Shake it off

In the words of Taylor Swift, sometimes you just have to “shake it off”. It’s very easy to internalise things, to believe you know the truth, to take someone’s bad mood, eye roll, the fact that they didn’t invite you out for a drink as being all about you. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes when you dig deep and think about it you probably actually don’t even care.

From the minute we start school we are told we need to fit in, find our place, find our group, and stick with it. Individuality is frowned upon unless confined with the parameters of what is deemed you should be doing. The one who is quiet is told they need to speak up, be more confident, the one who is too loud is told they need to tone it down. We are put into nice little boxes of what people think we should be or what they perceive us to be. Ask yourself though is that really who you are?

This is all replicated in the work place and when you start a new job it can feel like the first day of school. You can over read the reactions and interactions with your colleagues as being about you and internalise them. This can stem from various things, how often do we berate our success and think we just got lucky. When you think that way you actively look for signs to prove the theory that you are not good enough. Any form of criticism or perceived criticism you internalise and take to heart whilst ignoring any positive stuff. We’ve all done it, our Boss can tell us we are doing a great job and then someone can send a snooty email about the work you need to do. You focus on the email rather than the praise and see the tone as a criticism of you rather than a reaction of the senders work load and stress levels. We develop what Melanie Chan refers to as “mind reader” syndrome where we think we know how people will react, and create a self fulfilling prophecy around it. How often have we dreaded having a conversation though but actually it was much easier than we anticipated. That’s because we don’t know, we only know what’s going on inside our head.

We can focus on one negative thing in a whole big picture of positivity, ten people can say you a great and then one person says they don’t like you. Rather than shrugging that off you focus on why don’t they like me, what have I done wrong. With this you over compensate trying to win them over when really it’s not about you, it’s about what you represent you may remind them of someone from their past, they may be jealous, threatened or just going through a bad time. Take that as the moment, be nice but focus your energy on more positive things.

With every success and as you get further into your career, when you have strong ideas and work independently people can become threatened. Sometimes your success can encourage people to find fault. Rather than congratulate you and be proud people can see it as a fluke or a mistake. This is about them and their lack of confidence not really anything to do with you. There is a great quote that says “what someone thinks if you is really none of your business”.

Be the best that you can be, reach out to people, be focused and be kind. When the criticism comes, if it’s valid take it as a learning lesson and if it’s not then shake it off. The ultimate revenge to the haters, is your own happiness and success. Think Destiny’s Child “ain’t gonna disrespect you on the internet, cos my mamma taught me better than that”.

Sometimes you just got to shake it off.

How to stand out when working as a runner

Do your job

Nothing frustrates people more than a runner who constantly moans that they shouldn’t be running and that they are above the tasks that they have been given. I know you have a first degree and your student film has won awards and you really should be researching art history for high brow documentaries, but you’re not so deal with it. Do each task even if it’s making a cup of tea or running down the road to Starbucks with a smile and a sense of enthusiasm. You might not think it but we see it when you purse your lips and roll your eyes, or look at your fellow runners with the expression that simply reads “oh for f*** sake”.

What really frustrates managers is when they realise that their runners are off networking or hustling for research roles when they still have a million and one things to do. Networking is great but get the day job done. Inform your production manager or co-ordinator if you are off to meet people so it doesn’t just look like you’ve disappeared and you don’t care.

Runners often make the mistake of thinking the only way to impress is to let everyone know that they are not really a runner and can do so much more. That’s great if you can and I’m sure you can, but you need to phrase that carefully as it can look really disrespectful and as if you think you are above the tasks you’ve been hired to do! Remember you chose to be a runner and you were fully aware of what was involved and where this could potentially take you. So embrace it do the best job you can and quit your bitching and your moaning.
No matter how skilled or talented you may be, delusions of grandeur don’t do you any favours!

Get to know people

You need to build relationships naturally and show that you are a great runner. Sometimes by simply making someone a cup of tea or performing mundane tasks can really create a great impression. People really appreciate a good team player.

Don’t frog march yourself to the most senior person in the room and launch into an extensive monologue about how wonderful you are. This is a not a movie where that seems to work, you know “this is what I can do” speech whilst a 90s r n b ballad builds crescendo in the background. In real life it just annoys people. Be aware of other people and what’s going on with them. Nothing is more frustrating and rude when you are in the middle of something to be blind sided by an over ambitious runner. Also be mindful of boundaries and people’s personal space. We are not in a nightclub at 2am about to hook up, so step back and let’s be professional.

Do your job well, ask to help out on shoots, spot things that need doing that perhaps people don’t have time to do, that will really help. Chat causally to people in the kitchen, or the lift or on a night out but always ask them questions, don’t make it all about you. Showing an interest in someone else’s career is not only flattering but is a great way to build a professional relationship.

