truly confident people are inclusive not exclusive. Remember you are paid to do a job on your skills and you are good at your job. Try not to let old high school insecurities rear to the surface, there may be mean girls in the office but you are not the 14 year old geek with braces and a NKOTB t shirt (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Remember you are who you are and appreciate you, as soon as you start to appreciate you, you’d be surprised by how many people start to appreciate you to.


What to wear for a media interview?

You’ve got the confirmation of the interview, you know how to get there, you have done your research and are feeling confident. That’s all great but what do you wear?

A scarily high percentage of decisions are based on non verbal things, mannerisms and interaction play a huge part in this but also how you dress can be an influencing factor.

I’m not saying that overnight you should change your style, ditch the wardrobe, sew in shoulder pads into everything you own and totally channel the wolf of Wall Street, but think about the impression you will be creating.

Interviewing for corporate jobs is so much easier, the rules there are simple. Suits for both men and women and a corporate business like appearance. In telly those rules don’t always apply so it can be harder to gauge what is right and what isn’t. I think you need to remain true to yourself, but here are a few things interviewers notice.

Make sure your clothes are clean

Sounds so obvious but it’s one of the first things people pick up on. That dubious stain on your cardigan, the white shirt that’s now gone a mysterious grey, or the coffee stain staring right back at you. If you spill coffee down you just before the interview (and these things can happen) then be upfront about it. “I’m so sorry apologies for the coffee stain, someone literally bumped into me 5 mins ago”. Acknowledging this can help. Get to the interview early and head to the bathroom to check out your appearance (no need for a selfie) check your teeth and breath here too. You don’t want to be , you know the girl with spinach in her teeth, or the man with the bad breath.

Another pet hate of mine are holes in clothes don’t wear that sweater that has a hole in the elbow. It makes the interviewer think that you can’t be bothered or you are not taking it seriously. Students might not care, but believe you me potential employers will.

It’s not a nightclub

TV can be uber trendy and fashionable and when you’ve been working there for a while you might want to wear that cat suit and the sparkly high heels but remember an interview is an interview not a nightclub. Dress smart casual, keep your own stamp on your clothes and style but keep it professional. I’d say denim cut off shorts, halter tops, boob tubes, track suit bottoms, velour lounge suits are all no no’s. Don’t come in as one candidate did for an interview with me with sunglasses on top of their head, or even wearing sunglasses. It just looks a bit wanky and pretentious.

Wear something that is smart, reflects you and most importantly comfortable. Don’t be sat there thinking these trousers are too tight or the button on this blouse might burst open. This will distract you from doing a good interview.

Avoid slogans

Slogan t shirts can be fun when you are out on a Saturday night but in an interview are misplaced. One guy I interviewed came in wearing a T shirt that said “chicks dig me”. Throughout the interview I kept thinking “get over yourself and who are these chicks, I can’t see them digging on you”. Cruel of me I know but t shirts like that are bold statements. Any drug related slogans, swear words or even political can say a lot about the individual in not always a good way and can actually detract from all the good stuff that you are saying.

Remember the shoes

Now I’m sounding like Joan Rivers on fashion police but shoes are important for your interview look. Keep them clean and polished. Avoid trainers unless they are smart trainers. Wear six inch stilettos if you can walk in them, I once interviewed someone who’d borrowed their friends shoes and was like Bambi on ice tottering around in the heels. If you are wearing sandals make sure you have nice toes.

Good luck with all the interviews that you have, but don’t let all that hard work be let down by a few fashion mistakes.