Let People know what you want to do the right way

Slip casually into conversation that you can self shoot, speak Arabic or have contacts that will get you access to access to inside Wandsworth prison. Remember this needs to be relevant and you need to think as to how this is going to benefit the production. If you see people stressing about booking a translator for example and you speak the language fluently offer your services, it not only shows initiative but can save the production money. In terms of camera skills, productions might be reluctant to let you lose with a camera but don’t take that personally, they will appreciate the offer. If you have a showreel then send it to them, just to really emphasise your skills. Remember though if you are offering your skills up that you are not sherking your runner responsibilities. Keep your production manager involved and if needs be stay late, come in early to get everything you need to do done. It’s all about being a team player, think on this ocassion Michelle Williams rather than Beyonce.. You are supporting the programme being made and helping in every way you can but you are not leading it.

Do stuff – stay late, offer to do weekend shifts but get involved – use your spare time to build up your skills. Show an interest, offer to help out and ultimately show flexibility and keenness.

Love The output or if you don’t fake it like you do

Love the programme you are making or if you don’t fake it, of if you really can’t fake it then smile and say nothing. I’ve heard stories and witnessed runners slagging off the programme and it’s format, whilst it might not be something that you choose to watch you are being employed to work on the programme so show respect. Never ever slag of the contributors particularly within ear shot, and definitely not in the studio. If you all go to the pub and these conversations happen and senior members of staff are leading these conversations then even then I would be mindful of coming across like a bitch. If you can chat about previous episodes, or your knowledge of the format that’s great but be careful you don’t come across too much like a fan. I know on big shows producers are conscious of employing fans as often they feel that they will be distracted from their job by their simple geekdom and obsession for being on the show. I would have been a nightmare if I’d worked on Dawson’s Creek.

Make your own mentors.

Find people that you connect with, maybe people that have been through the runner journey and have now progressed onto more senior roles, and ask them about their experiences. If you are at a networking event and you meet someone, ask them about their journey, and ask their permission if you can keep in touch and meet up. Again be mindful of boundaries but you can do this in a respectful way. People often like to help people starting out in their careers so be open to that, remember to develop the relationship naturally but don’t pretend to be best mates. Pick someone who’s career you want and ask them how they got there.

Don’t throw your fellow runners under the bus

I’ve seen this a lot in television, “oh Sarah was asked to do this but she didn’t so I did it”. Or runners not forwarding in information, sabotaging information, spreading rumours that someone is rubbish at their job and just some general bitchy passive aggressiveness all done with a smile. This does not wash with me. Get ahead on your own merits not by bringing some down. This is not Game of Thrones. Now this has worked for some people and some former nightmare runners have hugely successful careers in the industry, but you yes you were not raised that way and have more self respect. Remember as your career develops so will your peers. If someone was vile to you as a runner then you are not necessarily going to employ them in later life so remember karma. Also managers can often see when someone is being thrown under the bus and when bad behaviour happens. Managers want runners to work as a flawless cohesive team and they will spot any cracks. It’s often the runner that stays out of drama, remains professional and focuses on the job that they remember.

Make a change

Sometimes it can feel that you’re just so good at your job that people don’t want to promote you, or no one is moving on in your team and you feel a bit stifled and stuck at a level. Look clearly at what your options are and what you can do to change. If it’s not working, ask yourself why? What can you do now to make that change? If it’s really not working then look outside that organisation, be honest with yourself, don’t beat yourself up and open up your options and horizons.


Ambitious and driven yet no one is giving you a break

You know where you want to be, you know what you can do, so why is no one giving you the chance? You feel you have the skills, the right attitude and you are so hungry for success that you are acting like an excited X Factor contestant on four expressos,  over analysing  your journey and equally getting frustrated at not being given a shot! So what do you do? How do you get what you want? How do you give yourself the best chance that you can?

Be patient

Those old sayings of “patience is a virtue” and the re-tellingly of the tortoise and the hair story can get on your nerves but they do have merit. In the rush of wanting everything now you can blind yourself to the bigger picture. You forget to stop, take a breath, sit yourself down and ask “is this really what I want” and “do I want it now?” When you are so consumed with getting your goal, your dream job, then all your energies go on the end goal and you forget to take baby steps. You need to start thinking what two things or three or four things can I do this week to get me there. It can be as simple as emailing four people, or researching four companies. Set yourself these goals every week and you’ll start to have a more planned step to success. You still need to be driven and focused but you need to be mindful that things may not change over night. That’s why you need to live in the moment, think what can i do today (in my head I can hear Heather Small singing “what have you done today to make you feel proud”). When you are  feeling impatient and to quote the song from the original Charlie and the chocolate factory movie “don’t care how I want it now” all you think is why am I not there? Why is it going wrong? Shift your focus to what you can do right now and let the future unravel. The more you think why is it not happening then this transcends into the way you come across and can often result in a self fulfilling prophecy. So be kind to yourself, stay focused, grab a cup of tea and a custard cream, pat yourself on the back and get on with it.


It’s always good to have a plan, but remember plans don’t have to be rigid, they can change. Think about looking at where you want to be, then looking at where you are now. Right got me? Start thinking of two things today that can start you on your journey! Imagine you are running a marathon you don’t just jump from never running to running 26 miles the next day, you train and you start slow and build up. If it’s TV that you want to get into think why? What can I offer right now? What makes me stand out, where are my skills? If you are getting rejections,think why am I? What can I do better? What can I change? Is my CV good, does it sell my skills effectively? It’s easy to blame others “it’s a closed shop” “I wouldn’t have fitted in” “it’s all for posh people”. That may or may not be true but develop a thick skin and a f**k you mentality, determination and perseverance always stand you in good stead. It’s what I call the Alexandra Burke syndrome she didn’t get into X factor first time round but came back and won the show! You can do the same!

Do your research, find out the best people to contact, set yourself daily, weekly goals and track it all.. Learn and change stuff if it’s not working but keep at it.

Take chances

Keep your eyes peeled and senses aware for any opportunities. We can focus on “I’ve got to get into the BBC” which is great but miss out on other TV and radio roles, maybe because we don’t know about them or we are being a bit snobby. All experience counts, it’s how you spin it,think about the skills you will develop, the involvement you’ll have in a creative project. If a lesser known company are offering to train you to film and edit then don’t turn that down, those skills are invaluable. Again if you are eyes are so focused on a narrow prize you can neglect to see the range of wonderful opportunities coming up around you. So be vigilant stick to the path but if a new and exciting twist turns up on the road than don’t be afraid to follow it. Jobs aren’t always in London so look at opportunities in other parts of the country or if you live somewhere else start closer to home. Competition is always rife in big cities but try local radio or local tv where you don’t have to uproot yourself and where you can gain new skills. Also if you are struggling with getting interviews start doing things yourself, film, right, blog, get involved in charity films, student work, what you can to plump up your Cv. Start thinking outside the box. Think about transferable skills, different ways in, it might not be what you want to do long term but it’s a foot in the door and that’s always good.

Don’t beat yourself up

If you are not getting interviews, or you are getting interviews but not getting jobs, or if you simply don’t know where to start, then stop beating yourself up. It’s easy to get into that vicious cycle of not being good enough which perpetuates itself into future applications. You can really sense it that someone’s given up or believes they won’t get a job. So switch your thinking, get feedback, think about what you can do differently, and keep your focus. Remember not to take it personally no one is saying they hate you, they are just saying you are not right for that job at that time. That is not your truth forever that’s just the truth for that moment. Be kind to yourself.

Keep in touch

If you meet someone at a networking event or you get invited in for an interview and don’t get a job but had a great experience then keep in touch with that person. Now don’t get all stalker ex on them, “hi I saw on Facebook you were at that club in Hoxton, I was there too”. That will just freak them out. Keep in touch about your progress, tweet them about projects you’ve been involved in. Let them know you watched one of their programmes and loved it. Be positive but not too over familiar, happy but not creepy, they are not your friends but you could be beneficial to them in the future and jobs can come up at any time so keep yourself on their radar.

Re-evaluate your reality

Is it still where you want to be? What you want to do? Are you being swept down a path not of your own choosing? Do you find that you are influenced by what family and friends say and that their good intentions are shaping your choices? Listen to your gut and your heart, what excites you, where is your passion, do you think you are good enough?

If it is no longer what you want to do then accept that and move on. Find where your true passions lie. If it is still what you want to do, ask yourself honestly am I putting the right amount of effort in to it. Your mind will be filled of 101 excuses and practical reasons you are not progressing, or it might be in your opinion everyone else’s fault. Stop that right now and take responsibility for yourself, develop a plan and get on with it! Keep your focus, only you know whether it’s all worth the effort.

Don’t be desperate

It’s great to be enthusiastic and keen but don’t go to far and become obsessed to an unhealthy extent. Don’t be complacent but also don’t be desperate, nobody got time for that. I used to get a lot of emails from people telling me how hard it was to get a job in TV well boo hoo, toughen up and deal with it. Ok now I sound harsh but if the first thing you read from someone wanting your advice or a job with you is a sob story of how hard it has been for them then it’s very off putting. At no point are you saying what you can do for the company just a diatribe of how can you help me.. Well businesses are not there to help you, so you need to up your game. Even if you think oh my goodness I’m never going to get there then don’t show it when contacting people. Keep it positive, keep to relevant and talk about what you can do, not what you’ve found hard. If you are going to talk about a struggle then frame it positively to show what you’ve done to make up for that struggle or what you’ve done to counter act it.

Everyone faces rejection, things don’t always come easy, but see this as a learning experience, a test of do you really want this. Be kind, be smart, be focused and keep that ambition and drive that’s so important. Get a mentor if you can, talk through stuff, open your mind to doing things differently and I know you’ll get there. Good luck.